I don't know what it is, but ever since I've been wending my weary way to AC Towers - which is no mean feat, as it's in the middle of nowhere, seven miles up a pig's colon - I keep getting the war games. Please, don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning. It's just that until recently I was the type of guy who'd trip through blossomed meadows, and go around preaching love, peace and generally non-violent activities.
Now look at me, they've turned me into a child-
War in the Gulf is a tank sim from the same people who brought you the award-winning Pacific Island and Team Yankee. Now before you all jump to the wrong conclusions, I'll put you right.
Tanks are not those outdated, large, lumbering pieces of metal. They're no longer the Tony Adams of the military world. Not I the American Chiefs of Staff are to be believed. In fact, a large proportion of the success of the 1990 Gulf conflict was down to the armoured divisions.
This brings me rather neatly on to my second point. This is not - as most of us thought - based on the original flare up in the Middle Eart. Instead, we are swept forward in time to 1995. As always with this renowned hot spot there's trouble. Following a maelstrom of violence and political unrest, Iraq, led by Mr personality Saddam Hussein, decides to waltz back into Kuwait. Is it me or have I experienced deja vu?
Well, there's no prize for guessing whose job it is to take control of matters and free Kuwait. Funded by the extremely wealthy Emir, you and your mouse manipulate the destiny of Team Kuwait. Team Kuwait comprises some of the latest hardware to grace the front drive of the US military, including the lethal M-1 Abrams main battle tank. You take command of four tank units, simultaneously controlling a total of 16 vehicles.
Following some nice intro screens, the first task in hand is to set your forces an objective. Empire are boasting 25 battle zones - so there's plenty to choose from. Being a campaign, the action begins on one particular island and moves inland as you become more adept.
Now it's time to deploy your forces. This is where the first element of strategy shows its face. Obviously different vehicles have varying capabilities, but there's more to it than that. Money-
Sounds simple enough? Unfortunately he only coughs up on results and doesn't like it when you blast large holes in ancient monuments or other Kuwaiti treasures.
Next option at your disposal is whether or not to set artillery support. Having pondered that one though, it's on to the main game screen. I should really have used the plural there because the main screen really consists of four: each one of the tank units occupies a quarter of the screen.
Next option at your disposal is whether or not to set artillery support. Having pondered that one though, it's on to the main game screen. I should really have used the plural there because the main screen really consists of four; each one of the tank units occupies a quarter of the screen.
All of these areas can be independently accessed by mouse-
Instead it's a lot more canny to operate from a full screen view. Here, both thank and extermal graphics gain clarity and good old user-
The tactical aspects of WITG are all decided within the battle map. Clicking on to this screen displays the geography and topography of the battle zone. It also displays your vehicles and their intended courses. You're also given options on your speed and a whole range of tactical formations.
"Yeah! Yeah! I hear you screen, "This is all very well, but what about the action? Where 's the carnage? The satiating of primeval desires that we all lust for?"
All right calm down, I'll talk about that aspect of Gulf now. The main battle sequences give us external views of the Kuwaiti terrain seen from inside the tanks. Again it's down to mighty mouse to control everything. You can practically carry out any action that the real McCoy can, whether it be a simple turret rotation or use of the laser sights to increase your deadliness. Everything's there in reach of your sweaty palms.
In terms of ballistics, you've got more munitions to hand than Arnie in Terminator 2. Your choices vary from anti-tank missiles through to smoke grenades. Firing is simple enough, moving the mouse off the control panel onto the play area - as if by magic - changes the selector icon into a gun sight.
The play area graphics are courtesy of Empire's award-
This all adds to the realism which is generated. The enemy are extremely intelligent and show no mercy when it comes to the crunch, Saddam's Republican Guard being particularly ruthless.
The sound involved throughout is spartan but effective. But let's face it, when you're crammed into a space the size of a filing cabinet you can hardly hear much.
What really grabbed me about Empire's endeavours is the realism. It's not so much the visual quality - which has to be said is excellent - so much as the speed. The game plays at a "real-time" pace. This gives the player little, if no time to react to surprise attacks. There're plenty of occasions I sat there perplexed, pulling my hair out, watching my vehicles being decimated y unseen foe.
The relative cunning of the Iraqi forces makes this an incredibly tough nut to crack. There's little point in sending your forces out willy-
I know the Gulf conflict is a bit of a touchy subject in some areas. I also can't help feeling that there's something a mite sad about the marketing strategy employed - riding on the back of a war to sell games. However, it's been done before, and no doubt it'll be done again. So, moralising apart, it has to be said that War in the Gulf is a quality product. It will appeal to both action and strategy punters alike, and is tricky enough to render it boht compulsive and addictive.
So if you're a budding stormin' Norman, this is definitely the game for you. Should keep the troops amused for months.