Amstrad Action1st February 1986
Published in Amstrad Action #5
You've already had your chance to drive a steam train. Now all the nostalgics can slip into the cockpit of a Spitfire and thunder through the skies of southern England in pursuit of enemy planes. It's a straightforward flight simulator with combat thrown in to give you something to do instead of just flying around.
The basic aim of the game is to complete missions in which you have to take-off from an airfield in south-east England, locate a group of enemy aircraft, shoot them down and return to land at an airfield. This is of course much easier said than done and lots of practice will be needed in the various stages of the game.
There are three different flight modes which you can select and the best place to start is practice, where you can familiarize yourself with the flight controls. These are all contained on an instrument panel that fills the screen. You can switch between this and two other screens: the view through the cockpit and a radar map of the surrounding area.
The controls and indicators are the ones you would expect to find on a flight simulator. Namely: flaps, undercarriage, brake, rudder, fuel level, attitude, air speed, altimeter, artificial horizon, compass, vertical speed, revs and slip and turn indicator. Naturally you don't have to watch or control all of these at once but familiarity with the gauges, so that a quick eye can be scanned over them, is essential. The other flying controls of the Spitfire are simply dive, climb and roll actions with a fire button to operate your twin machine guns.
Having mastered the flying you can go on to combat practice which puts you in the air with a never-ending string of enemy planes to be shot down. Here the techniques of evasion and shooting skill can be perfected ready for the real thing.
Combat combines the two training sequences so that you have to take-off and track down some enemy fighters from their bearing and height. A map will also help you locate them. You can zoom in on various sections to see them in greater detail. Failure can come in many ways like crashing the plane, overstretching its capabilities or being shot down. If you succeed, you've got to get back to an airfield before the fuel runs out and complete one of the hardest parts of the game - the landing.
The instrument panel graphics are detailed and attractive, while the screen update through the cockpit is reasonably fast. The mission task is demanding so the ability to save the game after a successful mission means you can gratifyingly build up a record under your pilot name. The engine noise when flying is good, although the title music is a bit monotonous.
Well, it wasn't quite my "finest hour" playing this game, but it's enjoyable enough and I'm always happy to see a flight simulator that lets you go and shoot things. Although my dream flight simulator would be one that let you shoot things without ever leaving the ground. However, given that you have to take off, Spitfire 40 is pretty good value.
P. Excellent instrument panel.
P. Tough missions are great when completed.
P. Good range of controls but not too confusing.
P. Nice engine noise.
N. Flying around shooting things can get boring.
N. The maps are chunky and have little detail on them.