Gunship (MicroProse) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing

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Gunship
By Microprose
Commodore 64

 
Published in Zzap #24

A state of the art helicopter/combat simulation - Zzap Sizzler

Gunship

The Hughes AH-64A Apache is reputedly the most sophisticated helicopter gunship in the world - lasers, camera, an infra-red night viewing system, radar sensors and jammers, computer guidance and targetting systems, and a complement of missiles and machine guns back up this claim. Gunship gives the player the opportunity to fly one of these multi-million dollar machines over five scenarios, ranging from a series of training missions, through three increasingly hostile combat situations to an out-and-out East-West confrontation in Europe.

Prior to take-off, the simulation parameters are defined. The pilot inputs his or her name (the program automatically defaults to the name of the last pilot), chooses a scenario (from training to war), the style of flight and the reality level. There are three flying styles, representing the difficulty of the opposition, and four reality settings: simplified or realistic flying and landing, variable or clear weather and the quality of the enemy's armament. Following this is a briefing session, which gives mission details and an intellgience report detailing military forces and equipment in the area.

The program automatically defaults to a standard weapons system for the chosen mission, but the array of weaponry can be adjusted to suit the pilot's preference. The mission begins when the helicopter is fully equipped.

A 3D first-person view of the helicopter's cockpit is then displayed, as seen through the pilot's IHADSS (Integrated Helmet And Display Sighting Sub-system). The outside world is viewed through the armoured helicopter window, and essential flight instrumentation is displayed beneath - for example: speed, altimeter, VSi and artificial horizon. As well as regular flight controls there are two combat features - the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) and Threat Display (radar).

The CRT has three modes of operation: a TADS (Target Acquisition and Designation System) - used in conjunction with the pilot's IHADSS helmet, a Map, and a Display of incoming messages. On locating a target, a gun-sight is overlaid onto the helmet visor and the CRT displays a zoom-camera view on which TADS is locked, allowing the pilot to identify the target. The Apache's cannon, Sidewinder and Hellfire missiles are linked to the TADS system and automatically fly towards the selected target.

However, the 2.75" rockers aren't and the cross-hairs in the centre of the screen have to be lined up with the gunsight if the rockets are to strike the target. When there is no military activity in the area the CRT reverts to a scrolling map with the helicopter in the centre.

Two screens can be displayed to show the stores status and systems damage. A large, detailed map of the area can also be brought into the display if required, revealing landscape features, military installations and troop positions. A cursor on the map can be moved onto the flight objective so that the INS (Inertial Navigation System) on the cockpit display can be used to guide the chopper directly to the designated area.

A mission is considered complete when the helicopter's engines are switched off - either behind friendly or enemy lines. When the chopper 'powers down', the pilot is given his or her status. The craft can then be examined, repaired and refuelled, although certain situations may not allow these options.

Debriefing follows with possible promotions and medals, and finally the performance is saved to disk, even if the pilot has been killed or is missing in action (when this happens, the pilot can't be used again). The program reverts to the options screen, and the pilot can try another mission, transfer to another unit or re-adjust the program settings.

SJ

Gunship represents the state of the art in flight and combat simulators. It is highly impressive in both documentation and programming. The vector graphic landscape runs very quickly, considering the amount of features being moved around, which helps to give an authentic feeling of flying. This, combined with the brilliant combat scenes, makes for a very realistic and exciting piece of software.

In all cases the information and option screens and beautifully rendered and are easily accessed using the joystick. The choice of options is huge, which should go a long way towards holding your interest. Overall, this is a tremendous simulator which represents a fair return for your cash - even at the price.

I have no reservations in recommending the disk version of Gunship. Unfortunately, the cassette version takes an unreasonably long time to load and does not include as many options as the disk version. This seriously flaws an otherwise excellent program - try before you buy.

GP

Yet another program under the dubious heading of a 'flight simulation'. But, like most flight simulations available, this isn't an accurate simulation of flight - it's more of a technical simulation of how to control a helicopter. Which is why it's slow, tedious, unrewarding and not at all atmospheric.

The vector graphics aren't remotely realistic, and only serve to dampen the atmosphere - and my enthusiasm - even further. To be fair though, for what it's worth, Gunship does offer more than the run-of-the-mill flight simulator. At least the disk version does - the cassette version is a complete waste of time and effort.

JR

The sheer depth of this simulation is incredible.

There's a huge amount of detail which adds to the realism and only becomes apparent after the chopper has been flown. Little things... such as the way missiles disappear into the distance, taking several seconds before they hit their target - also, the targets within the CRL rotate as the chopper flies around it, making flight seem very realistic.

The five scenarios are varied, and there are many missions within for a pilot to complete. The instruction manual is the best I've ever read for a computer program. Not only is it enlightening, it's also a very interesting read in its own right.

Every aspect of the simulation is covered, and there's a wealth of information regarding flying tactics, military equipment (both allied and enemy), the Apache's avionics and the conditions and scenarios of the different missions.

The in-game presentation is virtually faultless too. The controls are easy to understand, and the CRT and IHADSS work superbly. The save game option is a brilliant idea and allows the user to live a pilot's "life", gradually improving skills and transferring from unit to unit until death or retirement bring it to a close.

Gunship is immensely enjoyable, being exciting and rewarding to fly. As for the cassette version... well, Gunship was originally designed as a disk-only product comprising some 300K of data.

Consequently, the cassette version is on an extremely long-winded multi-load format and there are features missing from the original disk version. The program takes over *twenty minutes* to set up and after completing a mission the cassette has to be rewound and another ten minutes of setting up endured if the pilot wants to fly another mission.

There are no status displays during flight, and a pilot's record has to be loaded and saved manually onto another tape - failure to do so means the complete loss of all amassed data! Another difference is that the player can re-try any mission, even after a crash. If you want to buy the (rather expensive) cassette version, you should consider the drawback of the multi-load system - it's very frustrating.

Verdict: Disk

Presentation 97%
The fabulous instruction manual (which provides enlightening and very interesting reading) and the excellent keyboard overlay compensate for the slow, but not overly irritating delays during 'set-up'.

Graphics 91%
Convincing 3D graphics, and the cockpit display area works extremely well.

Sound 64%
Functional sound effects which could have been better.

Hookability 94%
The useful options and training missions painlessly ease a potential pilot into the action.

Lastability 97%
The five scenarios provide a wealth of missions and enjoyment which should keep a pilot happy for months.

Value For Money 86%
Very expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Overall 94%
A superlative flight/combat simulation.