Mig-29 Fulcrum


Title		Mig-29 Fulcrum
Game Type	Flight Sim
Players		1
Company 	Domark/Simis (Hit Squad re-release)
Compatibility	All (1 Mb)
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Review
I won't bore you with the normal regurgitated Fulcrum stats that the
various magazine reviews seemed to drag up time and time again when
dealing with this game and its successor, suffice to say that the Mig-29
Fulcrum is an advanced Soviet Fighter, and Domark's simulation offered us
the first chance to fly it .......simulated.

First impressions are good with the game introducing itself with some Top
Gun style music, and a rather nice animation of a Fulcrum flying over the
Kremlin and performing a series of rolls.

Before I describe my experiences of playing Mig-29, here is the
background to the game. The idea is that you have been given the chance to
fly with an elite Russian squadron, well, I say "fly with" but you actually
only fly solo missions, with your comrades presumably keeping the vodka
cool at the Officer's mess. The missions, although relatively few in
number (there are five as well as the training scenario) are rather novel
and imaginative, and the game is a bit like F/A-18 Interceptor in this
respect rather than the down to earth, business-like approach to the
missions in Falcon, for example. The initial training mission sees you
attacking air, ground and sea targets that will not fire back, and
provides an opportunity to gain valuable experience for the trying times
ahead. The next mission is to simply fly out and photograph (that
translates to 'fly close to') a stranded U.S. Submarine. The mission is
made more interesting by the inclusion of Royal Navy Sea Harriers
providing air cover for the hapless sub. The next mission involves dealing
with a number of Chinese fighters (Shenyangs) that have previously flown
into Soviet air space and 'accidentally' shot down one of your comrades.
If you keep your eyes open here, you'll see the Great Wall stretching
across the 3D landscape. Then there's a reprisal attack on a Middle East
leader who has been taking liberties with the Soviet oil supply, followed
by a mission where you must support a Spetnatz Commando team who are
tracking down some terrorists within Russia itself. Finally in mission
'Desert Strike' for which you will need to have amassed 500 points in
earlier missions in order to qualify, you fly as part of an international
alliance against an agressive Middle Eastern state that is on the verge of
producing nuclear bombs of its own. In this, the ultimate mission, you
must secure an advanced airbase, neutralize the enemy defence network and
finally take out the nuclear reactor and its support buildings. Tricky.

Simis have not been stingy with control options, you can use mouse,
keyboard, digital joystick or analogue joystick. I don't have an analogue
joystick, which I know some of you are rather passionate about, but I
tended to stay with the digital joystick over the mouse or keyboard, as
I found it easier, certainly for the rather delicate business of landing.
The mouse actually may be better in combat as it provides a quicker
response, but appropriately enough for a fighter simulation the price you
pay for this quicker response is less stability. Infact, if you really
want stability you can use the 'A' key which activates the
autostabilisers; ideal for long distance, non-combat flying, particuarly
if you wish to use the Fast Time feature. I settled with the digital
joystick myself, which seemed to offer the best compromise.

The 3D landscape is quite nice if rather simple, with a few features such
as mountains, hedges, and the odd landmark like the aforementioned Great
Wall of China. The different missions offer pleasingly different
landscapes, including grasslands, frozen wastes, seascapes with islands
and ships, and a night time mission. In practice it doesn't make a huge
amount of difference, but the variety is welcome, as is the static image
that precedes each mission, reflecting something of its nature.

So, how does the game actually play? Well, it's simple getting into the
air, and entirely straightforward following your waypoint indicator to the
target (or targets). The air combat is good - mostly. Enemy planes are
fairly well detailed and if you're the type that likes to be able to get
in close to your target before blasting them out of the sky you won't be
disappointed. Infact the dogfighting looks a lot like footage I've seen of
the airwar in Vietnam. That said, the enemy planes, or rather their
pilots, don't appear to be terribly bright tactically, and despite what
the manual says, your own missiles almost never miss regardless of whether
you have an optimum lock (a red rectangle on the HUD rather than a green
one) or not. Enemy missiles are also rather accurate, although it takes two
or three to bring you down. Actually, I found myself getting slightly
frustrated with several aircraft continually appearing near my objective
and, after a skirmish, repeatedly shooting me down. If you're outnumbered
4:1 its very difficult preventing some hotshot Chinese pilot from getting
a missile-lock on your plane. It all feels a bit like the arcade version
of a flight sim somehow, and despite what may have been written in
magazine reviews, the full realism flight model is not available for the
Amiga version. Ground attack is not especially impressive; you have a
choice of guided or unguided missiles, you release them at the appropriate
moment and destroy the target although sometimes more than one hit is
necessary.

Landing the Fulcrum suddenly makes the game feel more like a sim again as
it is fairly tricky. Obviously you want to get this right or all that
heroic work you've just done will not be added to your record. Keep an eye
out for enemy aircraft as well, because I've been shot down over my own
runway, and it is frustrating, although a safe ejection will see your
valuable record left intact.

Mig-29 Fulcrum has many appealing features. You can choose from four
different graphics modes the best (and slowest) being a 256 line, 32 colour
display, and the frame update is pretty nippy even on slower machines. Its
hard drive installable, highly compatible; it even quits back to my
Multiscan Productivity Workbench screen, and it has no annoying copy
protection. I would class the dogfighting as good, but as I mentioned
there is something of a shoot-em-up feel about the combat somehow, despite
its satisfactory visuals. It just seems a bit too simplistic, a little
like flying a Manta in Carrier Command, which, while spot on for that
game, seems not quite right for a supposedly full-blooded flight sim.
After shooting down an enemy aircraft, you don't feel like you've beaten a
worthy adversary so much as you've just scored another 50 points in a
computer game. There is no mission planning, no pre-mission weapon
selection, in combat you can't select your own target (its done
automatically) and the cockpit view, while functional does not particuarly
impress; essentially being two horizontal portions, the  lower dedicated
to the instruments and the higher one for the 3D view, with no
embelishments dividing the two but a straight line. I do not detect Martin
Kenwright's artistic finesse in this cockpit. None of the above are major
problems, but they do, in my view, put something of a damper on a game
that initially promises so much.

Bottom line: A good game, though rather lightweight for a sim.





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