Day 107

The first mission today turns out to be the flying down the grand canyon one I was asking for at the end of yesterdays blog. I tell the other pilots its too risky to fly it solo (in other words the a.i. isn’t up to it).

I have to follow the canyon for a while and destroy the base at the end. The canyon is seriously wide so flying down it is really easy and I have the time compression key held down most of the way. Its still a change from any mission previously. Once over, this mission completes the tour and its back to base to pick up more work.

There are a choice of 3 people to talk to. I expect I’ll end up doing all 3 tours anyway, so I choose the new guy of the 3. He is a representative of the IRS. He tells me that Rhode Island is refusing to pay taxes since it considers itself independent of the USA. If we help to fight against them we get $5,000,000 + a contract stating that we will never be audited by the IRS.

There is a lot of grumbling among the pilots about working for the IRS. Virgil (who comes along for the tour) is also a native Rhode Islander and feels like he is betraying his country.

We complete the 3 mission tour and are about to head back when Virgil breaks the news that we have another mission before we go. Destroying a jet containing the director of the IRS. This is a nice payback for being all but forced to fly the previous missions. We still have the contract from the IRS and are untouchable by them even though we just killed their director.

For the next tour its back to California to help in the wars between North and South California over water. I get to fly with members of the California airforce this time who all speak like surfers. Its just a 3 mission tour this time – there is nothing really new although I do get to blow up an aircraft carrier in mission 3.

Next up its the last of the 3 tours I had to pick from. This time I’m going to Germany to help kick the Brits out of a castle. I have to fly against Tornado’s with ace pilots. I manage to crash into the ground on mission 1 while trying to machine gun a tank (probably not a good idea but I didn’t bring any bombs). I’ll try this one again tommorow.

Day 106

My missions in Alaska take me out to sea for the first time and I have to destroy an oil rig. Its not really any different to any other ground target but it has boats around it which shoot back.  

In the final of four missions in Alaska, I have to destroy enemy tanks while avoiding shooting tanks on my side. The only way I know to tell the difference is to see which ones shoot at me. I play through the mission a few times and complete it ok as far as I can tell but its still down as unsuccessful so I give in on this one and return home defeated.

I go back to Selims to get the final of the 3 missions I had to choose from. All I’m choosing is the order I play them in by the looks of things. This one is to go out to Egypt and fly in an air show. Its not well paid but there is no risk.

Of course nothing is that simple and as soon as we get there the Russians launch an attack which we get to repel for a huge payment and we don’t even fly our own planes so there is no expense.

I’m forced to make a manual landing on one of these missions when I get shot and run out of fuel after the final autopilot home. Thankfully this isn’t too difficult. The autopilot lines you up with the runway so its just a matter of not overrunning it.

The Egypt missions go well and I return successful this time. Its off to Selims again – Janet gives me a tip to get a mission off a guy called Walters. There is no one else to speak to so I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. He wants us to fight in a corporate oil war in California.







When I leave Selims, I’m lured into an alleyway and attacked. As luck would have it Janet comes to the rescue.

 

The California missions are all based around San Francisco and I get to fly over the city in some of them and even blow up the transamerica building.


The 4 missions we fly for Walters aren’t really too hard compared to whats gone before but he continually misinforms us of the opposition we are up against and even gets us to destroy the wrong target in one mission which doesn’t go down well. He does at least pay up but we grass him up to the CEO of his company and he loses his job over it.

Another tour complete its back to Selims. Prideaux is in his niche and owns up to being the guy who bombed our base which is less than surprising. He tells me that Janet gave us the Walters missions out of guilt, seems she might have been better off with the Wildcats after all if shes going to develop a conscience.

Next up, its off to Arizona where I’m to try to stop Nevada taking over a stretch of the Grand Canyon.

It doesn’t really look much like the real thing but it’s canyon-esque at any rate and reminds me quite a bit of the last mission in Wing Commander 3.

