Electronic Arts are back and this time they're bringing out the big guns. Gary Roberts, the guy responsible for the conversion of John Madden's Football to the Amiga has been beavering away in a dark dungeon to bring you Desert Strike.
A massive hit on the Mega Drive, I can already guarantee Desert Strike is going to take the Amiga games world by storm. How can I be so sure of this fact? Well, it's just simply brilliant. I could quite literally enthuse about it all day. For starters, I'm probably biased because it's my favourite game on the Megadrive, but now it's out on the Amiga and I can safely stick little brother's Mega Drive in the cupbaord. Desert Strike is excellent, the best thing since sliced bread, the best, the tops, the best game in the universe. Sllllaaapp. Phew, I flipped out there for a second.
HERE WE GO...
Right, I'll start the review properly now, it's just one of things I had to get out of my system. I'll ask a question. "What particular subject makes a good computer game?" It's easy. The answer is war. Death and destruction is what the kids want. Everyone loves a good war game. Kill some foreigners and then go and have your tea and go to bed. It's just a bit of fun isn't it? It's recently been reported that violent computer games influence how kids behave and react. Personally I think it's all a load of rubbish. The thing that influences kids to do what they do is real life.
They see wars between nations, they see people stealing cars and property, people taking and selling drugs, violence on the streets and racism and sexism among a whole list of other things I could mention. Kids want to act like adults. This is the example being set to them by others. How do they see all this that is corrupting the world? It's easy - they only have to watch the news on television or read a newspaper. Computer games are just a scapegoat, so that people don't have to accept the truth about the world we live in.
Oh I was getting a bit serious there wasn't I? What was I talking about? Err, I remember it was Desert Strike. Desert Strike is about a return to the Gulf. Without warning a madman has made himself leader and threatened to start Armageddon.
The madman calls himself General Kilbaba and looks nothing like Saddam, honest! Very little is known about him, although he has been known to watch Les Dennis on Family Fortunes and laugh. As I said before, completely and utterly hat-stand. One thing our brave government knows is that loonies and missiles just do not mix. You play the part of an American Apache pilot and because the President doesn't want to cause a fuss, he sends just you (and co-pilot) into the warzone to complete a set number of missions.
The missions vary from blowing up radar sites to rescuing POWs from their camps and even though not strictly a mission, you can play such fun games as exploding camels. Each level, of which there are four, consists of between six to eight of these missions.
Desert Strike is a very hard game, not too hard that you can't get anywhere, but hard enough to keep you entertained. For example, after a few days I managed to complete the first level and by this time I'm getting quite proficient at playing it, but it still took me 40 minutes to do it. Thankfully, there is a password system otherwise it'd take you ages to complete.
As you can see from the screenshots, the view is very different to what you'd normally expect from a chopper game. Instead of being inside the Apache you actually control it from the outside. It's very similar to those 3D isometric games but far better. It's also very easy to control. It works best in joystick mode because you get a better feeling of actually being there.
The Apache houses three different types of weapons. The cannon is used to blow up enemy soldiers and features in comedy duo with Bobby Ball. The Hydras are used for almost everything else except the big buildings. The Hellfires are particularly impressive and can be used to blow up anything big or if you're a sadist you can use them to obliterate helpless enemy soldiers. You can flick between the weapons via quick stab of the space-bar.
One of the most important features when playing Desert Strike is the map option. You use the map to call up information on campaign targets. The map also tells you where the fuel, ammo, MIAs and targets are and keeps a careful check on where the enemy is.
Keeping a eye on how much fuel and ammo you've got is essential if you want to be any good at Desert Strike - although I have to hold my hands up and say when in the midst of battle I did forget about little things such as fuel, and died.
Be careful - the passion to kill the enemy might overcome you and it will be the start of your downfall.
The big question on my lips is: "Is Desert Strike as good on the Amiga s it is on the Mega Drive?". The answer is that it is actually better. The graphics have been improved. The Amiga's 64 colour half-brite mode has been utilised and the game features realistic graphics including shadows and smoke. The sound is a massive improvement on the Mega Drive's lacklustre attempt. Desert Strike features sound effects taken from actual Apache manoeuvres. The sound is also directional and in 3D.
What this means is, for instance, if you see a tank in the distance, as you approach it the sound gets louder and more defined. The music itself is absolutely incredible. The introduction music is adorned with some of the funkiest sounds you're ever likely to hear on your Amiga and is full of James Brown samples. The music when you complete the level is also amazing and, in the style of the 70s music revival that's happening at the moment, features some excellent "wakka wakka waw" guitar music. It's the best music I've heard since Thrash Pig which starred in Core Design's Jaguar XJ220.
The playability is almost faultless. I say almost because at times for some unknown reason the game slows down. But this doesn't happen too often, but I thought I'd better mention it. It's certainly not a reason to not buy the game. It's very addictive and I can tell you this with some certainty because everyone in the Gamer office keeps on playing the damn thing and I can't get anywhere near the Amiga.
Desert Strike has always been one of my favourite games and it's nice to see that EA haven't made a mess of the conversion and actually improved the game. It just goes to show that these consoles aren't everything they're cracked up to be and the Amiga can compete with them. Desert Strike is probably Electronic Arts' finest moment since Populous. You already know how I feel about the game, so what on earth are you waiting for? Go and get it and be enlightened. Just deserts!