Operation Harrier logo

US GOLD £24.99 * Joystick

Enemy chiefs of staff have been spotted on a cruiser that is sailing right into your sector. Now is the time to strike a single blow that will set their war effort reeling. It is time for Operation Harrier to go into action.

Using your jump-jet's unique ability to climb and dive, you must seek out that ship and destroy it. Ranged against you is the cream of the enemy forces - jet fighters, missile bases and ships - all seeking to do you down. It is time to choose your weapons and get into the sky for an aerial battle.

Operation Harrier is played in Rotoscape, the system first used in Rotox. Now they have added a 3D-ish element, allowing the plane to climb and dive. Your plane sits in the centre of the screen and the whole world rotates around it. Fly forward and it looks like any other shoot-em-up, but when you bank into a turn you see the bullets from your cannon sweep to one side in an odd but realistic effect.

Flying this baby, meanwhile, could not be easier: just push the joystick to accelerate, press fire and push forward to dive.

Each of the missions sets a primary target that has to be blasted out of existence, but blatting anything else you encounter is positively encouraged. The target could be anything from a battleship to a ground station, while everything from helicopters to nuclear power plants are fair prey. If you miss the target first time round, do not panic: you can avoid disgrace by landing and reloading.

Flashing around in the sky is fun until the missiles start to home in. Other planes are no problem, especially if you picked sidewinders in the 'weapons selection' section. Their missiles are as dogged as yours, though, so if one is locked on your tail it is damned hard to shake it. Luckily, being British-built, Harriers can take four hits before going down in flames. The various weapons you can drop on the enemy are easily used but hard to target, which means you will have to take plenty of spares for a second run.


Once again the Rotoscape engine proves to be a flexible games tool. While clever and easy to use, it does lack the glorious colours of other Amiga shoot-em-ups. The inter-game sequences try to make amends with huge pictures of carriers, crafts and commanding offers, but are essentially perhipheral and fail to lift the game into the realms of pictorial excellence.


Operation Harrier has its moments, but they are generally well spaced. The armaments are not flexible, enough to allow it to encroach on pseudo-sim territory, while your plane is not deadly enough to tread on shoot-em-up toes. This leaves the Harrier wallowing in the turbulence of its own unique system. There is the sense that Op Harrier was designed around the Rotoscape system, rather than naturally fitting the style. This leaves the package strained, as good original concepts pull in different directions.

Operation Harrier logo

US Gold, Amiga £24.95

The Marines were among the first American troops into the Gulf, a scenario uncannily like Op Harrier's tale of conflict between Middle East countries. The game is set in a fairly large warzone, with several islands and plenty of coastline. The Marines have arrived on an aircraft carrier armed with Harriers.

You begin your career as a Pilot Officer, but aim to rise through the ranks. To do this you must complete seven or eight progressively difficult missions, such as defending an airfield from enemy aircraft, sinking a ship or penetrating deep into enemy territory to destroy a nuclear base. Should you complete all the missions you are free to attack enemy targets as you wish.

Before each mission you are briefed by a cigar-chomping colonel. The it is time to select up to six weapons from rocket pods, air-to-air missiles, 500lb and 1000lb bombs. There is also a built-in cannon. Once you return from a mission you can rearm, refuel and have repairs done. On long missions you might choose to land at one or two friendly land bases. There are also two tanker planes for mid-air refuelling.

The game uses Rotox's Rotoscape technique, with the Harrier fixed at the centre of the screen. Left/right rotates the landscape around, while pushing forwards increases speed and backwards decreases it. Fire shoots cannon shells, but holding it down with up/down allows you to change your altitude. The function keys allow you to select one of the weapons you are carrying.

Once airborne it is a good idea to call up the map screen, this shows everything for miles around in real-time - the game does not pause. So you can navigate to the target while avoiding enemy fighters, helicopters and anti-aircraft missile sites. Once near the target you can go to the main view, a useful radar scanner showing targets beyond visual range. Each hit on the Harrier causes a fire - four hits destroy it, as does colliding with the ground or another plane.

Robin Hogg Sorry Stu, but I cannot say I was at all thrilled by Op Harrier. It is a weak shoot-'em-up with little in the way of depth or variety of enemies. The Rotoscape effect to min mind worked brilliantly as an integral part of Rotox but here it adds little to the gameplay and I expected much more in the way of graphic detail, at least a more convincing shrink/expand effect. Everything looks just too simple and cleanly laid out for my liking. Operation Harrier is very similar to Namco's Metal Hawk coin-op in play but lacks the speed or challenge to match it.
Stuart Wynne If Wings Of Fury drew inspiration from Harrier Attack, Op Harrier looks to Raid On Bungeling Bay for ideas. In both cases 16-bit hardware allows substantial improvement, the Rotoscaping technique is particularly impressive with lots of graphics moving very quickly: islands, jets, missiles and bullets all whizz round you at great speed. The ability to go down into the landscape with everything zooming upwards, is very neat too. The presentations screens are absolutely superb, creating an atmosphere which I much prefer to Rotox. Unfortunately there is not that many missions. When you complete them you can fly your own against remaining targets, but it is irritating repeating the same old early missions over and over. 50 varied and random missions plus a save/load feature would have made a great game.