Well, it's been a long time coming, hasn't it?
Gunship from Microprose was around ages ago on the C64 and everyone thought it was the best thing to happen to the future of combat simulations since sliced bread (What's that got to do with combat? - Ed).
Unfortunately, it took so long being ported across to the Spectrum many people lacking the faith of us at SU began to doubt the possibility of the conversion, and complain that it wouldn't turn out at all well.
Well, nyah booh sucks to them, because they're totally wrong in every way. The boys at Ver Prose have come up trumps and produced what is arguably the best flight simulator yet on the Spectrum.
In the game, you get the chance to take to the skies in an Apache attack helicopter. Armed with a staggering array of weapons and protected by armour plating, it can chew up and spit out just about anything thrown at it.
Talk about fools rushing in. Within seconds I had come to more grief than you could imagine. I hadn't a clue where I was, and was struggling with a machine that's not easy to control in the best of conditions, let alone in a strong sidewind at night with full enemy frontline forces attacking.
Back in base I admitted that maybe the instructions and options could bear a once over and I was happily surprised to see quite how easily accessible they were.
When you're starting out you can select a number of options to make life easier in the early stages. The background for the menus is a rather nice illustration of the helicopter, and the tasteful grey boxes containing the options overlay themselves from top left to bottom right.
You can tailor the basic elements, like weather conditions and the skill of the enemy. Also highly inexperienced pilots - like myself - can also choose the 'perfect landing' option which prevents almost any encounter with the ground from turning into a crash.
The best thing about Gunship is the realistic way the missions are detailed. Cycling through more grey screens, you gradually learn more about the nature of your assignment - the strength of the repelling forces, location of primary and secondary targets and difficulty, etc.
Missions vary from easy stuff like taking out a tank somewhere to seriously tough Purple Heart material that no- one in their right minds would try.
Once you've selected your mission equip yourself with varying combinations of cannon, rocket and missile ammunition, together with fuel. It's up to you to decide upon the correct combination, depending on your mission.
Once you get going, having grasped the engine, rotor and thrust controls, you can start darting around the vector graphic landscape looking for trouble. Soon enough your on- board computer will flash up a message either indicating that a target of some description is in range or than an enemy helicopter is now airborne. Unfortunately, as far as on-board computers go, this one isn't too smart and will happily inform you that your own base in a target. Anyway, when in range, it's a fairly satisfying affair to lock on and let rip with whichever weapon is appropriate.
You can flip to a map screen, too. So you know where you're going and so you can make more economic use of fuel than if you were to simply bumble around.
Graphically the actual 3D, it has to be said, isn't particularly exciting to look at. Let's face it, vector line graphics aren't much cop. In Gunship. though, Microprose has managed, by keeping everything fairly functional, to make sure the game plays at a sensible speed.
Gunship is a game of great depth, incorporating nearly all the things that give real combat pilots a headache.
It's very entertaining for both serious sim-heads and people, like me, who aren't too fussed about the more high-brow intellectually challenging elements of flight control.
Incidentally, Gunship also looks set to be one of the first titles out on disc for the 128K +3.
Price: £9.95 (tape), £12.95 (disk)
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
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