For some people blasting is not enough. Many of us when confronted with a flying program ask only for an up-down-left-right-fire straightforward leave-your-brain-at-the-door-to-the-hanger approach. Strike Force Harrier is not like that. Harrier is very, very complicated. To use every feature of the game could involve 30 different key presses.
The manual runs to 28 pages, daunting stuff. Conscious of this, Mirrorsoft has provided some 'idiot's first go' detailed instructions which tell you button by button what to press when - without it you'd be getting a review of how the runway looks.
In the event I managed to land, take off and, best of all, blast several enemy jet fighters clean from the skies within about an hour of play. That, despite the fact that Harrier is one of the most complex simulations I've ever seen.
Graphically the game is very impressive - from the interior cockpit display to the 3D scrolling view in the cockpit window. Various programs use various different techniques to achieve the effect of movement past the world outside. Harrier uses the 'sprites growing bigger by frames' technique and it works rather well. Nothing looks all that good if you examine it in detail but the overall effect, especially in the midst of battle, is most impressive.
As I have said there are an astonishing range of options in Harrier. Although it is possible to get going with around six controls and blast a few things, as you explore the game you'll discover whole new areas of flying possibilities and you'll begin to realise just how vigorous has been Mirrorsoft's drive for authenticity.
For example, there are three ways of taking off - conventionally, STOL where you have only a short runway and, of course, straight up (VTOL). For each mode there are different flying techniques, each set out clearly in the manual and each requiring a lot to learn. The same is that of landing - except there is a fourth method, crashing!
The different techniques all involve a concept new to flight simulations called vector thrust. This is the facility unique to VTOL aircraft whereby the jetstream can be directed via nozzles. There are many additional ways you may find of using this feature to give, for example, height with de-acceleration. Sometimes a vital technique in combat.
There is a specific task in the game which will involve use of nearly all the features. You must destroy an enemy HQ, first destroying enemy tanks and setting up a new operational base. First select an appropriate area then land perfectly. Then move one of your old bases forward - it ain't easy.
Attack and defence is not merely a matter of firing and getting out of the way. There are a vast number of specialised and specific techniques to be learnt. The manual has pages of flight pattern information indicating how to avoid specific forms of attack and instead achieve attack positions yourself.
Before you really get to grips with Harrier you will need to become thoroughly conversant with all the controls. You also need to learn to read the FOFTRAC tracking system.
Harrier rewards effort, the graphics and sound are good but it's the sophistication and accuracy of the simulation that is the whole point.
If that's the kind of challenge that appeals you'll love Strike Force Harrier.
Label: Mirrorsoft Author: Rod Hyde Price: £9.95 Joystick: various Memory: 48K/128K Reviewer: Graham Taylor
Good graphics and a wide variety of features. One of the most sophisticated flight simulations ever.