Combat Air Patrol logo

There is no let up from Merseyside as Psygnosis take to the skies for a belated bout of Saddam bashing.

From Psygnosis, the people who brought us Lemmings, Beast 3, Bill's Tomato Game and more recently Walker and Prime Mover, comes Combat Air Patrol, yet further proof - if any were needed - that few can match them for consistent quality.

You might have thought it was a bit late to bring out a simulation based on the Gulf War, but then again, we are still getting products related to the two World Wars, so I guess it is not too badly timed.
In fact, Psygnosis are cheekily jumping in ahead of Electronic Arts, whose helicopter-based version of the war against Saddam is about to make the leap from console to Amiga. But more about that next month.

So the Gulf War it is then - the primary objective being the expulsion of Iraqi forces from within the boundaries of Kuwait. The action begins around autumn 1990, shortly after Saddam and his motley throng overran Kuwait but before Desert Storm under way. Of course, if you achieve this objective it does not have to stop there, and you can carry out as many retaliatory measures as you like.

It seems the programmers were unaware of British involvement in the conflict, since you take part of an American stationed on the battleship USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Combat Air Patrol happily follows the trend of several recent flight sims in that it is easy right from the outset to jump into a plane and enjoy a quick flight without consulting several dozen pages worth of manual beforehand. That is all very well - a very good feature indeed, in fact - but it is the long term challenge of any game of this nature which eventually determines its success - and here CAP does not disappoint.

From the menu at the start you are led into the briefing room - a nice picture of several burly men gathered around a projection screen - to select a mission. The one you choose determines whether you will be flying an F14 Tomact, or ITS F18 Hornet. This done, it is off to the VideoData machine (he just made that name up - Ed) to choose which pilot you would like to be, making your decision based on experience, temperament, physical fitness and any aversions to heights or jet engines they may have.

What then - get that bird up in the air? Hell no, we need weapons, and what better place to get some than the handy weapons select screen? It is not perhaps surprising that the Yanks began to take out British troops in the Gulf when you take a look at these - every kind of armament any intrepid pilot could ever need, and far too many to ever run short.

The Tomcats are limited to air-to-air missiles, ranging from close range cannon to long range missiles, while the Hornets can carry the deadly accurate (it says here) AGM-62 Walleye air-to-ground glide bombs.

With weapons attached it is time to take to the skies and kick some proverbial bottom. Getting your plane airborne could not be easier - it is up and away from the flight deck at the touch of use two buttons.

Even if this proves too difficult there is an option to start your mission from a mid air position above the target, though a strange quirk here is that the engines still need to be started, and any delay in doing so results in the inevitable dive and crash! After seeing a demo of CAP a couple of months ago, I was surprised to find that flying the plane in the finished version is not quite as smooth. Admittedly, there is far more detail, but I was a little disappointed nonetheless.

Not too disappointed though - it is still one of the smoothest sims you will come across, and the speed and responsiveness of the ctrols makes the whole affair a pleasure to play (those of you lucky enough to own A1200s will find that the game is very smooth on your machine).

The missiles are easy to use, and after some initial trouble actually finding something to hit, I soon became familiar with using the waypoints, and revelled in choosing the "follow missile" option, where the perspective stays right above the projectile until impact.

Particularly impressive are the number and flexibility of the external views, not only of the aircraft, but also of any pilots/co-pilots who decide to abandon their mission and return to terra forma by parachute. Fly-bys, overheads, 360 degree external scrolling and even a view of your aircraft from space combine with the strategy element to make gameplay truly excellent.

Where the "extras" really show off though are in the ability to zoom right in on the exterior of the aircraft - it is almost possible to feel the searing heat of the afterburners. Digitised speech via the radio intercom, and an array of illuminated cockpit dials add to the overall quality.

Once familiar with the aircraft controls, you can if you wish take on the role of General, and command the ground troops to further harass the enemy.