The more I play of this game, the more impressed I am with the game engine which really does put out some amazing visuals for its time. I’m enjoying the game a lot more now I’ve reduced the difficulty and making steady if not speedy progress towards the end. The opposition is more varied than I expected, especially the huge variety of ground targets but in truth, each mission plays nearly identically to the one before. I’m not sure where it would come from but I’d like to see a bit more variety. There is talk of a mission flying down the grand canyon in the manner of the Star Wars trench run which would be a good start if it happens.

Day 105

I go back out to Selims to find a mission and this time all the tables are full giving me a choice of missions. I choose the guy at the back who offers me a mission in Quebec, helping out the government against the rebels. The rebels have recruited a rival squadron (the hammerheads) who will be better equipped than anyone I’ve been up against.

The first mission, is a simple one and I just have to destroy some planes. In the next I have to blow up their base. This proves to be a lot more difficult. I seem to end up going round and round in the dogfights trying to get a Mig into my gunsight and every time I’m about to do so it speeds up and I have to catch it again.

I make it through to do the bombing a few times but its taking me about 20 minutes to shoot down the 3 Migs and I mess up the bombing run and run out of ammo. This painfully slow progress gets to me after about 2 hours spent on this and I’ve still only completed the one mission so I’ve decided to drop the difficulty level of the game a notch.

As soon as I do this things get a lot simpler. I can get on someones tail with a lot more ease and I seem more likely to hit. I’d prefer to have stuck it out at the higher level but this is a lot more fun so I’m going to stick with it for now.

We don’t seem to want to give the hammerheads a break and next mission we take out their cargo planes. These are the equivalent of cap-ships I guess but these ones at least have no firepower and are sitting ducks once their escorts and destroyed.

That completed this tour (every one seems to be 3 missions). I’ve accepted another now to help out in the oil wars in Alaska but since it took me 2 1/2 hours to do these 3 missions I’ll leave them for tommorow.

Day 104

The mission stopping a plane from landing sounded like an interesting one but the moment we get there Janet decides to just blow it up so it turns into a straight dogfight. Janet is reprimanded once again when we land and decides to leave the wildcats.

Its back to Selims. Stern has already gotten us another mission but he wants me to meet Prideaux – the leader of the Jackals (who Janet has now joined). They used to be friends but this guy is the complete opposite and will now fly any mission for the money.

We fly off to the Andes for our next mission helping to support the government here against an invasion. We provide air support for their forces. After the second mission our base is attacked. We scramble to protect it while Stern goes off to collect our payment for the first mission.

When we land, Stern is on the radio. He gets shot down by a wing of fighters leaving me in charge. We go on a unpaid revenge mission to destroy a nuclear facility.


After completing the mission we head back home for another nasty shock.

The base has been attacked in our absence leaving us short of planes and funds.

There is a funeral for Stern and its now up to me to make sure the wildcats recover from this double blow.

I’m still struggling to hit things in these missions although I’ll admit I’m getting better. It seems like a slow process to actually kill anything and I’m finding that my missiles hardly ever hit. Bombing is equally slow and I struggle to tell the difference between destroyed and live targets until its too late to release the bomb. Despite all this I am racking up the kills so I must be doing something right.

There has been very little variation in the missions and I can’t imagine that I will see anything new in the rest of the game. I’ll no doubt fly against different fighters but since I never get close enough to really see them, I can’t imagine I will notice the difference. Its not boring to play (yet) but it doesn’t leave me much to write about here.

Day 103 – Strike Commander

This is a game, I’ve been looking forward to playing again. I have finished the floppy version once before relatively recently (within the last 5 or 6 years) but I’ll be playing the CD re-release this time around with full speech + an extra cutscene at the start (and possibly another at the end for all I know).

This makes 2 Chris Roberts games in a row but this has nothing in common with Bad Blood and is far more similar to his Wing Commander series. Infact, it can pretty much be summed up as Wing Commander with fighter planes.

