G ame sequels rarely suffer from the same problem as film sequels. With films, the follow-up is never anywhere near as good as the first - with the odd exception - but games sequels are nearly always an improvement on the original. Luckily, F15 Strike Eagle II is not one of the exceptions. I can safely say that it is a huge improvement over the excellent F15 Strike Eagle that was released absolutely yonks ago. About a year ago Microprose launched the sequel on to the PC but Amiga owners have had to wait until now for their version, in that year the programmers decided to make the Amiga version even better than that on the PC. "Not hard to do!" I hear you cry, but the PC version plays a mean game.
The F15, for those of you who have had your head buried in the sand for the last year, played a critical role alongside British Tornadoes in the Gulf conflict. In fact, the way that Saddam's forces were military disabled and unable to respond to allied attacks was primarily put down to the F15. But, tastefully, Microprose have chosen not to have an Iraq scenario in the game. True, they do feature the Persian Gulf but the Gulf has always been at flashpoint so it adds atmosphere to the game.
F15 II utilises all the roles that this aircraft can play, be it air-to-air attack or attack-to-ground. The plane is awesomely powerful in both roles. Just how well it flies, however, is entirely up to you.
There are six arenas in which you can fly. These are the Persian Gulf (naturally), Vietnam, Central Europe, the Middle East, North Cape and North Africa. Microprose boast of a total playing area of half a million square miles, and after playing the game I wouldn't argue with them. Each of these arenas contains hundreds of missions which differ every time you play them so your chosen tactics in each are vital to success.
There are four skill levels allowing beginners to pick up the basics really quickly or flying aces to have regular dogfights with the best. And for those who can fly the things easily enough but seem to crash every time they even think about attempting a landing there is an easy auto-pilot option that will do all the hard work for you, leaving you free to concentrate on the action.
As with most flight sims these days you can view the action from viewpoints both inside and outside the aircraft. Used properly this can lead to amazing sequences where you can view enemy planes coming into range and see your missiles homing in and blowing them to bits.
Military hardware buffs will freak out at the authenticity of this sim - all the weapons perform exactly as they should, although unfortunately there are no Cruise missiles to watch turn corners.
Everything is so precise and accurate you can hardly believe it's just a game. Even the enemy planes and ground attack crews don't just sit around like Sidewinder fodder - they react intelligently to everything you do, so you will need to be fast and accurate to take them down before they do the same to you.
After signing on the rostor you choose your operating theatre. Then it's time for the mission briefing where you are given your primary targets (those you hit first) and your secondary targets (those you hit if you feel like it). Then you clamber aboard your fighter and get airborne.
As soon as you are up you use a combination of your radar and the waypoint selector to fly as quickly as possible to your next target. Of course, the enemy are not going to just sit there and take it. If you are up too high the SAM sites will fire deadly air-to-air missiles at you, although if you spot them in time you will be able to deploy counter measures. Just what you do depends on whether the missile is radar homing or heat seeking. Enemy airfields also react to your presence, sending up fighter aircraft to bring you down to earth with a bump.
When you are attacking targets, be they primary, secondary or inconvenient enemy reaction forces, you must select the most effective weaponry and tactics to take them out quickly and effectively. Your plane is equipped with a varied arsenal and each weapon is most effective in a particular role - it's up to you to decide when to use which one.
If your plane is still in one piece after all this you can return to a friendly air base - preferably the one from which you started - to collect all the praise from your commanding officer. A brave performance and enough points gathered for wasting bad guys and completing missions will see you being awarded a medal for your efforts.
But one medal doesn't look very nice on its own, you will have to get several to make your chest look good. With the medals come promotions, although the enemy will consider shooting down a major much more worthwhile than shooting down a rookie private, if you get my meaning.
In mid-battle, if you are in trouble and the enemy are taking great delight in taking your aircraft apart bit by bit, you can always pull the handle and eject. Of course, ejecting over enemy territory is not such a good idea and you must remember that too many premature ejections will make your superiors take you off flying and give you a desk job, so it will be game over for you.
To avoid the embarrassment of premature ejection think of football or something to take your mind off it.
On the whole F15 II is without doubt one of the best flight sims around at the moment. As you would expect from Microprose the packaging is excellent. The manual is one of those things that you could take to bed for a read. Techy buffs will love it. The action is very fast and covers all the theatres of combat that are relevant at the moment. Without any doubt, F15 Strike Eagle II is an essential purchase for the serious game player.