Strike Fleet

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Zzap #36

Zzap Sizzler

Strike Fleet

Why control just one simulated warship when you can steer a whole fleet through combat scenarios in four of the world's hottest naval conflict zones? This is exactly what's on offer in Lucasfilm's Strike Fleet.

From an initial mission selection screen, the prospective Strike Fleet Commander is offered ten varied scenarios, each accompanied on-screen by a map and some descriptive text. Take on the Soviet fleet of ships, subs and Backfire bombers in the mid Atlantic or Arctic Ocean, or defend the Falkland Islands from the encroaching Argentinian navy. Even more topically, a convoy of empty tankers can be guided north through the Straits of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, under constant threat from hostile speedboats, aircraft and ground-based missile sites. Missions can be taken one at a time or strung together to make a longer campaign. There are also options to resume games from positions that have been saved to disk.

Once the mission is selected, a shipyard is displayed and the player views the available ships in the strike fleet. The player gets a points 'budget' which is used to allocate ships to his task force, each class having an individual points rating representing their worth. Ships from different classes can therefore be added or dropped from the fleet as long as their total point value doesn't exceed those available. The points value of the ships brought back after a successful mission also dictates the size of any climb in rank the player might make.

Strike Fleet

The ten ship classes range from guided missile cruisers, destroyers and frigates to fast hydrofoil attack craft (PHM Pegasus included!). The larger vessels carry an arsenal which include cannon, three types of missile, torpedoes, Lynx or Lamp helicopters plus chaff and phalanx bursts to deter incoming rockets.

The final task on the shipyard screen is to designate the flagship, which the rest of the fleet follow through the danger zone. This done, it's time to set sail...

A map of the target area appears, and information on each vessel is called up via a status bar at the bottom of the screen. Ships are ordered to change speed, destination or scanning systems, split from the main group to fulfil separate objectives and rejoin later. It is also possible to zoom in on any part of the map to check the current location of the fleet in relation to surrounding coastlines.

Strike Fleet

Selecting 'Bridge' takes the player to the command centre of the flagship, from where the battle is viewed and controlled. The ability to move between allied ships and helicopters also allows the player to watch and dictate the action from different viewpoints.

The onboard information and control panel is split by a panoramic forward view of the ocean, taking in other vessels and coastline features. Below this are displays which notify the player of weapons which are avaiabe and activated, scanning status (RADAR and SONAR active or passive as well as range being scanned), present speed and heading, damage incurred and crew alert status (Rest or General Quarters). The switchable RADAR/SONAR display has a variable search range of up to 256 kilometres and detects enemy targets without divulging the player's position.

All RADAR/SONAR contacts are scrutinised by switching to a targetting display at the top of the screen. Here, a binocular view of the selected vessel is displayed with annotations to its identity and country of origin. Also shown are its heading (or target in the case of missiles), speed, range and relative bearing.

Strike Fleet

To avoid long periods of inactivity while waiting for enemy contact, a time compression facility is included in the program, allowing the action to progress at up to 128 times faster than it would in real time.

Victorious operations are rewarded with a suitable decoration, but in such troubled waters death and dishonour come much more easily than the trappings of success!


At first glance, Strike Fleet seems very similar to PHM Pegasus as it has the same sort of screen layout and general presentation. However, Lucasfilm have improved on all the weak areas of Pegasus with the addition of more action, improved graphics and more intensive play.

One very nice touch is that you can take control of the PHM Pegasus and take her on a mission if you want! Although the game looks rather complex, the action is made incredibly easy to get into by the clear and user-friendly screen layout and the interesting and informative instruction manual.

The atmosphere generated is tremendous - you get completely wrapped up in the proceedings as you escort oil tankers through the gulf, avoid direct conflict with Iranian gunships and partake in some possible World War III scenarios.

I particularly enjoy playing the contemporary Gulf missions, as knowing that you're in such a realistic situation makes the action that much more tense and involved. There's nothing quite like keeping an eye on two approaching enemy patrol boats and trying to shoot down an incoming Exocet and Mirage at the same time!

Lucasfilm's efforts to play down the glories of possible conflict are very admirable - you're informed several times not to fire the first shot, and are penalised for excessive use of force. It would have been so easy to create a sickening arcade-style 'blast the Reds out of the water' scenario. Another neat touch is that you really have to watch what the enemy is doing.

Using a single enemy shot as an excuse to wipe out an entire fleet isn't always a good idea, and the result could mean a terrible escalation of exchanges to the point where the destruction of your fleet is inevitable.

The graphics are superb throughout, with many, many neat touches to heighten realism: things like ships on fire and the smoke being seen from over the horizon, the enormous vapour trail as a missile is launched, and the long delay as guns are fired from afar - even the water plumes vary.

The attention to detail is outstanding. The sound is a little poor, and really, that's the only area where Strike Fleet is weak. There are ten missions in all, which vary from relatively easy to very, very tough. If you manage to complete them all - which would take some doing - you can always change your fleet around and try again! Strike Fleet is outstanding, and ranks as one of the best combat simulators of all time.


I enjoyed playing Electronic Arts' PHM Pegasus, but constantly felt that there should be more to it. Lucasfilm must have been listening when I said that, because what should appear this month but Strike Fleet - practically PHM Pegasus II, and with all the features lacking in its predecessor!

The level of complexity afforded to this simulation is very commendable, and the amount of frantic keypressing required to co-ordinate the strike fleet gives a much-needed shot in the arm to the otherwise staid PHM Pegasus-type missions.

If you think combat simulations aren't very exciting, just try fending off three incoming missiles, a circling Mirage and a handful of speedy gunboats all at the same time! The graphics are of a consistently high standard, and work hand-in-hand with the tense gameplay to create a convincing, arcade-style combat atmosphere. This isn't to denigrate the tactical element, though, since foolhardy or rash actions are usually met with prompt and often drastic replies!

Blue Peter-type hint number one: during the heat of battle, I felt a keyboard overlay would have been a nice inclusion, but you could easily knock one up with some paper and Gunship's overlay as a template if you have it - and get a grown-up to help you!

Give your adrenalin gland some exercise: buy Strike Fleet.


I've played lots of simulations in the past, but I can't recall ever bouncing up and down on my seat, incredulous at the realistic depiction of Seakiller missiles being launched at me from the deck of an Iranian Saam class frigate.

The event that really had me biting my nails was being informed of an enemy missile approaching my vessels at MACH 3, but being unable even to see it because it was still about 500 kilometres away and beyond radar range!

The depth which is contained in each scenario is quite extraordinary and all are totally engrossing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in the gameplay stakes Strike Fleet lacks nothing. If the sound effeects had had more work put into them I would be lacking a superlative to do it justice, but as it is, I'll just say that this is the combat simulation your disk drive was made for.


Presentation 97%
The game can be easily and extensively altered by the player. First-rate documentation and control method, as well as a save game and time compression options also merit much praise.

Graphics 91%
Neat and realistic touches abound in the depiction of the action.

Sound 39%
Inadequate and almost detrimental sound effects. A short but sweet tune accompanies the title screen.

Hookability 95%
Easy to get started, and even easier to become captivated by the tense and tangible atmosphere.

Lastability 91%
Ten varied missions to accomplish and the ability to rearrange the fleet to a large degree.

Overall 96%
The finest example of simulated sea-faring combat yet.