A gunner's dream

Lancaster logo

WHERE does Second World War mania come from? There are far too may simulations of aerial combat around, and Lancaster is yet another. What is wrong with the distant past or the future? Couldn't the format of Theatre Europe be built on?

After a black and white loading screen, coupled with loud and nasty stereo sound, a menu screen with about 20 buttons and a wobbly pointer appears. The buttons select everything from cheat and demonstration modes to the time of day and whether barrage balloons are present or not.

With this negotiated, you pick one of three pilots, watch the flight crew enter the plane outside the hangar and bang the hatch shut, switch to it taxiing out of the same hangar, then watch it take off along a green runway.

Once airborne, the scene switches to an excellent map of South East England, then to one of France or Germany, with the plane's progress and the target marked.
Before long a voice screams that an attack is about to take place. Messages flash on screen. You are given a view out of the tail gunner's dome - shoot everything on sight, the little arrows with AIMS marked on them pointing to the barrage balloons leave you in no doubt as to in which direction your bullets would be best fired.

After many ambushes you switch to a view of your target from above and get the chance to drop the most destructive bombs ever - when one hits a building, it vanishes without a trace.

You then struggle to get back home, avoiding more ambushes. If you are hit, the plane slides gracefully to the ground, bursts into flames and your pilot records are displayed with "File closed".

Graphics are of variable quality. On the menu and introductory screens they are very detailed. On some of the take-off and landing screens - especially the view from above of the sight to be bombed - the graphics are solid and extremely blocky.

In one case you are whisked from a hi-res view of the plane with propellors spinning into lo-res where there are no propellors to see.

The combat screens are a mixture of detailed control panel and blocky view with some of the graphics looking like products of a modelling package. Enemy planes trail smoke and spiral realistically before plunging to earth. Complete chaos is simulated well.

The sound effects are poor. The voice is very hard to make out. Other effects are nothing special.

Despite these reservations, the hackneyed subject matter and the mistakes, Lancaster is a pretty good example of its type.

Based on the missions of the famous bomber plane, it is in the usual Amiga Epic format - combat scenes linked via much groaning from the disc drive with pretty graphics and animation, colourful maps, menus and fanfares.

It is not a bad game. At least the authors are honest enough to point out where the simulation departs from complete historical accuracy.



Lancaster logo

ACTUAL SCREENSHOTS £24.95 * Mouse only

Here's the World War II flying ace donning his scarf, helmet and goggles ready for another daring raid deep into enemy territory. His Lancaster bomber takes to the skies and faces the might of Nazi air power as it tries to complete progressively harder missions. Or, to put it another way, let's go hammer the Hun with a trusty machine gun and a bay full of bombs.

This is not a full-blown flight simulator: it's an action game in which you play the part of the rear gunner. There are three guys to choose as the character you play, each with different experience in terms of missions flown.

The start of each mission reveals a map of Southern England and North Western Europe. Somewhere in Europe will be a big cross marking the target for the bombing run. Then the plane takes off in an impressive 3D sequence, during which you can't actually do anything at all.

Once the plane is in the air the screen switches to a zoomed in view of the map, where the plan is represented by a roundel which is guided in the direction you want to go, operating in accelerated time to save boredom. Guide it to the target until it makes its final approach run or gets intercepted by enemy aircraft, at which point view switches to the rear gunner.

Using the sight he has to defend the plane against the attacking dangers of fighters, flak, barrage balloons and searchlights, some of which can be turned off on the initial status screen.

There is a limitless supply of ammo but every time the plane gets hit by the enemy it loses speed and height. If these get too low the aircraft plunges to the ground, leaving the parachutes of the surviving crew drifting behind.

If the plane reaches target the view changes again to the bomb aimer. As the buildings, tanks, bridges or whatever else is below pass by, you have to drop the bombs onto them. Once the last one is gone it's back to the map screen for the flight home and possibly more interceptions on the way. As the missions are completed the targets get further away and interruptions by enemy forces increase.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The 3D objects are very impressive: plenty of detail and quite fast moving. The rest of the graphics are crude: poorly-drawn map screens and characters. The sound is not too thrilling either, consisting mostly of competent engine noises and machine gun rattles. The bomb noise is particularly whiney, but there is some entertaining speech during and after the missions.

