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Take one outdated, massive American eight-engined bomber. Add a pinch of trendy stealth technology and stir in the melting pot of modern combat.

Megafortress E verybody must have heard of the B-52 bomber. I mean, they were used in Vietnam, they were used in the Gulf, they've even had a hand named after them. Not bad going for a big, ugly, out-of-date strategic bomber.

The B-52 Stratofortress (as it's properly known) has had a hard time of late. What with all these new-fangled supersonic stealth aircraft, nobody seems to want a lumbering eight-engined bomber with the radar signature double that of an Italian opera-singer. Scrapheap here we come.
But perhaps not. A chap called Dale Brown, who apparently used to navigate with the USAF on these babies, wrote a book in 1987 about a B-52 which was modified at Dreamland, the secret aeronautical works deep within Nellis Airforce Base. The plane was given all the stealth characteristics so in vogue at the moment. He called it the Megafortress.
And here's the game of the book. What you've got is a completely black plane that flies almost exclusively at night, with no lights on, and tries to avoid everything it picks up on radar. So you can forget your G-LOC fighting skills – it's time to get defensive.

Rock Lobster
First you must learn to fly the beast. This means sussing out not one but five vital onboard situations, one for each crew-member. If it sounds complicated, that's because it is. For example, if you want to get the thing off the ground (and it is desirable for most of the missions), you must flick loads of switches in the commander's position, then swap to the co-pilot's seat to flip some more, then swap back.

To operate the switches and levers, you must use the mouse. Click on each button and the computer switches to whatever it wasn't switched to before. Once you get used to this, you can actually fly round most of the panels, clicking away and getting the flight systems running with surprising rapidity. But it does take a while to get used to it.

Megafortress As well as the two actual pilots, there's a navigation station, an offensive-weapons console, and an electronic warfare operator (see panel). You'll need to be familiar with each if you're going to get anything done. There are three theatres you can operate the Megafortress in. Red Flag in Nevada is a training area, which gives you some mock-up baddies for you to avoid, as well as bombing ranges, air-to-air refueling points and missiles bases to hide from.

Then there's the Gulf. Yes, it's time to go up against Iraq once more, as you fly much the same sort of missions. This time, though, the enemy is real. They're angry, they're numerous and they don't like huge black planes flying over their territory.
If that doesn't pucker you enough, then there's always 'The Flight of the Old Dog'. Taken directly from Dale Brown's book, this sees you belting across Kamchatka in an effort to knock out a special laser developed by the USSR for use against good, honest Americans everywhere.

You have to beat the best Soviet equipment both on the ground and in the air during this mission, and, seeing as you're the only idiot that is stupid enough to actually try this sort of caper, you've got no support from any of the other US forces. It's a big mission, and it's packed with nerve-shredding tension almost from start to finish.

How this game differs from many flight sims is its time-scale is more realistic. This means each mission takes a while (about half-an-hour or more) and for much of the time you're sitting waiting for the action to start as you drone across the night-time landscape on autopilot at about 200 feet. But if you're having a go at the Old Dog mission, the tension really gets to you as the minutes tick past.

 Megafortress is hard disk installable  Megafortress needs 1 Meg to run Megafortress is reminiscent of Birds Of Prey in that it's not a climb-in-and-fly sim. You do have to know the manual, and there are those five stations to master (see The Dream Team box). But the control panel, switch-clicking business works better than you'd think, and it's fairly forgiving when you're in a hurry.

The game is let down by the long disk-accessing pauses as you switch from station to station. The actual update rate isn't quite fast enough, either. Also, you only get to fly the Megafortress at night. This makes sense plotwise, but it limits the gorgeousness of the outside views somewhat. It's a pity because there would otherwise be some great external views. What you actually end up with is a black angular shape whizzing over a load of dark grey shapes on the ground.

Love shack
Megafortress Because it's a bulking great bomber, the combat action in Megafortress is far removed from the usual manic panic. Instead of climbing, diving, weaving and generally chucking the plane around, you have to concentrate more on electronic warfare at the Offensive Weapons Officer's station. This gives it a nice tactical edge, and when you finally manage to fend off an attack on your ship, it's very satisfying.

But on the whole, Megafortress lacks the edge which would place it up there with the F19s and AH73s. There's just too much techie clicking and disk accessing and just not enough fast, furious action. The novelty of flying a one-off B-52 soon pales and you'll need to be dedicated if you're going to stick with the game through all of the available missions.

The supplied documentation is good, though, especially when you bear in mind the 'special price', and the level of detail is impressive if you're impressed by that sort of thing. Like Space Shuttle, Megafortress borders on the educational, and again like Shuttle, this is to the detriment of the seat-of-the-pants playability.
James Leach

Amiga Format, Issue 38, September 1992, p.p.74-75


It's tough enough playing part of one modern jet pilot, but in Megafortress you have to become five highly skilled airmen at once. Although this means concentrating on the manual, it does make the game more varied. But the question is, do you get their combined salaries (plus danger money) at the end of every combat mission?

