reviews\ Nov 13, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Strike Fighters: Project 1 - PC - Review

The enemy is out there ­ somewhere. Finding him is the easy part, staying with him could prove tough, especially when the jet fighter you are flying turns like a semi on a go-kart track.

Strike Fighters Project 1, a PC release from Third Wire and Strategy First, is the kind of combat flight simulation that comes as close to the upper echelons of flight sims as the missiles it fires. They sometimes miss the mark. So does this game.

Granted, the backdrop is very good, and the game addresses an era that is seldom explored ­ the beginning of modern jet fighter combat, the 1960s. The installation of the game itself should forewarn game players about the difficulty they will face. You can install the game at one of three levels: Easy ­ you don’t have to deal with the physical characteristics of the planes you fly, and you have unlimited ammunition and fuel; Normal ­ you can begin to feel the aircraft’s strengths and weaknesses by the way it handles; and Hard ­ you will feel everything and your electronics and weapons aren’t always reliable.

To its credit, this game does offer a solid options package that should delight game players. The campaign scenario (more on this in a moment) does have a random scenario generator that helps with replayability.

As for the scenario, rather than pick a real conflict, the game opts for a fictional one ­ the battle over oil fields in a desert land. The two sides are the Dhimar (which have U.S. weaponry) and the Paran (which has Soviet weaponry such as MiG 17s and IL-28s). There are 14 different aircraft in this game ­ and they all look good and fly well.

In addition to the campaign, there are also quick action and single mission options available. However, even though you can configure your video options for high terrain rendering, there doesn’t seem much point. The ground elements are bland, which is in contrast to the aircraft models. The game’s designers have taken great pains to accurately render the aircraft, which are (after all) the focal point of the program. Each aircraft also handles differently, which can give players a different experience if opting for the single or quick game options.

But overall the controls on this game are overbearing, and almost overwhelming. The hot keys reference card has 92 key combinations for a variety of commands. Some will automatically map to a joystick, but unlike Microsoft’s Combat Flight Sim WWII Pacific Theater title (another period game), not all elements work, and the game doesn’t seem set up for force feedback.

The game’s sound is what one expects, from the purr of your planes guns to the whoosh of a missile launching, and the whine of jet engines cranked up.

While the game offers several difficulty settings, the game really offers an all-or-nothing experience. The easy setting is too easy and the hard setting is definitely challenging. Initially you may spend more time battling the aircraft you are flying than engaged in combat.

Strike Fighters is a game that, overall, has a solid look, and is challenging, but when stacked up against other flight sims of recent years, is only an average experience. Longbow 2 programmer Tsuyoshi Kawahito (who was also involved in European Air War from MicroProse) was the designer on this title. But while the overall concept is good, nothing really jumps out and shouts for attention with this game, which is unfortunate. What that translates to is that ardent combat flight sim fans may want to pass on this title.

This game is rated for Everyone.


Gameplay: 7
The missions are seamless, although each mission doesn’t end when the objective has been accomplished. You can wind up flying around doing nothing for quite a while after scoring a mission success rating.

Graphics: 7.2
The horizon has a painted look, and ground textures, even on high, have the appearance of repeated patches inlaid on the surface. Lens flare and aircraft models are well done. The effects are solid, but offer nothing really new to the genre.

Sound: 6.8
The chatter on the radio is repetitious and can get annoying. The jet and weapon sounds are expected and delivered in an average manner.

Difficulty: Hard
The game has 92 separate keyboard commands that cover game, view, flight, weapons, radar and visual targeting. Though you can use a joystick (no force feedback was detected in a joystick specifically designed to five a feel for the game), you will need to use both controllers in combination to have a strong command over the game. This is at least 90 minutes of learning curve at the upper levels of difficulty.

Concept: 7.5
The game offers a great premise ­ which is the time frame. However, it bogs down in typical game play, and control command overload.

Multiplayer: 7
Dogfight is the name of this game, either 1-on-1, or cooperative against either computer opponents or other players. The problem here is that the fight can be fast and furious, leaving little time for typing chat suggestions to those fighting with you.

Overall: 6.9
This game has a nice set-up but falls just a little short. Unlike other premise combat flight sims (like Microsoft’s Combat Flight Sim Pacific Theater), the program opts for average and routine scenarios that will test players reflexes, but offers little that is new.

Above Average

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