I can't remember how many moons ago it was that Microprose released the original Gunship. But I do remember I was only a slip of a lad. I remember halcyon days of laughter, music and sunshine.
Memories of mother's dumplings came flooding back, and how she'd beat me senseless with her suet stick. Little did I know that training of that nature would prepare me for my vacation of life: War correspondent for Amiga Computing! But enough of this reminiscing, back to Gunship.
The original was immediately heralded a classic, selling over one million copies and scooping up an army of gaming awards. Since then, there have been others to follow in the footsteps of the grandfather of helicopters sims. I think most of us will remember the outstanding Thunderhawk. This, while offering superior graphics, was slightly let down by a tricky control system.
To all intents and purposes, this has always been the problem with this particular genre. Helicopters are damned complicated pieces of equipment for programmers to replicate. Either the visuals suffer form poor, juddery graphics or the control systems vary from simplistic through to requiring the dexterity of an octopus.
So, with all these and other queries rolling around in my noggin, I set forth to discover whether Microprose have spawned an auto-rotating prodigy or given birth to a collective failure.
Once I had my grubby maulers delving inside the box, the first thing my paws came into contact with was the manual. To say it's extensive is an understatement: the best part of 200 pages of instructions and techno-
It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it - or some macho type once said. So, with a casual shrug of the shoulders, I booted up. The first thing to greet me was a stunning intro sequence showing the AH-64A - or Apache to his friends - shooting large projectiles at your monitor!
After the cinematic intro screens, it's off to Fort Rucker to begin active duty within the US Army Aviation Centre. You begin life as a lowly Warrant Officer candidate. But with training and hard work, the sky's the limit.
The first option screen allows you to choose which theatre of war you wish to take part in. These vary between central Europe and the Persian Gulf, although Microsoft are promising add-on disks in the near-
Having pondered these and other options, it's time for mission briefing. Here, one can view orders, plot waypoints for targets and read enemy movements. As this is a true simulator, you are also given atmospherics such as wind speed and weather conditions to puzzle over.
There's a decline mission option, but I'm sure all you tattooed, granite-
Anyway, before you go for your re-enaction of the first episode of the Whirly Birds, it's always fun to go shopping at the ordinance stores. This screen allows you to look at the hardware at your disposal.
The action takes place in the near future, around the year 2000 to be precise - surprise, surprise! Much of the helicopter technology on offer is still in the development stage. This means that you get to fly these ultra powerful machines of the future before the real aero-jocks do!
You get to choose form eight of the beasts, all having different uses and qualities. From the ultra-
Having selected your craft and weaponry it's time for the crunch. Ascending up into the great blue yonder can be made as real or as shoot-'em-up as you like. This is thanks to a set of toggles that allow you to alter the majority of features likely to affect flight.
Once in the cockpit it's hard not to notice the quality of the graphics. Both the internal and external views look very effective. But, how does she handle? That's the burning question!
Now, I'm not going to bore you with the aeronautics of vertical flight. This is because, quite frankly I haven't got a bloody clue. All I do know is that the first element of chopper control is the collective.
This refers to the angle of attack adopted by the rotors; the steeper the blade angle, the greater the lift. On Gunship, this aspect is dealt with via the keyboard. The second part of the equation is the cyclic which behaves exactly like, and is controlled by the joystick. Finally, there's the anti-torque rotor which again is keyboard operated. It sounds fairly complicated - that's because it is. But, as I said, the manual is in-depth and where I stole all the above info from.
Once you've mastered the control system, which is quite user friendly, it's time to fight the touch paper and start the fireworks.
Gunship moves as quickly and as smoothly as any flight sim I have yet to see on the Amiga. This has not been achieved at the cost of detail either.
The terrain is both interesting and varied. It's not unlikely for you to screech past billboards or even to harass a resting camel - that's on the Chester Zoo mission by the way!
The whole smoothness and variety of the landscape is thanks to a new system which generates terrain with undulations. All I can say is seeing is believing!
In terms of action, there's more than enough. Everything is controlled in your bird, by state-of-
The variety of assailants is also amazing. So whether it's a HIND gunship or a T-72 battle tank, just get on his six, target your Hellfires and watch his pinko comma ass fry. The great thing is, you can watch said commy's ass fry from loads of angles. For example, you can watch the action from the missile you've just launched or even form the enemy's perspective.
The sonics too are excellent. The choppers really sound as though they chop. The explosions are really beefy and the sampled speech from your co-pilot highly convincing.
As if I hadn't sang Gunship's praises enough, come here, there's more! The number of missions at your disposal is vast. Also, as you progress in rank, the more sophisticated helicopters become yours for the taking. Plus, at the higher ranks you become eligible for wing-men and full blow campaign options.
Really I haven't the space to say everything I want to about this monster piece of software. I predict Gunship 2000 will become the god of the simulator world. It's an absolutely awesome, most excellent, cracker of a game. I heartily recommend that everyone rush out and buy the definitive helicopter simulator now.
Anyway, I'm off to take to the skies once more. Blue Thunder eat your heart out!