Flight sims are becoming increasingly more popular in the home computer market, and in order to achieve success they must combine ease of use, quality and overall enjoyment of gameplay. Combat Air Patrol provides the budding pilot with more than a liberal smattering of all of these, and if justice is served should find itself a hit with experts and novices alike.

Combat Air Patrol logo

Let us get through the moaning first. This flight sim has the most ridiculous verification procedure ever in the history of aviation:
"What is the length in metres of a MIG-21?" it asks.
"I don't know," you respond through gritted teeth, "it does not seem to be in the manual".
"All right," says the machine, "you got that wrong. What about the speed (in Mach) of an A6?"
"Um, an A6, let me look. Er, I cannot find it. I do not even know what an A6 is. Let me guess, 2?"
"Wrong again," the machine crows. "This is your last chance, what is the length (in metres) of the AGM-88A?"
"Ah!" you cry. "I have seen that one, let me have a look. Yes, it is written here, on page 31. It is 13 foot long!"
Triumphant you prepare to type in your answer, but slowly realisation dawns. "Hang on, what is 13 foot in metres?" You work it out, it is 3.965. You type it in.
"Access Denied."

After you have torn out nearly all your hair and you are finally asked a question you can answer, you find out this is a highly reasonable flight simulator.

Dual roles to play
Set in the now familiar territory of the Gulf War, Combat Air Patrol puts you in the role of both combat pilot and overall commander. From the war room on board the Aircraft Carrier, USS Roosevelt, you can order air strikes, artillery barrages and reconnaissances of enemy units. A map displays the position and condition of enemy and allied units. Updates occur every day.

While all that is going on, you can fly missions of your own. Full briefings are given and you can access a computer system for a detailed two-dimensional analysis of your mission, including waypoints, enemy radar installations and targets.

From the hangar deck you can load your weapons bay with your choice of mega-destructive guns and missiles, and then climb into the cockpit of your Tomcat or Hornet and fly off to your rendezvous with destiny.

There is little in this game that will surprise anyone who has played around with a good combat flight simulator before. But what is amazing is that every feature you have seen before is available to you in this one game. From missile cameras to a 'fly-by view' you are visually well catered for, although there are games, such as F19 Stealth Fighter, which do it better.

Life is a drag...
There is a huge range of ordnance available and you need all of it for the large variety of missions offered. It is good to see the inclusion of laser guided weapon systems.

You can also select bombs with differing drag factors. Low Drag bombs follow an attack trajectory towards a target, whereas High Drag bombs, featuring a large air scoop, fall vertically to the ground from the moment of release. Both planes handle fairly well, although the F18 Hornet does wallow a little when turning sharply.

Combat Air Patrol is fast, fun and lethal, although the technical superiority which as so telling in the real Gulf War will also stand you in good stead here.

Combat Air Patrol logo

Seit wir das tolle Demo auf der CDTV-Version von "Lemmings" gesehen haben, warten wir ungedültig auf den ersten richtigen Flugsimulator von Psygnosis - jetzt ist er aus den Liverpooler Entwicklungshangars gerollt!

Leider befinden sich auch ein paar böse Überraschungen an Bord: Mit dem hyperrasanten "Planetside"-Demo auf der "Lemmings"-CD hat das Game praktisch nichts zu tun, außerdem fehlt das obligatorische Mega-Intro, genau wie jede Form von Musikalischer Auflockerung.

Das ließe sich ja alles noch verschmerzen - aber daß die Drei Dützend Missionen samt under sonders im selben Szenario angesiedelt sind, ist schon ein ernsteres Problem...

Okay, von der Sache her war's natürlich schwer zu vermeiden, da man hier den Golfkrieg aus der Cockpit-Sicht einer F-14 oder F-18 nachspielt. Es ist sicher auch nicht unrealistisch, daß die ganze Sache am 16.1.1991 losgeht und sämtliche Einsatze auf dem Flugzeugtrager "Theodore Roosevelt" beginnen und enden, der inmitten eines alliierten Flottesverbandes dumpelt.

