The wall has fallen. Democracy has swept into the East and the World is becoming a far safer place to be in. But behind the public handshakes and smiles the Cold War is still going on. The Bear and the Eagle never sleep.
The USA is still developing its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) but the Russians are closing fast. 'Bright Star' is a Soviet laser defence system to rival SDI. It's proceeding apace and only you can stop it. You're in control of the SDI project, which encompasses everything from hiring and firing the staff to arranging for enemy scientists to be 'liquidated'. It's not an easy job.
The majority of the game is mouse or joystick run and you control everything from a main menu. Sub-menus take you to the detail and the whole thing works smoothly, simply and well. It needs to because it runs in real time and you'll have to make some quick decisions about where to place your spies, assigning people to top jobs and conducting naughty espionage in the USSR.
Bar graphs display everything from team efficiencies to the danger your operatives in the field are in. Slowly, as you manage your people, the SDI project comes together and (hopefully) Bright Star runs into big US-initiated hassle.
The knowledge of your team increases as you test all the latest devices. You must determine how well the devices worked and what changes need implementing. Then you get some bods in to carry the changes out, chew the asses of those who've failed and keep the project rolling. This is simultaneous plate-
Dealing with the FBI and CIA spooks requires a deft touch. They jump at shadows and just love to open fire. But their intelligence is vital if you're to trip up the Russians. They also look after your own security. Leaks cost lives, and worse, make the President look bad in front of the camera.
You can talk to the Russians, and even negotiate with them (the flesh creeps...), but the game really hinges on how you play your two trump cards. One is the Archer. This is an elite Afghani rebel who is fighting for his homeland (which he's since had back, incidentally).
"Bright Star" is close to the Afghani border, so a stray missile might perhaps be launched. You actually get to do this in a little arcade sub-section fought on a map of Afghanistan. You control Archer's troops with the keyboard (mouse or joystick strangely aren't allowed). When he moves close enough to the Bright Star complex you simply hit the attack key and he should do the rest.
The Empire strikes back
Then there's the central character. Te Cardinal. He's a Red Army Colonel but luckily for you he's also an American spy. Believe what he tells you because it'll be vital to whether you win or lose.
The game is based on the 1987 Tom Clancy novel of the same name, but the atmosphere Clancy imbues in his books with is sadly not repeated here. What we have is possibly the ultimate management sim. The detail (all lifted from the impressively accurate book) goes some way to instilling the feeling of Superpowers on a knife-
The Cardinal Of The Kremlin is nicely put together. It's pleasant to use but still complex and taxing. However, the Cold War is being forgotten, and this is one management game that already feels out of date.