Strike Fighters: Project 1 (SP2)

By Scott Parrino 24 Apr 2004 0

Introduction

The late 1950s and 1960s ushered in a new and improved era of combat aircraft, as air support was quickly becoming critical to any successful war effort. These new aircraft transitioned air combat technology from the propeller powerhouses of World War II to the newer and more powerful jet turbine technology. The engine advances made exceeding the sound barrier commonplace, while at the same time dumb rockets were traded in for smarter weapons like radar and heat seeking missiles. These mid-century aircraft also were able to strap on a large amount of ordnance in multiple configurations, improving on the concept of a multi-role aircraft. As kind of a mixed blessing, Strike Fighters: Project 1 offers a virtual pilot the opportunity to test these birds in combat. Despite the huge fiasco surrounding the premature release of this title in the fall of 2002, two patches and nearly a year later, this game is finally showing signs of promise. So let's take a look at how this title stacks up when patched to the new Service Pack 2.

Flyable Aircraft

Of the four flyable aircraft, the F-4 Phantom II is probably the most desired platform for flight sim enthusiasts to fly. It was the A-10 Warthog of the 1960s, considering its 16,000 pound carrying capacity of external stores and beastly flight characteristics, but could fly fast at Mach 2 in a lightly loaded configuration (i.e. only air-to-air missiles). Its versatility made it a military favorite of both the USAF and US Navy. Also included in the toolkit of flyable aircraft is the F-100 Super Sabre, basically an evolution of the F-86 Sabre, most notable for its combat in the Korean War. The "missile with a man in it"-the F-104 Starfighter-is available as a fighter craft for close range engagements and fast Mach 2+ getaways. And the slow but versatile A-4 Skyhawk is offered as a Close Air Support aircraft.

Starfighter flies home after a final kill.

This Phantom is nothing more than a multi-million dollar lawn dart.

Pre-Flight

New players should definitely peruse the informative user manual. It includes an explanation of basic flight characteristics and detailed information on the flyable aircraft and weapons, and describes the game options in detail. In a time when game manuals are on their way out the light, yet informative 64-page manual is adequate and offers enough for the gamer to get into the game quickly and easily, but is no substitute for the manuals that came with the flight simulations in the late 1990s.

Strike Fighters allows for creation of multiple user pilots for which skill level and simulation difficulty settings can be tweaked for each one, along with other options like default start position of either on the runway or in the air near the point of conflict, and enemy skill level, among others. Other adjustable options include keyboard configuration and graphical detail levels. However, considering the lower system requirements and age of the game, running with maximum detail shouldn't be a problem for most relatively new game-worthy PCs.

When ready to fly, there are four available ways to enter combat: Instant Action, Single Missions, Campaign, and Multiplayer.

Clicking on the Instant Action button will instantly strap the gamer into the cockpit of an F-4 Phantom II in the middle of a battle scenario. While this is great for jumping into battle, it does not consist of a random set of events or even a random mission, it is always the same mission, so it is great for first time players to test their skill before engaging in the other configurable battles offered. Also offered is the "Single Mission" which is essentially a quick mission generator with user-configurable options like mission type, aircraft, map, time, weather, and enemy air and defensive activities. The campaign is stated to be a "dynamic" campaign, however it only contains random elements and missions, with limited munitions that are replenished as the game progresses. Unfortunately no direct IP support is available; therefore, those wishing to play the game multiplayer, must do so through a LAN connection or via GameSpy. Alternatively, the game can be played head-to-head or cooperatively for team-based play against the PC or other human adversaries.

Plenty of selectable options.

Briefing room.

New pilots be warned: there are no training missions, so it is basically seat-of-your-pants flying, but completing a number of instant action missions should quickly bring anyone's flight skills and familiarity with these aircraft up to date.

All aspects of the user's aircraft can be configured in difficulty, including the flight model, weapon use, radar, visual targeting, HUD, landing, collisions, blackout, and ammo and fuel usage. Before engaging in a mission, the player can configure their aircraft and any wingmen aircraft as they see fit with ordnance and paint scheme. A planning map presents the mission's waypoints and describes the mission's objectives. Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of reconfiguring waypoints or adding or deleting aircraft in your flight.

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