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.