The Commander's view: This is where you do the real 'flying' from. Taking off, landing and evasive manoeuvres need outside views, so you'll have to be at this station to carry any of these out.

The Co-pilot's view: Here you'll find most of the none-essential controls. Electrics, lights, radios and all that type of nonesense are all controlled from the co-pilot's station.

The Navigator's view: Loads of maps, obviously. But as well as maps, there's a large dollop of radar equipment, distance measuring gear and other useful tracking devices to get you home.

The Offensive Weapons Officer's view: Search radar, guidance cameras, missiles, bombs, the lot. You name it, this guy can destroy it. They're all here: free-fall bombs, guided air-to-surface missiles and air-to-air.

The Electronic Warfare Officer's view: He's first to know when anything's aiming at the Megafortress. He'll jam it, confuse it, chaff it and, when all that's failed, he'll pray at any deities he believes in.

Mindscape * £19.99
  • Loads of missions and plenty of atmosphere for a flight sim.
  • Slow and cumbersome to play, and each mission takes ages to complete.
  • Paradise for technical switch, button and dial freaks.
  • Attractively priced, especially as it comes with some very clear, comprehensive and readable documentation.
  • The outside views are dark and rather dreary, and the external views of the plane aren't too hot either.
  • Gives you five demanding on-board jobs to do rather than just one.
Verdict: 77%

Megafortress logo

Wer immer schon mit einem Elefantenbaby elegant durch die Lüfte segeln wollte, der fliegt hier richtig! Diese Simulation eines B52-Bombers war schon am PC ein Schwergewicht, und bei der Konvertierung hat sie kein Gramm verloren - nur die Eleganz hat etwas gelitten...

Megafortress Hier ist einfach alles gewaltig: der stählerne Riesenvogel selbst, die mitgeschleppte Menge an Ausrüstung und Waffen, die Zahl der Gegner - nicht zuletzt aber auch die Aufgabe und der Funktionsumfang. Bevor man überhaupt abheben kann, ist schon eine Checkliste mit über 16 Punkten durchzuackern, und wenn der Gigant endlich schwebt, darf man sich mit Radar, Navigation, 200 Tonnen Sprengstoff und dem Job des Copiloten gleichzeitig herumschlagen. Das Ziel liegt dann entweder in Nevada (Training), im Irak oder in der ehemaligen UdSSR.

Freilich, das Fluggefühl löst garantiert keinen Temporausch aus, es entspricht etwa dem eines sanft dahindümpelnden U-Boots, außerdem muß selbst bei 1MB (Mindest-) Speicher öfters mal nachgeladen werden. Wegen der häufigen Nachteinsätze ist die Grafik eher duster als schnell & schön, und die Animationen ruckeln auch nicht schlecht. Aber funktionell und übersichtlich ist die Optik auf alle Fälle, so lassen sich z.B. die Außenansichten vielfältig variieren. Die Musik ist ein richtiger Ohrwurm, und auch die FX sind ganz OK, vom eintönigen Motorengebrumm mal abgehört.

Bei der Handhabung gibt es noch weniger zu meckern - die Maussteuerung ist logisch aufgebaut, über eventuelle Bedienungsprobleme helfen die dicken Anleitungen hinweg. Für Otto Normalpilot ist Megafortress dennoch weniger geeignet, aber Vielfliegern verspricht es doch eine Portion Abwechslung. (mm)

Amiga Joker, September 1992, p.?



Amiga Joker
1 MB

Megafortress logo

Coming in hard and fast, it's Mindscape's new entry into the crowded flight sim market. Mark 'Flyboy' Patterson gets behind its cockpit.

Megafortress THIS TIME IT'S WAR!
Amiga flight sims have covered almost every type of plane possible from the super-fast F15 to a World War I Fokker. Now it's the turn of America's deadliest warplane, the EB52, to take to the pixel skyways of your Amiga. This awesome aircraft is the mainstay bomber of the USAF, and is capable of launching a strike – with the aid of mid-air refueling – anywhere in the world. It requires several crew members to fly one of these beasts, but for the purpose of Mindscape's game the player fills the roles of pilot, navigator, bomber and radar man.

There are several screens representing each crew member's tasks. The most important is the pilot's area, where you can monitor the speed, altitude, course and other essential dials and gauges. The hands-on flying is also done from here, although the autopilot is frequently used on long journeys. The co-pilot's screen contains the controls for the eight engines, landing lights and other factors which contribute to getting the plane airborne. The navigation screen is where the course is plotted, the weapons are controlled, and, coincidentally, is where the most of the action takes place.

The user-interface has been designed to accommodate the many facets of flying a plane while keeping the sim realistic. This has been achieved through a very simple point 'n' click system. All you need do to raise landing gear, for instance, is click on the appropriate switch. This eliminates the stacks of keypresses found in most simulations.

