PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


The year is 2011 and you're a battle-hardened veteran of the bruising "Petro-War" of 2001, an alumnus of the once and former U.S. Air Force looking for work in a postapocalyptic world. The background: it seems that Middle Eastern terrorists have destabilized the New World Order, precipitating another oil crisis, a situation compounded by a massive stock market crash and a devastating earthquake in California. Centrifugal forces overpower the centripetal. As one state after another secedes, the United States starts to come unraveled. Civil war breaks out over access to Alaska's oil fields. Chaos reigns.

Wonderfully, the villain of this piece is the Internal Revenue Service, now armed and extremely dangerous. As its agents try to collect taxes at gunpoint, rebellious corporations and wealthy individuals hire private armies to fight back.

You hear about a squadron of airborne mercenaries led by a James P. Stern (some of whose best clients are Arab potentates), who miraculously—mysteriously—is one of only two survivors of a nuclear attack on an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Shiloh. Subsequently, Stern becomes a privateer.

As the sim begins (there are training exercises before the curtain goes up on the main drama), you sign up with Stern's Wildcats, the best merc squadron in the business. As the story progresses toward its inevitable conclusion, you fly missions-for-profit with Stern and his motley crew from your base in Turkey. Successful missions enable you to buy more weapons and better equipment.

Unsuccessful missions could bankrupt the Wildcats and end the game. Or, if you repeatedly "punch out" at the first sign of trouble, your insurance premiums go up (I kid you not; maybe this is a comedy after all).

Your enemies seem to be the usual collection of scabrous stereotypes who fly equipment favored by Third World forces: MiGs, Sukhois, Mirage 2000s, and the odd Tupolev Bear. Mostly you fly CAP (Combat Air Patrol), although you will occasionally go hunting for armor on the ground. There seems to be little danger from SAMs or Triple-A; most threats come from air-to-air missiles. You can often get close enough for a guns kill.

Along the way, after each mission, you are offered the chance to "save" your place in the game to disk so in case you screw up or get killed next time, you can turn the clock back to the last save and get another chance. Thus, like a movie, you get as many "takes" as you need to get it right. (If you fail to save the game after each mission, you're back to Square One.)

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