JUDGEMENT

It's good as far as it goes. The 3D sequence is promising, as is the multiple mission scenario. However, what lets it down is the fact that there just is not enough variety in the action. It's just a matter of blasting down plane after plane and bombing the same old things. It really does need that bit more depth in order to keep you interested for long.



Lancaster logo

Wer sich noch an den Mega-Flop "Transputor" aus dem Hause Actual Screenshots erinnert, wird fortan die Spiele dieses Labels mit größter Skepsis betrachten. Zu Recht: Auch das neueste Game um einen Bordschützen im II. Weltkrieg erweist sich als arger Langweiler!

Zu Beginn darf man die Spielbedingungen festlegen: Bewaffnung, Tageszeit und die eigene Spielfigur (Marke: Held, Bübchen oder Veteran) werden aus verschiedenen Menüs ausgewählt. Sodann krabbelt die Mannschaft in ihre Kiste, und man rumpelt holprig aus dem Hangar auf die Rollbahn.

Gab's bis hierher noch ein bißchen Digi-Sound und ein paar mittelprächtige Grafiken zu bewundern, so ist jetzt die Stunde der Wahrheit angebrochen: Schon beim Anflug auf die in einer Karte verzeichneten Feind-Stellungen, sorgt wildes Ruckeln für Kopfschmerzen - aber es kommt noch schlimmer!

In der eigentlichen Kampfsequenz schaut man auf dem Cockpit, quasi dem Piloten über die Schulter. Während das Gequake einer englischen Digi-Stimme in den Ohren tönt, erscheinen in billiger Vektorgrafik die feindlichen Flieger auf der Bildfläche.

Mittels chaotischer Ziel- (Joystick)steuerung versucht man, die Gegner vom Himmel zu holen, während die Grafik immer langsamer wird, je näher die Flugzeuge kommen - brrrrr!

Wer es bis zum Zielpunkt schafft, darf noch ein paar Bömbchen unter die Leute bringen, ehe es wieder ab nach Hause geht. Ach, wäre man doch gar nicht erst losgeflogen... (wh)



Lancaster logo

CRL
Price: £19.99

When it entered the war in 1942, the Lancaster bomber had an almost immediate effect. A devastating 14,000 pound payload, three gun turrets and eight .303 calibre machine guns. Most remarkable of all was the Lancasters' ability to trail home after suffering incredible amounts of damage, with documented cases of the planes returning on two out of four engines; and another with five hundred machine gun holes in it.

One Lancaster managed the return trip with a four foot hole ripped from the top to bottom of the main fuselage after having a five hundred pound bomb dropped on it, by a friendly plane!

CRL's computer adaptation of a Lancaster bomber isn't quite dramatic as some of its real life encounters, but it certainly puts you where the action is, in the tail gunner's seat. Contained in the rear of the plane, just under the tail, is the turret. Armed with four guns it's the job of the gunner to cover the rear end of the plane from enemy attacks. The major attack wave consists of single engined Messerschmitt BF109 single engine fighters and Junker JU 88's with two engines and radar. On top of that flak is constantly thrown up from the ground below making life a lot rougher for the crew.

If you and your plane have survived the Luftwaffe's best attempts to bring you down, it's your chance to drop a few bombs on German emplacements. Unfortunately the realism drift into fantasy and fun with fancy targeting cross hairs and a zoom feature through the bomb door's view.

The way back is also fraught with the risk of attack from nearby airbases. The easiest way to avoid attacks is to fly around all the major cities; but unfortunately, you also have to keep your eye on the fuel gauge, so sometimes this proves a little tricky.

You have to select which crew member you want to use, the choice corresponding to the level of difficulty - a Dillon look-alike for level one, a dashing airman for levels twelve and onwards and a mega-hard man for levels twenty two and on (there are thirty levels in all). After that there's an animated sequence of a Lancaster taking off in solid 3D, which features some 103 separate polygons.

Throughout the air sequences all the graphics are also formed by polygons (bar the searchlights which appear on the night time missions). All of this plus colourful static screens make the graphics an all round hit. The sound is equally as good. The title tune features a sinister backing track, plus sampled shouts and siren wails, and throughout the game your radio operator keeps relaying messages such as, "what the hell's going on back there?" in his best "stiff upper lip" accent.

Lancaster is a very well presented and executed game. The only real complaint I have is its overall lack of variety; maybe different aircraft positions during flight could have made a slight improvement. A worthy game for all shoot 'em up and simulation freaks.