This year looks as if it's going to be a good one for all you flight sims out there. But it's about time we had something a bit different instead of just changing the plane you fly. Oh look! Domark have obliged with the release of Harrier Assault.
Not your average easy-to-fly planes, these Harrier things - it's like trying the balacne yourself on top of two very big fans, only harder. But more of that later. I'd better tell you why you're to fly this overgrown extractor fan.
Take most flight games and you'll find that the only job you have to do is complete pre-set missions while flying a high powered jet, but it's different in Harrier Assault. Here the concept is extended because you get to play two roles.
The first role is as Commander of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) in which you run the campaign of Operation Ocean Saber. Operation Ocean Saber is a UN-authorised invasion of East Timor in Southeast Asia. In the job you are tasked with landing US Marines in hostile terrain and making strategic and tactical decisions for the force as a whole.
The second role is as a squadron pilot, in which you fly the AV-88 Harrier jump jet (surprise, surprise) from the flight deck of the USS Tarawa and take it into combat against the armed forces of Indonesia, the nation which has seized East Timor.
As you can see, it's just slightly different from other flight sims, but hey if you're a traditionalist you can simply fly the Harrier and let the computer make those all-important tactical and strategic decisions for you. As mentioned above, the game is set in and around East Timor in Southeast Asia and I can't ever remember a flight sim set in that country, so you can't fault Domark for not being different from the rest.
As far back as I can remember I actually think this is the first proper flight sim featuring the Harrier Jump Jet. I think most software companies tended to ignore it, maybe because it's very hard hard to, err, simulate. But why is it so hard to simulate? I hear you all cry. Well, it's because the Harrier is a VTOL fighter aircraft. As you probably already know, VTOL stands for Vertical Take Off and Landing and it means that the jet can take off and land, err, vertically. Hey, you just learn something old from people who shouldn't witter on so much every day.
The AV-88 Harrier is not the sort of plane you want to meet on a dark night. It can be tooled up to the teeth with five types of ordnance ranging from guided missiles to your bog standard unguided rockets to high-tech laser-guided bombs, plus it's got a couple of awesome 25mm cannons bolted on the front We are talking total destruction here, kids.
I'll let you in on a little secret, but only if you don't tell anyone. Most flight sims claim that they are accurate down to the tiniest detail, but they are not that accurate in the control department.
Planes as a general rule are a right pain in the botty to fly - ask anyone who's been on the Krypton Factor. To combat this fact, most programmers make flight that bit easier, but this is not the case with Harrier Assault. The flight model is very realistic indeed so if you want a challenge, you've got one.
Harrier is very good fun once you get into it but I think that it is fair to warn 500 owners that it's deadly slow unless you have an accelerator.