Gunship (Second Review)


Title           Gunship (Second Review)
Game Type	Flight Sim
Players		1
Compatibility	Any Amiga
HD installable  Yes
Company		MicroProse
Submission      Steve Turner (Celebrity Reviewer)

Review
I chose Gunship to review as a tribute to the successful Microprose
design team, including the legendary Sid Meier,that managed to combine
the accuracy of a simulation with the fun of a game. This is a fine
example of this balance from the stable that also developed F15 and F19
in the days when getting 3D to run fast enough to be playable needed every
trick that the programmer could think of.

Gunship follows the pattern of several Microprose simulations. The game
consists of a series of missions which  range from training exercises to
deadly combat. To survive, the player must learn not only the fundamentals
of helicopter flight, but the tactics of helicopter combat. The Apache
Gunship is indeed a formidable weapon and the power of this comes across
in the game. However the vunerability from ground fire and missiles is
also accurately simulated. Hugging the terrain to avoid enemy radar and
line of sight is absolutely necessary to stand a chance of survival. The
player soon learns the tactic of popping up from cover, firing at the
target, then sinking out of sight.

Being a simulation, control is not instantly mastered. My favourite way to
play the game was like the real thing, with a pilot and a weapons officer.
Then the pilot can concentrate on flying which involves more than a
joystick can cope with. I used to take turns with my son Mark, swapping
roles with every mission. That way we stood a chance of survival. When the
Infra red or radar warning alert flashed, things certainly got hectic even
with two players. Saving the sparse chaff or flares for when they were
absolutely necessary and learning how to jink at the correct moment to
dodge a missile took cool judgment and quick reactions. Its amazing
watching someone fly a simulation, they bank around the turns as if body
movement and sheer will power will add to the turn. My son Mark was the
one who got me playing the game. Writing software is a lot of hard work
and funnily enough I did not have a lot of time to play games. One night
when I constantly had to work nights to meet a deadline Mark barricaded
the door assisted by  his sisters to stop me going back to work. Often I
took him with me for inspiration and to test the games. I used to let him
borrow all the companies computers and games consoles so he was always the
first kid around to play the new machines.

The helicopter has full cyclic as well as collective controls allowing
full 3 Dimensional flight. Either the keyboard  keypad or joystick can be
used to control the basic movement. The keyboard has to be used to turn
on the spot using the tail rotor or to gain or lose height. Thus its a
challenge for one person to master this and select the weapon keys as
desired, but it can be done with a bit of practice. The player can select
easy or realistic flight modes. Its worth getting the feel of the easy
mode then persevering until the realistic mode is mastered. You can also
choose between easy or hard missions and the grade of enemy. There is
something about me though that does not like an easy setting. I like to
beat a game at its worst and although Gunship got the better of me at the
hardest settings I was always ready to let it give me another thrashing.

The player is helped by a realistic cockpit display simulating the awesome
array of technology that makes the Apache such a fearful tank buster. An
easy to use target and display system allows the player to select an enemy
target and deliver its deadly payload in an instant. This gives a real
speed of play that has to be coordinated with the helicopters flight
control. This skill gets better the more the game is played, giving
longevity to the game and addictiveness. When you fail you always know
you could have done better and want to try again. (or if you are playing
with a co-pilot HE could have done better so you will show him how to do it
next time!)

For more realism wait till everyone is out plug the Amiga into the stereo
turn up the sound as much as you dare. You certainly know when you are hit
but the rotor sound gets a bit monotonous after a while. Every now and
then HQ radios you when you do something good. Encouraging you with
phrases likeď"Nice shot" in a USA drawl.

The player can choose between an array of weaponry including cannon,
Hellfire anti tank missiles, Sidewinder anti aircraft missiles. The player
chooses their payload to suit their style and mission or can accept a
default payload. In the hardest missions the player is hunted by killer
gunships so a couple of Sidewinder missiles are handy. My favorite weapon
is the fire and forget Hellfire missile as it seldom fails to destroy even
the heaviest armour the player encounters.

My only criticism to the game design is the way you can sometimes be
crippled and have to crawl home at a snail's pace with little chance of
survival if an enemy is encountered. While it can be exciting for a time
it soon drags, especially if you are being nagged for not dodging that
last missile, or for having been too generous using the chaff. Each hit on
the helicopter damages some aspect. Beyond a certain point its a bit too
gradual a death, you know you won't get back to base but you have to try.
That's a minor point though, all round its a well designed game and in
many ways some of today's 3D game simulators  could  benefit from emulating
its gameplay.


Graftgold Trivia
Graftgold almost developed a game for Microprose, in some ways inspired by
Gunship. It was called Battle of Britain and contained strategic and shoot
em up elements. It got as far as the design and mock up stages but the
contract was never finalised so the game was shelved. It was going to be
our first big 16 bit game across Amiga ST and PC. Some of the ideas,
especially the maps and display engine, ended up in the game Realms.





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