Aber ziemlich eintonig ist es halt, immer nur uber blaues Wasser und gelben Sand zu fliegen was auch durch den Wechsel von Tag und Nacht kaum an optischen Reiz gewinnt. In mancher Hinsicht hat man sich jedoch nicht sklavisch an historische Vorbild gehalten. So darf der Spieler Saddam Hussein bis zu dessem bittern Ende bekämpfen, zudem versteckt der Kerl seine eigene Stahlvögel hier keineswegs, eher das Gegenteil ist der Fall - man bekommt mit jeder Menge angriffslustiger MiGs zu tun!

Der ungebetene Irak-Besucher hat die Wahl zwischen Training, dem "Instant Flight Modus", einer Einzelmission oder dem kompletten Feldzug. Dafür sucht er sich einen Piloten aus (oder bastelt ihn zusammen), der entweder in der Fighter- oder der Attack-Squadron dient: je nachdem kriegt er dann eine F-14 fur den Luftkampf oder eine F-18 fur die Bodenbearbeitung zugewiesen.

Selbstverständlich gibt's auch die üblichen Statistiken über die Zahl der absolvierten Missionen, die erzielte Trefferquote, den erkampften Rang und was des Fliegers Heldentaten mehr sind.

Doch bis zur abschliessenden Manoverkritik ist's ein weiter Weg, verschwenden wir lieber erst noch einige Worte auf die Einsatzbesprechung. Dort werden nicht nur die genretypischen Infos uber die jeweiligen Ziele, die empfohlende Bewaffnung, das herrschende Wetter, den Begeleitschutz die Funkfrequenzen usw. offeriert, man kriegt seine Angriffsobjekte in einer sehr schön gemachten (Vektorgrafik-) Animationssequenz vorgeführt.

Drückeberger dürfen sich nun bei der Tante Doktor krankschreiben lassen, Vorsichtige wergen noch einen Blick auf die Übersichtskarte und fordern zusätzliche Informationen über den Feind an, echte Helden hingegen stürmen gleich in die Waffenkammer wo alle gängigen Raketen und Bomber vorratig sind. Also dann bekommt man es mit einer von 14 verschiedenen Missionsarten zu tun, deren Bandbreite von Aufklärungs- und Begleitzflugen über die Bombardierung von Zugen, Flughafen, Brücken, Schiffen, Flak- und SAM-stationen bis zu heissen Luftgefechten reicht.

Die feindlichen MiGs verhalten sich dabei zwar sehr realistisch, aber nicht übermäßig intelligent, dafür sind sie halt recht zahlreich. Für die notige Abwechslung sorgt der Rechner, indem er die Missionen immer etwas anders generiert, außerdem beëinflußen die mehr oder weniger erfolgreiche Aktionen des Wohnzimmer-Piloten den Spielverlauf ähnlich wie bei "Wing Commander".

Auf der anderen Seite ist die Beschränkung auf Luftschlachten bzw. Bombardierungen schon etwas beeëngend. Unbeengt flußig bewegt sich dagegen die Grafik, sie ist aber weder besonders schnell noch wahnsinnig detailreich: auch die Cockpitbeleuchtung oder das Nachtsichtgerät ändern kaum erwas am optisch wenig berauschenden Befund. Immerhin sind zum Teil sehr spektakulare Außenansichten vorhanden, und der Ausstieg via Schleudersitz macht sich auf dem Screen ebenfalls recht gut.

Akustisch werden (nur) an den guten alten "Interceptor" erinnernde Effekte und ziemlich viel Sprachausgabe geboten und die ordentlich gemachte Steuerung funktioniert per Tastatur einen Hauch besser als mit Stick oder Maus. Zu bemangeln wäre noch die fehlende Autopilot, was Fluge im Zeitraffertrieb hochst problematisch werden läßt, außerdem kann man nur dann gegen einen menschlichen Kollegen antreten wenn dieser seine "Freundin" auf den eigenen Amiga anschließt.