When it came out this was to my knowledge the most technically demanding game ever produced. The install process alone could take about an hour to run and once unpacked the game with speech pack came to about 45 Mb in an era when most of us didn’t even have a hard disk that big.

For this game the 2D sprites are gone and the game is in full 3D with texture mapping. On the downside this means that it’s not up to the visual standards of Privateer at least during flight. It’s curious that a game using older technology like Privateer can actually hold up better in the long run than something cutting edge.
 










The CD release has an new intro. It doesn’t show any plot, just a dogfight but its a lot more impressive than the Shadowcaster cutscenes.










The CD has both the original game and the mission pack. I get to choose which game and then I also get the games original intro from the floppy version. This is a much better way of doing the CD release – additional content with nothing missing. The intro just shows my squadron shooting down a couple of fighters then refusing the shoot the bailed out pilot due to our high moral values.

The game is set in the near future (this long since its release the very near future). After a tumultuous decade it is now commonplace for governments and organisations to hire mercenary fighter squadrons to look after their interests. I’m second in command at the Wildcats sqaudron which is unique as only accepting missions which aren’t immoral.

The cutscenes are done in a similar manner to Wing Commander (only with full speech).

The games first scene shows the companies accountant Virgil complaining about us scrapping a damaged fighter.

He shows me the companies ledger. The sums of money involved are massive but running a sqaudron is not exactly cheap. I can also talk to various pilots that are hanging around – this is nearly identical to the first Wing Commander game.

For the first mission we jet off to Mauritania. Some rebels are attempting to overthrow the government. To make matters worse there is a famine and the rebels are stopping the aid from getting through which is where we come in with an escort mission for a Hercules carrying aid.

My first thought about the graphics is that they definitely don’t look as nice as Privateer. This game may have been a generation ahead of the competition but its showing its age now.

Once up in the air and dogfighting it doesn’t look too bad though. Its not like you get that close to the other planes for long and the smoke effects still look ok.

It may just be me but I find the opening mission quite challenging and have to attempt it a few times. Ammo and missiles are quite limited and it’s definitely less arcade like than playing Wing Commander.

I’m yet to evolve a real strategy to dogfighting but I need to be close in order to hit. I’m just armed with one type of missile + a machine gun for this first mission. The machine gun gives you a little circle which tells you where to aim but it only works well at close range. It doesn’t take many hits to take a plane down but without the freedom to move in any direction in the manner of Wing Commander, its tricky to hit anything. I expect I’ll get the hang of it as I go along. On this first mission the commander helps me out and takes out half the planes himself.

I come in to land and have somehow managed a couple of kills which I paint onto my plane.

The next mission involves bombing things. The buildings are not a lot more detailed than just rectangular blocks on a featureless plane but they do the job and this is something you definitely couldn’t do in Wing Commander. I’m armed with a big payload of bombs this time around. I’m given a little indicator on my HUD as to where these will strike the ground and have to attempt to take out all the buildings.

 Again I’m not all that accurate but with the help of my wingman we take out all the buildings.

After a final mission which is another escort we fly back to home base. The commander wants me to sit in while he disciplines Janet for needlessly blowing up buildings on the last mission. I’m clearly being groomed to take over the squadron at some point.

We now need another mission and I’m sent out in a jeep to find one.

The place to get a mission is a bar called Selims.

There isn’t a lot of choice of people to talk to so I try Muhammed. He gives us a mission to stop a plane landing at an oil refinery for $3,000,000 which I accept.

I’ve never been into flight sims but this isn’t any sort of simulation and just concentrates on action. Despite that its definitely more demanding than Wing Commander and possibly a little less fun because of it.  The overall presentation is superb once again and the MT-32 music is one of the best soundtracks ever created on that hardware. I like the speech that has been added to this version also – while its not the best acting but its a lot better than I was expecting and does actually add to the experience.

I definitely found the 2nd two missions a lot easier than the first and it could be that I just needed to find my feet but when the difficulty gets ramped up I reckon I could struggle a bit with this game.