First there was Interceptor. Then there was Falcon. Then F-16 Combat Pilot, F-15 Strike Eagle and the Falcon Mission Disk. Blimey, what a lot of 'F' words, and now we've got another one: F-29 Retaliator. So how will Retaliator 'measure up'? After all, there's quite a bit of competition - given the pedigree of the aforementioned.
The first thing you'll notice (and you don't really have to be very observant) is that although this game is called F-29 Retaliator, there is actually another plane included in the package: it's an F-22 - you know, the weird looking one that's getting most of the publicity. Now, if Ocean was our company, we would have insisted on this game being called F-29 Retaliator (Oh, And An F-22 As Well). But unfortunately, Ocean isn't our company, so we can't.
The game starts with the enrolling section. Like Falcon, the ranks range from First Lieutenant to Colonel: the higher the rank, the higher the difficulty level and the more points you'll score for each 'kill'. Then you get to choose a scenario, of which there are four (as opposed to Falcon's one).
Arizona is your first scenario. It's the USAF Test Range, and is set in about 1000 square miles. It's chock full of targets and remote-controlled vehicles for you to practice on. Luckily things don't fire back, so if you want you can safely cram your granny and auntie Maude into the cockpit and listen to them gasp as you give them a taste of modern fighter-ace high-speed combat.
Next up it's the Middle East. You're affiliated with a 'friendly' Middle Eastern nation, who is currently engaged in a fierce war with two other countries. The friendly nation's artillery is heavily outnumbered, although technically superior to its rivals. To succeed, three enemy planes must be destroyed for every one of your own. The war is on two fronts, with large tank battles to the south west and artillery exchanges across the natural river boundary to the south east.
Or there's a slightly more watery scenario: namely the Pacific Ocean. The strategically important volcanic islands of Solomos provide vital oil supplies, and contain the only deep sea port for 1000 miles in all directions. A small military airstrip is located there with a squadron of ATFs (Advanced Tactical Fighters).
VERY SECRET AVIATION THINGS
NO. 1: AN OX
Willbur and Orville Wright were not the first people to successfully attain powered flight. This feat was first accomplished in 1794 by a bloke from Calais called Henri Formenoire. His iron-winged 'ox-powered' helicopter achieved an airborne span of some five seconds before 'landing' at the bottom of the cliff from which it was launched. Sadly, both Henri and the ox perished.
A military blockade by the enemy fleet has cut off all support to the islands, threatening your oil supplies. Plus they're toying with the idea of invading the islands. A sea-bound task force, led by the J.F. Kennedy, is steaming towards the war zone though, and guess who's on board? That's right: you!
Finally there's Europe (The Ultimate Battle Front). This is a real biggie. A full scale conventional war across the heartland of Europe is beginning. All airfields, installations, factories and towns will be attacked and initial losses are expected to be heavy on both sides. Mounting enemy activity has been reported near the border, where an estimated 9000 tanks and three million soldiers have amassed. The enemy is expected to launch a huge assault on key border points, and its airforce will plunge deep into your country, crippling the infrastructure.
Two enemy tanks divisions have assembled along the border with huge reinforcements being drawn up from their rear flanks. The situation will be critical if the enemy tank divisions break through the border defences, as they'll plunge deep into your territory - threatening the industrial complexes at Huttgart, Nurgen and Coberg.
Well. Those are the scenarios. Choose one and zoom through a host of other options, such as Pilot's Log (where you set up and save your status), Zulu Alert (which is a 'quickstart' unlimited weapons jobbie for non-realists), and finally you're provided with a detailed map showing the battle front, and a text description of the latest war events, regularly updated.
YAHOO, CHOCKS AWAY...
We're nearly ready for takeoff. Just a couple more things to do. First it's probably quite a good idea to select which of the 'wizard kites' you actually wish to fly. Then you'll want to arm yourself (to the teeth, probably) with weapons. Air to air, air to ground, air to Venus - things like that. Now, finally, you get to choose a mission from within the scenario you've already gone for. The higher your rank, the more missions will be available. There are absolutely loads of them, but we'll give you an example of two (from the Pacific Ocean scenario)...
(1) The Leonid Brehnev has been sighted with a support ship. Locate and destroy (i.e. sink a ship).
(2) A fierce Enemy counter strike has sunk three US ships and threatens the JFK. Provide air support and destroy the two enemy vessels.
At last. It really is time for your 'chocks' to be 'removed'. Wheeeee!
VERY SECRET AVIATION THINGS
NO. 2: BELGIUM
Belgium has the technology to build a low level strike aircraft which is capable of travelling at 98% per cent of the speed of light (in short bursts). The prototype will be unveiled at the 1991 Paris Air Show.