Fazit: Im 500er-Normalfall wird man mit C.A.P. zwar besser und vlotter bedient als bei solchen Betonschwalben wie "AV-8B Harrier Assault", aber gegen die Klassiker des Genres kommt das Teil trotzdem nicht an.(mm)

Combat Air Patrol logo

All you need is a Tom Cruise haircut, a pair of Ray Ban Aviators and a leather jacket.

Having responsibility for the lives of thousands of allied soldiers might seem a terrible burden for a single person, but in Combat Air Patrol it is just one of the many options you have in your mission to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait or. CAPs one of those flight sims - and then some - games, where you not only have the option of flying around happily firing off SAMS, but also control the entire ground war as well. Eek, that sounds a bit complex, doesn't it?

Well yes, but thanks to Psygnosis, CAP is an easy-to-fly affair. There is nothing more horrible than searching through a manual the size of the Hampshire to find out where the ignition key is, but thankfully the programmers have realised that no one cares about the lack of such details.

In the Instant Flight mode, you can just skip all complexities, and quickly start off on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which is sitting in the middle of a sizeable fleet in the Persian Gulf. The manual recommends that you use the keyboard controls, but it is not a flying game if you cannot use a joystick is it? So switching to the joystick mode, I took off, waggled around a bit and... crashed into the sea a mere few hundred feet from the ship. Suffering the indignity of being pulled out of the briny, I strapped into my second plane and tried the keyboard like they suggested, and it flies perfectly.

This sensation provokes a mixed response. On one hand, the motion is smooth and wonderfully detailed, but on the other, it is a shame you have got to fall back on the keys to control the plane with any degree of precision, as it kind of detracts from the feeling of flying by the seat of your pants.

But back to the look of the game. As well as the exterior views, there is the normal front view complete with dials and Head Up Display. You can even look around the skies and, by some bizarre, Exorcist-esque manoeuvre, swivel your head round 180 degrees and smile at your startled co-pilot. Switching to the trailing view, the control surfaces on your plane move in a pleasingly realistic way. I will say it at the end again, but it is worth saying that CAP is just about the fastest flight sim I have seen on the Amiga, and as such it is one of the most playable ones.

Of course, the point of CAP is that it is not just a flight sim, it is a Gulf War flight sim. The campaign mode starts you off at day one of the war and presents you with a map of the Kuwait, with the ground forces of either side drawn up against each other. You can target enemy units for reconnaissance or air attack, and move infantry or armour up to attack opposing forces. Obviously, it would be impossible to fly every sortie yourself, so the game takes your performance from each mission and uses this as an average. In this way, if you are disastrous in a few missions, your poor performance will be reflected across the entire battle field.

It is so impressively fast that it is hard to believe

Considering it is based on a way where the allies had total air supremacy after the first few days, there are an awful lot of enemy planes in CAP, but I suppose there would not be much of a game without them. For most of the game they are nothing more than a fast-moving blip across your gunsight, but once you have got a Sidewinder locked onto them, then they are generally history. Unfortunately, the same can be said for you, and quite a lot of the time you get that sinking feeling as your hydraulics and engines pack up and 36 million dollars of fighter goes into a steep dive. Thankfully there is an eject option so you can at least watch your plane crash from the safety from a parachute.

There are several difficulty levels, which is just as well really. On the hard level you come under the sort of ground and air fire that you would expect a novice pilot would receive when he flies a straight, level course across a war zone. It may be fearsomely authentic, but once you have been downed several times, it is good to know that you can bomb airfields, convoys and bridges at an easier level where the defenders are squinting myopically down their gun-sights.

