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Oh Dear. Oh Dear... If There Were sub genres for flight sims. I guess there'd be just the two: 'realistic' ones and 'arcadey' ones. Silent Thunder, unfortunately, hasn't quite decided which category it wants to slot into - and there are a couple of special 'surprises' in store, too. Bear with me...
The game opens pretty much as standard. with your usual options of single missions or campaign mode (Columbia. Gulf and Korea, hard fact fans). "Aha!" I thought to myself. "Realistic seen-it-all-before simulation time!" So I made my choice, selected my weapons load (one of which is napalm, so a brownie point there), and then I suddenly found myself in... Jerko World! Ye gods! Time for some serious detail toggling. It's <shift/p> for the graphic options, then. But what's this? The keyboard didn't seem to work.
To cut a long story short. 1 eventually found a readme file on expected joystick naughtiness. It blamed Windows 95. and I can sympathise, because I blame Windows 95 for lots of things as well.
Neverthelss. that meant I was going to have to tij and play Silent Thunder on the keyboard alone... and we all know how unpleasant that can be, don't we?
Oh dear, oh dear...
So back to the game and my first port of call was aerobatics - bugger the aaa and sams. I was all for a low altitude upside-down jaunt across the nearby sea. And things were going rather well for about 120 seconds, but then all of a sudden a disembodied chick's voice said: "You are straying out of the mission area." "Oh no. not one of those." I thought. Then another voice: "Time running out. sir!" Bugger. Then my mission was aborted.
I don't know about you. but there's nothing more annoying than a flight sim in which you're constrained to a very small geographic area. And I'm not just talking about the X and Y coordinates here, either, because I didn't have much joy with the Z either. Can you guess the service ceiling of the a-io in this game? Well, it's a tad under 3000 feet. I mean to say... you can go higher than that in a car! (Eh? - Ed.) And in case you're yelling that the a-io is a low-level attack aircraft, all I can reply is that I know, but my point is that it can go higher than 3000 feet if the pilot wants it to. (I wanted it to and it wouldn't!)
Oh dear, oh dear...
By now I was treating Silent Thunder as a simple arcade game. Except it was far from simple, a fact compounded by the jerkovision and the necessity (in my case) to use the keyboard arrow keys. One particular example was a successful low-level (100 feet) Maverick attack on two tanks. And the result? They blew up, but unfortunately their nifty 'explosion graphics' ate into the already iffy frame rate like Billy Burner at a picnic after an enforced fast. My attempts to control the A-io had suddenly became a case of 'Oh no, everything's become completely uncontrollable in a jerk-tastic fashion'. Cue crashing noise.
I could go on about all kinds of other annoying stuff, such as the cluttered and unhelpful in-game map. the enemy planes that seem to be able to turn on a sixpence, and so forth - but I'll try to end on a positive note, which is hard, but... oh, I've got it. You know how some game engines cry out that they're not quite up to the job they're being used for, but they could actually be pretty reasonable if employed in a different way? Well, how about the Silent Thunder engine adapted to prop up a tank game? Or a Vietnam War soldier doofer, or Afghan Rebels, or a Czechoslovakian mountain goat herding simulation or something? What do you reckon? (Send your suggestions to Anne Robinson.)
Download Silent Thunder
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
In A Way, The Intro 'Fart Gag' Is quite an apt in-road to this preview, and here's why. You know the oft-repeated shots from telly's Bosnia show, where the camera zoomed into a puff of smoke on a hillside, and then zoomed out and panned up to show the plane that actually dropped the bomb? Well, that was an a-io, that was. It had just blown up a tree. Guff-tastic. But as that's got absolutely nothing to do with this game. I'll change tack.
Okay then. Silent Thunder is tagged as the sequel to A-10 Tank Killer. Now there is a blast from the past for you... but not a particularly brilliant one, if you want to be honest about it. It was quite good in its day, yes, but I certainly wouldn't have regarded it as a classic. Unlike Red Baron (whose sequel is also previewed this month), it somehow lacked scope. You know what I mean? Like Red Baron was a simulation of the First World War while A-10 Tank Killer, on the other hand, was a simulation of... well, an A-10 Tank Killer. And the a-io's not the most exciting aircraft known to humankind, is it? In fact I phoned a Statto lookalike mate of mine, who happens to be a walking aircraft encyclopedia...
Me: Barry, enthuse to me about the a-io. Barry: Enthuse? Me: Yes, enthuse. Imagine you're trying to sell me one. Barry: Oh. Er, they're quite robust.
So there's the a-io for you... the Jonah Lomu of the aviation world, as Sierra's press information is keen to point out: "Also known as the Warthog, the A-10 is said to be indestructible. Even with the engines inflames, half the rudder blown off and a section of the wing seriously damaged, it gets you back to base safe and sound."
Barry was right then. But what's it like to fly? And here's where PC honesty comes to the fore, because I have to admit that we did receive a sort of interactive demo type affair, which if 1 was being polite, I wouldn't mention. But I will. Yes, the scenery was nice, but it appears that the A-10 Tank Killer (AKA the Indestructible Warthog) flies at five frames per second. Mind you, this demo thing must have been incredibly pre-release - I can only assume that the finished product will run five times faster. If it doesn't. Sierra will have major, major problems. (Wait for the review regarding that, though.)
But what of the 'scenario'? You know, the plot and what-have-you? If you will all bear with me, let me just quote something from the press release... "You are Jack Haggart and your mission is to eliminate three dangerous men who are threatening to destroy the fragile peace which exists between the world's nations."
It elaborates slightly... "Track down Sehor Macias in the Columbian jungle." Fair enough, deja vu not withstanding. . "Fearlessly infiltrate North Korean airspace where Kim Chee Lee, in a fit of madness, is threatening his peaceful neighbours by kidnapping a movie star."
Aha... could this be, like, an attempt at 'humour'? Let's read on just a bit further, shall we?
"Put your wife on the line fighting the forces of Ali Goni Groceri, the ruthless leader ofFarwei, who is preparing to launch an unprecedented wave of terrorism on the Western world." It's telling you to put your wife on the line? This must be ironic, surely? In disbelief I re-read it, and discover it says 'life', not 'wife'. Bah.
So who can tell what's going on with Silent Thunder? This jury is still out, even on a mere preview level: the signs are bad, but it's not over until the fat lady sings (or something like that). I'll leave you with a final paragraph anyway, in the hope that you'll then be as utterly fascinated with the state of the final release as I now am: and so it's back to the press leaflet...
Silent Thunder has a credit which reads thus: "Producer and Director, Franck Evers". You can also find out more about our Franck as a brief biography has been thoughtfully included - I've picked out some 'highlights', with the suspicious-looking bits underlined...
"Franck Evers, a Harvard graduate, came to Sierra via Hollywood, where he was a partner in an independent film house which produced a series of award-winning films such as Gas Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca and Swimming With Sharks. During his Hollywood days, Franck also produced The Mask CD-ROM. The storyline, characters, and unique design approach to Silent Thunder were created by Franck in an effort to enhance the traditional flight combat experience."
So Silent Thunder is going to be either laughably shit, or extremely brilliant. If it turns out to be simply average, I apologise in advance for making a big deal of the whole thing. But whatever happens, I wish Franck would learn to spell his name correctly.