Apart from piloting the beast, navigating is the most important role. As your fuel levels are normally calculated to give you just enough to get to your target and back, your route has to be precisely plotted. Factors such as enemy airbases and radar sites have to be taken into account when laying in a course, and if you stray too fair from your target, you may never get back in one piece. The standard method of navigation is the waypoint system. This plants a number of 'markers' (waypoints) on the map: the first of which is your air-base, the second the target, and the third your return point. Calling up information on a particular waypoint will show you its bearing, and all that remains is to steer the plane towards it. The computer always plots a basic set of waypoints for you before a mission, but the chances are you'll need to add new ones to guide you around hazards.

It's important to choose the right weapons for the mission. Some of the simpler missions require you to fly to an undefended location and drop your payload on whatever's there. In this situation, you can practice operating the targeting computer, which involved using a radar and a TV camera to pinpoint your target before a missile can target it. Slightly more tricky is guiding a missile manually, whereby some can be steered via a through-the-nose camera – which proves useful if you have to change targets once the missile has been launched. Finally you can turn your hand to conventional bombing. You can drop a larger payload with free-fall bombs, but getting the plane in the right location to start an attack run, the letting go of the bombs so they hit their targets, requires a great deal of skill – and practice.

The computer usually takes a 'best guess' at the weapons you'll be needing on a mission – usually choosing a selection of air-to-ground missiles while outfitting your air-to-air defences. Personally, I always found it necessary to take a few extra missiles, just to make sure. Packing a number of antiradar missiles is always a good move, too, as they are your only defence against enemy surface-to-air missile sites. If you're not equipped in this way you'll need to call up the radar screen and use the jammer. The wavelength of the signal tracking you is shown in the top part of the display, and you can either let the computer attempt to jam it or do it yourself. To make a successful jam, you have to adjust your outgoing frequency, by clicking on a pair of icons, to match the incoming one. Do this and you will be invisible to enemy radar.

Megafortress For all its size and power, the EB52 is quite a sluggish aircraft, and is seemingly easy prey for supersonic fighters. Early B52s had several tail-mounted cannons, but these weren't very accurate and were no match for long-range missiles. The version you're piloting, however, is tooled up with Sidewinder and AMRAAN anti-aircraft missiles and an air-mine dispenser. To launch these, you must access the weapon control screen, pick your targets (which should be the fastest of the incoming planes), wait for the word 'Lock' to flash up on the screen, and fire. Although these missiles represent state-of-the-art technology, enemy aircraft have emergency countermeasures which can decoy them. Your plane has similar systems, which work provided they're used correctly. Each burst of either of these provides two-seconds worth of decoy, and if they're launched at the right time, they will throw a missiles off your trail and leave it without enough fuel to double back for another attempt.

You'll also need to keep an eye on your power readouts as well as your fuel. The plane has four on-board AC generators which run many of the instruments such as the altimeter, navigation computer and standby hydraulic pumps. If, for some reason, one or more of these generators fail, the emergency batteries can be brought in. These have to be used sparingly, though, as they only have enough juice for twenty minutes. Lose any of these systems for good, and you'll have a hard time getting back home again.

As with most flight simulations, the graphics aren't up to much, with a few rectangular vectors representing buildings, and some very slow routines for the planes. The instrument layouts are functional, and easy to get to grips with, which is a major plus point. Initially this struck me as being a very complicated game, so it came as quite a surprise when I successfully managed to take off, bomb a target, then navigate back to base and crash-land – and all on my first go.

The point 'n' click system makes it particularly easy to get into, and the quick start section in the manual covers quite a lot of ground. Apart from ease of use and the obvious realism, though, there aren't many outstanding features. There are several nice little touches which aren't essential to the game, but make it a whole lot more realistic. These include things like windscreen wipers, landing lights, and switching the engines on and off.

While this is an extremely realistic flight simulation, this proves a drawback. With the EB52 such a large, manoeuvrable, single role aircraft, the action tends to be rather limited. The targets are viewed almost at third hand via simulated TV cameras, and enemy aircraft are either destroyed before they get close, or come into range and wipe you out, making the game a little dull. For all its realism I prefer the faster paced sims to Megafortress, which just isn't busy enough for my liking.

CU Amiga, July 1992, p.p.54-55


The strangest weapon of the EB52 are its air-mines. The launcher is located in the tail, and is employed to take out enemy fighters which are attacking from behind. It fires a projectile which is like a rocket powered grenade. The unit's radar can track enemy planes up to thirty miles away, although the rockets only have a range of two miles. When a projectile is launched it's guided by radar towards its target, and when it gets within 200 yards it detonates, filling the air with deadly shrapnel. There are thirty missiles in total, which makes for a formidable defensive weapon.

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Out Now
Flight sim
mouse, joystick

Very realistic, but lacks an action element...