Air threats are the staple of flight sims, but with CAP your missions revolve around destroying the ground targets, and your arsenal reflects this. There are the usual free-all bombs, but why should you bother with them when you have got a high-tech arsenal? Walleye AGM-62 are gliding bombs that you release from a high attitude and guide in using a nose mounted TV camera view, where the laser-guided variety give you a close up view of the target that is eerily close to the real attacks viewed on the news. These ' stand off' weapons are displayed convincingly, save you the anguish of getting shot to pieces, and add greatly to that 'Gulf War' feeling.

It is a brilliant game, and even more impressive when you compare it to last month's Harrier AV8B. It is so impressively fast that it is hard to believe unless you see it, but there are a few niggly points.

It is possible, for instance, to load up so many weapons that your plane plummets into the sea. I really cannot imagine US ground crew being so stupid as to let you render a plane unflyable, so why allow this overload?

Also, on the harder missions, your life expectancy is in single minutes, but maybe this says more about my lack of pilot skills than the murderous level of ground fire. Small grumbles indeed for such an impressive game.

Combat Air Patrol logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Tyrants, dictators, male chauveinist pigs - is no-one safe from John Mather and his magnificent flying machine?

A number of recent Amiga flight sims have taken their inspiration from real combat situations. Flight Of The Intruder centred around the Vietnam War, Reach For The Skies had us participating in the Battle Of Britain and Harrier, well, there are some exceptions, but I think you know where I'm coming from [I know where you're going - Ed.].

It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that Combat Air Patrol is based on the Gulf war when we really taught Saddam Hussein not to mess with us Westerners. Except we didn't because, although we succeeded in liberating Kuwait, the tyrant is still in power and ruling his people with a ruthless hand. Well, now's your chance to rewrite the history books and drive Mr Hussein out of power with a crafty combination of military planning and flying skills - all in the privacy of your own home!

To succeed you'll need lots of strategic know-how as you're ultimately responsible for the whole of the UN force. Issuing orders is achieved via a handy campaign map and once you've manipulated the troops to your satisfaction it's off to the mission screen which details the targets and objectives of the next planned flight.

From here you can either accept the assignment and start thinking about what payload you'll be equipping your self with or feign illness by popping over to the busty medical officer who will sign you off sick for the day.

Too much cowardice, however, will result in a swift discharge, as the rest of the crew don't take kindly to malingerers. Once past the tedium of selecting your weapons (just press 'default', is my advice), you'll find yourself aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Aircraft Carrier, ready and waiting to take to the skies and do some serious damage to the Iraqi army.

It's as you take off that the quality of Combat Air Patrol becomes apparent - this has to be the fastest, slickest flight simulator available on the Amiga. In many flight sims you find a time lag between joystick and actual response on screen - not so in CAP! Here the effects of your decisions are depicted almost instantaneously.

And whereas looking sideways or behind would usually involve the screen blanking and 'cutting' to a separate view, you can scroll the cockpit around by pressing the keypad, meaning it's possible to quickly glance to one side and back again with some realism. You can also do an Exorcist-style 360 degree head turn, which is always something to impress your friends with. Probably.

The plane itself is a joy to fly. There's hardly any messing around, the keys are sensibly chosen and with the choice of either mouse, joystick or keys, every prospective pilot will find a method which suits them. The controls aren't as complex as in most simulations and the necessary key-presses soon become second nature.

The actual landscape is fairly empty but the game more than makes up for this in the playability stakes. The 3D routines are also suitably speedy and everything, from the other aircraft to the ships, whizzes by at an amazing pace. The general chaotic war atmosphere is further enhanced by the sampled sound effects which tell of any damage and give other valuable information.

Overall, it's hard to find fault with Combat Air Patrol. It's fast, thrilling, and - more importantly - fun to play. It may come as quite a shock to gamers who take their flight simulations seriously, as the action is far more immediate but, for me at least, this approach serves to make it far more accessible.

It's been a long time since we had anything near a decent flight sim for the Amiga. Psygnosis really have put the 'flight' back into simulation. CAP will have you swallowing air-sickness tablets by the bucket full.