Jackie: Wow. If this is what flying's all about, I waint to join the RAF! (Don't you mean WRAF? Ed.) Where are the application papers? Ah, here they are. Right: name. Um, easy enough, Jacky Ryan. Date of birth? Er, (scribble scribble). Any of these diseases? Erm, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, blimey - I don't think I can get that one, erm, nope, nope, nope. Reason for wanting to be a fighter pilot? Um, I've just had a go on Retaliator. Height? Awwwwww! They always get me on this one. I know, I'll add a couple of inches - four feet three inches. There that should do it. Just pop it in the post and then get back to Retaliator Plop.
Now this is good. Very good indeed. It's so massive, that you can fly around bombing bridges and things. (That's what you're meant to do. Ed.) There's a load of 'tactical' stuff at the beginning, and more options than you could shake one of Douglas Bader's legs at, and you've got to know what weapons to take with you on each particular mission if you want to get medals and things. Once you're through all this, though (and you've memorised loads of keyboard buttons), it's take-off time.
Cor, I love that take-off bit. I like switching to the rear window and banking hard to one side. It's just so much more fun than looking out of a boring DC10 window when you're going on holiday to Turkey or somewhere. Plus your ears don't pop, and you don't get handed a plastic tray full of totally useless food.
Everything moves so smoothly and fast, that it really is quite realistic. In fact, here's something for ST owners to crowd about. While the 'static' drawings on the Amiga have more colour in them, the animation on the ST is marginally quicker - and as the Amiga screen update is so blinking good in itself, that means that the ST update is just tremendous.
There's so much to shoot at. Boats for example. (Ships actually. Ed.) They're big, big, big - and there's even water turbulence coming from their sterns. The islands (in the Pacific scenario) even have little strips of yellow beach scattered around: so if you 'prang' your 'kite' you can set the crate down and while away the rest of the war making sandcastles.
Oh, and there are all sorts of other brill things as well - such as the railway lines: if you bomb a big hole in the track, the train actually derails when it reaches the crater. And once you've bombed something, it stays bombed (until you get killed yourself).
Another 'little touch' (and there are loads of them) is the water surrounding the islands. It's light blue (shallow, sand and coral), as opposed to the dark blue of the deeper sea. It may sound obvious, but details like this really help bring a game to life.
All in all, Retaliator is magnificent. The air-to-air combat got a bit hectic, but spinning out of control towards the earth isn't quite so bad when the scenery's so nice. What we have here is sort of a cross between Interceptor and Falcon (and then some). Brilliant stuff.
Dunc:. Well. What can I say? The word 'Wheeee' springs to mind actually, but I'm sure real fighter pilots don't say things like that - I'll have to restrain myself to saying "Polygons ahoy" instead. Polygons are in fact very much 'ahoy' in this game: the ground details are beautifully, er, detailed (unless you happen to be about 30 computer miles away from them, in which case there's a sort of 'dot'). There are gas plants, tanks, SAM sites, landing strips - the list is endless. Well, it's not quite 'endless', but you know what I mean: think of what you get in Falcon and double it.
VERY SECRET AVIATION THINGS
NO. 3: VIRGIN 'AIR'
Richard Branson manages to keep the fares low on his transatlantic Virgin crossings by (a) 'thinning' his aviation fuel by mixing it with nail-polish remover, (b) using 're-mould' tyres on the undercarriages of his Boeing 747s, and (c) only having one working engine on each aircraft.
(That's a pack of lies actually. Ed.)
And, of course, there are the mountains and rivers and roads and railway lines - oh, and wait till you see the islands and ships. And all of the locations are bombable, although it isn't really a very good idea to destroy churches and hospitals. But then again, they don't fire back...
Nearly all the views you could want are included in the game: satellite (better than the Falcon one) control tower (again better), left, right, backwards and forwards from inside the cockpit, and a fixed exterior view (unlike Falcon it always looks north, but you can zoom in and out - in magnify mode - to your heart's content).
I'll tell you what Retaliator hasn't got, though, and that's a cockpit interior 'look up' mode. Bit of a bummer in my opinion, as I use this a lot in Falcon. I'll tell you something else Retaliator hasn't got, and that's an in-flight cocktail cabinet, but I suppose they ran out of memory space. What Retaliator has got, however, is brilliant action and a scenario depth that'll leave you gasping in awe: there are 99 (count 'em, 99) different missions.
VERY SECRET AVIATION THINGS
NO. 4: ERM...
(That's enough very secret aviation things. Ed.)
So, we get to the burning question: Is "Retaliator better than Falcon?" The answer is no - it's the crappiest game I've ever seen in my life. Actually, that was a little 'joke': the real answer is Yes.
Retaliator is (a couple of little quibbles aside) even better than Falcon. And it's certainly much bigger. Basically, you'd be a bit of a prat not to buy it - unless of course you hate flight sims, in which case what on earth are you doing reading this in the first place. Go away at once.