It's been a long time since Fighter Pilot - the revolutionary flight simulator from Digital Integration that revived a whole genre by giving the opportunity of killing things. Well now it's the turn of the helicopter pilot to take off from the comfort of his own living room and keep the Western World free from whichever menace owns the bases, tanks, guns and other choppers that take pot shots at you.
Ignoring the militarism for a moment, this is a real treat for those of you who've only ever flown Cessnas with your Spectrum before. You won't believe how hi-tech the helicopter of today is. What with the chips that keep the nose level and the ones that tell you where the next target is, flying time before you arrive, when the pubs open... well, there's the equivalent of a couple of ZX81's here making flying a doddle.
I really enjoyed road-testing this machine, swooping low around the smooth 3D vector graphics of the landscape, clipping the tree tops, swerving among the mountain peaks. But Uncle Sam has a mission for me so it's out of practice mode, a quick look at the map, and I align my heading with the target radar dot - just time to check upon the combat mode before we encounter Ivan!
It should come as no surprise that you've hardly been short changed on weaponry. I was spoilt for choice between guns and missiles but finally plumped for a rocket to take out their field gun. After all. I could hardly keep them wailing while I hovered around making up my mind! Tilt nose down, target and fire. A satisfying explosion blows them into a thousand pixels and it's onto the next base. Of course I was on Trainee rating, flying without crosswinds, by day, but one day it'll be a force nine gale with only infra-red sights and then I'll deserve the Ace rating. Clint Eastwood, watch out.
Yes, it looks like D.I. has done it again - I got a real kick out of Tomahawk. My only quibble was the Lenslock security system that it's using. It's like something dreamt up by the MoD to protect official secrets, and I'm sure Tomahawk isn't that accurate!
Over 7,000 ground features and some of the best wire-frame 3D graphics this side of Novagen's long-awaited Mercenary, Tomahawk puts you in control of the US Army's latest attack helicopter, the Apache. Promoted by Hughes as "an extension of the pilot's will", it's appropriate that the Spectrum simulation of such a hi-tech heli marks the commercial debut of the Lenslok protection system. This, of course, is a game in itself - hours of fun to be had squinting through a plastic lens at the VDU guessing at the combinations of any two letters of the alphabet.
Once past this hurdle, you can open the throttle, ease forward on the collective, and leave the pad. As the 3D world display unreels you will see landing pads, buildings, trees, transmission pylons, mountains, enemy tanks (moving and firing), field guns, and airborne enemy helicopters.
A number of mission scenarios are available to you: flying training or combat, with different difficulty levels, you can select a low cloudbase of a night mission. In this last you can try out the infra-red vision - same game but in red and black. The display will be familiar to aficionados of DI's Fighter Pilot, but is much more than an enhanced version. All helicopter characteristics are faithfully reproduced; slowing down is best achieved by use of the cyclic pitch controls rather than reducing throttle level - you tend to plummet - and you can fly sideways or backwards. Weapons include eight Hellfire missiles which automatically destroy anything in your sights plus 38 unguided rockets and a machine gun. The Target Acquisition and Designation System tells you whether your target is friend or foe - most modern military hardware has a built-in identification signal.
The system has been designed with Interface 2 in mind, so that it's possible to fly like a real helicopter pilot using one joystick for throttle control, the other for altitude control.
Much more accessible to the casual player than Fighter Pilot, what more can I say than that our fellow journalists on Flight magazine have, over a cup of coffee, voted this one of their favourite games.
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