Back with a bang, a whizz and a kerpow, Digital Integration's ATF is a stunning bit of work that'll have you pinned to your seat.
Forget those simulations where you have to spend three hours reading the manual and a day-and-a-half working out how to take off; ATF is non-stop action, you may not find it realistic but golly it's fun.
You are caught up in a bitter war between two superpowers. In order to defeat the evil baddies, you must use your Advanced Tactical Fighter to preserve your side's advantage in fighting forces, communications, industry and military bases.
Each mission begins with a world map showing the distribution of forces. This is programmed into your plane's on-board computer for later reference. The War Situation report shows you the latest gains and losses in each of the categories; on this basis you decide the targets for your next mission. The next step is to arm your aircraft with cannon shells, guided missiles, smart missiles and fuel. You can choose your own combinations within the ATF's weight limit.
The main display is a really zippy contoured-perspective map through which your plane zooms convincingly. Taking off is easy; just get up to full power and pull back on the stick. You can then fly manually, or engage the terrain-following mode by which the plane hugs the contours of the ground. The danger here is that if you fly too fast you might smack into the odd mountain.
If you want to get rid of the contour markings you can have a more realistic plain display with waves on the sea; personally, I preferred the contours because they look more high-tech, although without them the game runs even faster.
So it's AKKA-AKKA-AKKA as the enemy fighters zoom up behind you, and you blow them to bits with your cannon. You home in on targets using your radar display computer readout and compass; missiles blast through the air; surface-to-air missiles shoot up your behind; and once you've done a bit of mega-destruction you head for the nearest friendly base and press L for an automatic landing. Then you get another war report, refuel and re-arm, and it's back into the wild blue yonder again.
In case it isn't obvious, I'm wildly enthusiastic about ATF; though it includes many of the aspects of a flight simulator, such as fuel gauges, undercarriage, weapons selection and mission profiles, it's really a very open-ended and hugely enjoyable shoot-'em-up. The scrolling contoured landscapes are fab, features such as the flight computer and weapons selection really add to the enjoyment rather than being a distraction, and because it's not limited to a certain number or type of mission there's an element of strategy involved too. Brill.
Label: Digital Integration Author: Ian Benyon Price: £8.95 cassette, £12.95 disc Memory: 48K/128K Joystick: various Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Rivetting shoot-'em-up with some aspects of a simulation; great graphics and absorbing gameplay.