PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


You Ought to Be in Pictures….

Suppose, just for a minute (and I'm speculating wildly here), that the much-ballyhooed New World Order doesn't come to pass. Suppose that instead of order, we get chaos. Suppose that instead of the way things ought to be, we get a kind of new Dark Ages, only this time feudal overlords have nuclear weapons, the masses are once again ruthlessly suppressed, and mercenaries are free to root around in what's left over from the high-tech arsenal of fin de siecle America and the former Soviet Union.

In a nutshell, that's the setting for Strike Commander, a sim that unreels more like a James Cameron science-fiction movie than the free-form structure of most other sims.

Building on the phenomenally successful Wing Commander, an outer-space sim set hundreds of years in the future, designer Chris Roberts comes down to earth with Strike Commander, a flight sim set in the near future. On paper, Strike Commander is another F-16 Falcon simulation, like Falcon and yet completely different. Where Falcon is instructional, Strike Commander is entertaining. Where Falcon is deadly serious, Strike Commander is all fun and games. Where Falcon is meticulously realistic, Strike Commander draws you into a make-believe world of fantasy and role-playing.

Talk about "vaporware": Strike Commander took longer to go from announcement to shrink-wrap (as they say in the computer biz) than any entertainment software, ever. Was it worth it? You bet! Where Falcon is like being in the military, Strike Commander is like being in the movies.

Like Wing Commander, Strike Commander incorporates a host of cinematic elements, from the opening "scene" (in true Tinsel Town fashion, the camera pans down to "find" the initiating action) to the final moments (the hero flies off into the sunset). The "event driven" (that is, keyed to the action) music was written by an award-winning Hollywood composer (who lists RoboCop among his credits). There is exposition, character development, plot points, props, editing, sound effects—all the production values of a real film.

The only thing that's missing is you.

When you, as the player, go through the looking glass and into the narrative, Strike Commander becomes an interactive movie. Your choices aren't altogether free (you can't bend the story into a drawing room comedy, for example), but the pace depends on how well you perform your assigned missions (there are dozens), and you're encouraged to participate in conversations with other characters and to monitor the squadron's records (pilot roster, profit and loss statements, weapons inventory, and so on). You can't affect the final outcome (a shocker which I won't reveal here), but you can influence how you get there.

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