Strike Commander: Tactical Operations
By now, expect that everybody has heard of Strike Commander, which its creators. Origin, claimed would be the ultimate flight sim. You will also have read the less than enthusiastic reviews it received. With the release of Strike Commander Tactical Operations, Origin have been quick to address at least some of the criticisms of the original product.
Strike Commander's flight model is a bit iffy to say the least, resulting in frustrating and unrewarding dogfights. Energy bleeds off when it shouldn't, and doesn't when it should, so you either overshoot your target and get a missile up your bum. or you run out of airspeed, ideas and sky all at once. Either way the result is usually messy.
Also, the padlock view beloved of Falcon 3 jocks everywhere and essential for serious air combat offers no altitude or bearing cues whatsoever. Ground attack missions are spoilt by the fact that the beautifully bitmapped ground targets don't actually seem to be on the ground, but rather superimposed on it. Despite the criticisms there were some very good points to the game.
Tactical Operations is an add-on package which provides a new plot and updates some aspects of the original to transform Strike Commander into one of the best flight sims I have ever played. The most significant difference to the game is the flight model. Energy now bleeds off realistically. When you stall, the aeroplane goes all over the shop rather than staying nice and straight like it did previously. Bombs and other external stores now make a difference to the performance of your machine, as does damage. The result is a rewarding and challenging flight sim.
It also sounds right, thanks to some tweaking of the sound effects. Purists amongst you will notice that there is still no shadow and that you can lower gears and flaps at 900 knots without any structural objections (like wings coming off), but despite this the overall result is pretty damn good.
The extra game is really an extension of the original with the addition of an extra plane: F-22. When I say an extra plane that is exactly what I mean. When you get shot down, you are back where you were before with an all F-16 fleet.
Despite the quantum leap made by Tactical Operations, I'm still disappointed that the problems with the padlock view, unrealistic appearance of ground objects and lack of shadow haven't been addressed.
So, is Strike Commander Tactical Operations worth the 25-odd quid that it is going to cost you? Damn right it is. The only reservation I have is that it is an expensive way of getting the game that Strike Commander should have been in the first place.