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Apocalypse now?

Red lightning logo  Amiga Computing Excellence Award

U Red lightning NTHINKABLE though it may seem, it has happened. Whatever caused it, whether by mistake or murderous intent is now irrelevant as men and tanks line up either side of the great divide, waiting to pull the curtain on Armageddon. Whatever happened to the post-war dream? What happened to all the nukes? Did the Green Party finally get their way and have them all destroyed? Did we shell out all that money to discover that Trident did not work after all? None of these questions are answered in Red Lightning.

As the commander of either the Nato or Warsaw Pact forces it is your job to respectively save the world for democracy or save the world from democracy, with the help of your logistic talents, your cunning mind and, of cours4e, a few hundred thousand foot soldiers, vehicles and planes, all armed to the teeth with death-dealing weaponry. I know whose side I am on.
As the informed reader will realise, it will all develop into a battle of superior equipment versus superior forces. For some reason SSI assumes that the Sovs have initiated the aggression and that all the nice Nato blokes were at home with their wives and families when it started, so all three scenarios have the Pact at full mobilisation with the good old allies in various stages of disorganisation.

Battle takes place on an impressively large 54 x 54 hexagonal map covering Western Europe from Brussels to Gdansk and as far south as Munich, although some of it is sea and naval battles are not handled in this simulation. The display is colourful, easy to read and quite pretty.
Players take it in turns to move and assign orders to their units, each turn lasting 12 hours of game time. Nato forces always move last because of their more effective communication network, which can give them a distinct advantage as they can step out of trouble when they see it combing.

Air combat is directd by one of the menu options. Weather conditions are taken into consideration and the full range of modern combat aircraft is supported.
Other special operation features include deployment of parachute regiments, special forces and tactical battlefield missiles. Concurrent missions, which you do not control but can influence, run in Norway, Iceland and the sea around Europe.

The different levels and "realism toggles" provide the scope for a variety of game types from the purely strategic to real in-depth unit management. A wonderfully concise and yet informative manual tells you everything you could ever want to know – except where Mr Benn lived – and even supplies some of the formulae the combat algorithms are based on.

The whole war experience is driven by mouse with the aid of pull-down menus. Some annoying features exist, like the inability to change your mind about troop movements, but I suppose if I complain SSI will only say that it adds to the realism of the simulation.
The computer is a worthy adversary and does not rely on cheating to bolster its overall strategy. It can occasionally get a bit thrown if you attempt something impossible or unusual, like a massive airlift of troops miles behind enemy lines to cut off supply routes, but it recognises and deals effectively with all the big plays.
With such a range of skill levels and great playability, Red Lightning is suitable for both novices and hardened warmongers. SSI has set the standard for strategy games on the Amiga.

Lucinda Orr

Amiga Computing, December 1989, p.p.32-33

Red Lightning
£29.99
SSI
Sound 14 out of 15
 
Graphics 14 out of 15
 
Gameplay 13 out of 15
 
Value 14 out of 15
 
Overall - 92%


Red lightning logo  Format Gold

SSI £29.99 * Mouse

Modern tactical warfare from Strategical Simulations Inc. Tales of man’s bravery in the face of the machinery of war and the machinations of his fellow man, told by PAT MCDONALD.

Red lightning It is the late 1980s, and the unthinkable has finally happened. The Russians are hammering across the North European plain. Can NATO stop the red hordes, or is Europe condemned to life under the Soviet iron first?
Red Lightning is a highly detailed, operational-level game set during World War III, focussing on the Central European theatre of operations. You can play the Pact or NATO in one or two player games. There is a comprehensive rulebook that even includes a bibliography! I would recommend studying the rules, because they give some useful hints. The playing area covers Europe from France to Poland, and from Denmakr in the north to Austria in the south. Actions in Norway and Iceland can affect both NATO and the Pact, so they are included as ‘off the board’ regions to which you are also capable of assigning troops should you so wish.

Map size is 54 by 50 hexes, with each hex representing an area of land 25 kilometres across. Hexes contain a specific terrain type, ranging from sea to mountains. The map is easy to read, although national boundaries are not shown, which would be useful.
The playing window covers an area of fourteen by seven hexes, and can be scrolled along hex rows. When you call up the strategic map it not only shows the military situation, but also allows you to zoom in on the bit of the main map that you want, which saves hours of scrolling around.

Each player has a variety of units at his disposal. These include special operations, aircraft, airborne troops, and the divisions that make up his armies. The military units are represented on the map by markers: red for Pact, blue NATO and white for neutrals.
The units are divided into a number of different types, including infantry, headquarters and artillery, and vary in size from regiments to divisons. Unit markers on the map show both the size and type. I found it irritating that stacked units had blank markers, although the unit names are written below the map. This cost me a few headquarters during the game, simply because I forgot where they were!

The detail on units is superb. Assuming you are examining a division you can find the number of squads, tanks, helicopters and so on within the unit, and the readiness of each component brigade. While there is no real need for this depth of detail, it does show exactly what sort of casualties you are taking, allowing you to adjust your tactics accordingly.

Each unit is part of a larger command, such as British I Corps or the Soviet 3rd Shock Army. When a unit is selected, a yellow square lights up on all units in the same command. It is important to keep commands together, as only units in the same command can make simultaneous attacks, thus guaranteering good odds. It took me a little time to get used to this, and when units got lost it took me ages to find their command again.

When playing the game, you are made very aware of just how important it is to marshal your forces in just the right attack and defence formations. There is a lot of subtle variations and options: keep a brigade on full alert, or leave some to rest in case you can advance? This is the underlying, huge strength of Red Lightning - the number of tactical variations is staggering.
Pat Mc Donald

Amiga Format, Issue 4, November 1989, p.p.61-62

GRAPHICS AND SOUND
A definite disappointment from this angle. Nothing about the game strikes you as Amiga-like at all. There are some nice touches, in that the plane shapes are displayed, but even then sometimes they bear little relationship to the actual true outline. Sound is non-existent, which is a crying shame.

JUDGEMENT
If you like shoot-em-ups or arcade action games, give this one a miss. If, however, you like detailed wargames then Red Lightning has been worth the wait. While this sort of game appeals to a much smaller group of people, those who do have an interest will find it well worth the money. Someone has put a great deal of thought into it, and it really shows: even if there is not a nuke option...

GRAPHICS 5
SOUND N/A
INTELLECT 9
ADDICTION 6
OVERALL 90%