Harrier Hits Its Target
There are so many aspects to Strike Force Harrier from Mirrorsoft that it is difficult to know where to begin.
At it's simplest the game is a flight simulator for the Harrier jump jet.
However it isn't a simple matter to fly a real Harrier, and this is faithfully reproduced in the game. There is a choice between using the keyboard or a joystick.
Unfortunately, it seems that in implementing this the joystick is being made to work in a switched mode rather than as a progressive analogue device.
Control in roll is acceptable, but pitch is appalling.
About half the keyboard is used for various types of systems switches. Some are fairly straightforward, such as flaps and undercarriage, but others becomemore necessary as you get deeper into the game.
There are infra-red flares to decoy enemy heat-seeking missiles, and chaffdispensers, which will fool enemy radar.
You can toggle the multi-function display to show aircraft or weapon systems status, and select between various different sorts of head up display (HUD).
While the bottom half of the screen shows the instruments in the cockpit, the top half shows the view through the front of the canopy, complete with canopy arch.
Superimposed on this is the HUD, which has a digital readout of heading, height and pitch angle, and pointer displays of airspeed and vertical speed. In the middle is the roll indicator and gunsight.
However the display can be changed to homing mode, missile sight, or bomb sight. It is very realistic, and the latter, with its computer predicted point of impact, is especially so.
The dividing line in the game is J2,000 feet or so, for there is a thin layer of cloud at this altitude.
Climbing through it is very authentic. You stop using ground features, go on to instruments, and then climb into the clear sky above. There are small bundles of fluffy clouds, and hiding among them, the enemy jets.
Their location can be determined from the air attack radar, which also displays whether they are above or below you, while missile acquisition is displayed by a line on the HUD to the target.
Below the cloud base you become a mud-mover, as ground attack pilots call themselves.
There are tanks and SAM (Surface to Air Missile) sites to destroy, with guns or bombs.
Just as the enemy fighters can shoot you down if you don't get them first, so, too, will the ground launched missiles, if you aren't careful.
Just in case you believe the answer is stay low, there are fairly solid hills for the unwary to run into.
Having gained proficiency in flying, and then combat, it is time to embark on the mission.
The aim is to destroy the enemy HQ. However it is well out of range, and so the intervening territory must be cleared of enemy tanks and SAMs.
Then you can bring up your supporting ground forces, who will refuel and rearm you.
To assist planning this caterpillar-like movement the game is supplied with a chart - just a piece of paper divided into squares.
You, as pilot, must reconnoitre your route, using the information displayed on the most impressive item of cockpit display, the FOFTAC Map/Radar. I suspect it means Friend or Foe Tactical Map and Radar.
I also suspect that real Harrier pilots wished they had something as comprehensive as this. To summarise, the game has almost everything. It is a combination of flight simulator, "shoot and blast them"' and strategy game.
It even has a very well written and comprehensive manual. Unfortunately, the whole package doesn't quite come off.
The penalty of all the coding needed to provide the facilities is a low resolution graphics screen, and all-or-nothing controls. It's a natural contender for re-writing for the BBC+ or the Second Processor.
This'll not convert you if you don't like flight simulators, but if you do, buy it.