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Okay, i've got to say it: Evasive Action is a brilliant idea. Mindscape has taken all the exciting bits of flight simulators (unless, of course, you are one of those sad types who likes flying a Cessna around San Francisco Bay in FS5) and minimised the controls needed to gain a really exciting flying experience. Then they've added a neat two-player, split-screen option as well as the more normal modem-linked, head-to-head mode. Finally, they've given the player a choice of time zones from World War n through to deep space combat. They've also made the computer-controlled opponents pretty good (although more about that later). Even the soundtrack isn't bad.
So you like it then?
No. Despite the promises of excitement, the truly stunning intro graphics and the clever between-games sections, this has 'rushed onto the shelves' written all over it. The graphics are pretty iffy once you get into the game itself, although in fairness, they are very smooth. The flight models aren't bad, but the fact that I crashed into the ground at 300 feet is a trifle disconcerting. Rather more disturbing is that in the three hours I played this (in one sitting) the game crashed more often than I did. We're talking fullblown, locked-up-hit-the-goddam-reset-button-crashbd. Add this to an opening sequence which refuses to play any music; every third game refusing to start through insufficient ram, but then reloading perfectly: four cases of the program rebooting my pc for me, and you begin to get the picture. Before you ask, my pc is a standard 486DX/33, and there is nothing wrong with it according to all the diagnostics that I could run. There is, without a shadow of a doubt, something fundamentally wrong with Evasive Action. In a nutshell, it is seriously underdeveloped.
Is it all bad?
Again, no. When it works, this is quite a giggle. The variety of games is refreshing, although eventually I guess it could get a little repetitive. It's handy to be able to reload all weapons by performing a stunt, although the stunts are a piece of cake, which removes some of the challenge. What does remain a challenge, though, is the skill of the computer pilot. Until you discover that if you get him behind you, dive hard-and pull up at the last second, the old cumulo-granite scrapes him off your tail, saving you the trouble of shooting him down. This works every time, except in space where there is no ground. Bummer. You'll have to work out the options here for yourself, 'cos I can't hold your hand forever.
Actually controlling the aircraft is very simple. Mindscape have tried to make the whole thing intuitive; right from installation, and they have succeeded to a major extent. 1 would, however, question the intuitiveness of using 'z ' and 'x' for left and right with and '@' for up and down (look on your keyboard to see why), and I have to ask why the cursor keys remain unused. But that is nit-picking. The cockpit layout on each aircraft is simple and informative, and a useful target locator means that although the guy in the mig hasn't turned on his radar and is 5 miles behind and below you, you know he's there. Still, it does get around the boring bits of trying to find your opponent, although it negates the advantages gained by not using radar which are stressed in the manual. This all remains well in control, with combat taking place as soon as you get to space: within a few minutes. Why, oh why, oh why (he said, using his best Points of View voice) do you start 6000 km apart? And why are the ships so bloody slow? Or is this another bug?
Once you do reach your opponent, be it human or silicon, you will quickly see that although the graphics fall far short of the promises made by the intro screens, the action is fluid and smoothly scrolling. Blacking out happens quite neatly (and usually rather permanently), although stalling is a bit of a non-event. Having said that, nobody claimed that this was meant to be an ultra-realistic simulator. There are clear and distinct differences between the behaviour of the different aircraft, and the computer pilots can be relied on to make the most of them. So be prepared: read the manual before you take them on and find out what your weaknesses are. Don't rely on the different weapon set-ups described in the manual, because all the aircraft end up armed the same. Also, there was no way that I could find any counter-measures at all, so if a missile is fired at you, you're in deep trouble. Yes, the manual says that there are flares and chaff, so pass the ddt somebody, there are bugs in here too! On the plus side; the weapon loads on the spaceships do vary and the effects of the weapons also differ from craft to craft.
So go on. Say something nice.
Okay. Lurking inside Evasive Action is a really good, highly-addictive and extremely playable game. The presentation isn't bad, it takes up a commendably small chunk of disk space, and the space section is especially nice to look at and fun to play. It's also a really good idea and, to top it all off nicely, it's also very simple to get into. But I only have one thing to say to Mindscape: 'What the hell are you doing releasing something that should never have passed Beta-testing?' I can only look forward to the finished version coming out and hope that all the poor suckers who buy this bug-infested package will get free upgrades when the time comes.