Strike Fighters: Project 1
So, Another month, another flight sim depicting an under-explored avenue of flying history. This time it's to the '60s that our travels take us with Strike Fighters: Project 1 (indicating there are several more waiting in the - ha, ha - wings).
F-4 Phantoms, F-100 Super Sabres, A-4 Skyhawks and F-104 Starfighters are the weapons of choice, all flying the skies of a 'fictional' Middle Eastern territory with large oil reserves (probably the same one causing trouble in the current series of 24).
What could have been an interesting adventure in flight, a la IL-2 Sturmovik, is sadly let down by one crippling flaw - it's an extraordinarily dull affair. It comes across like an exercise in flight dynamics with a hastily-put-together 'game' section bolted on the front. It's not wholly awful, though. Dogfights can be a lot of fun, thanks to the sense of primitive technology (there are practically no radar-guided missiles for instance), and from a technical point of view, things generally hold up solidly. But you just can't shake the constant feeling of 'flown one mission, flown them all' each time you take off.
There's no real sense of progression or achievement when you fly. Campaigns offer no impression of a war being fought, the briefing menus are sparse, and the terrain is about as lifeless as an inner-city prostitute paying the rent.
Mainly there's just a lack of emotion to it all; that vital magic that infused Sturmovik with so much. Strike Fighters is a good effort at simulating a different era of military flying history, but, like the seedy pub that has a cheap stripper in every Tuesday lunchtime, once you've sated your initial curiosity, you're unlikely to want to go back.
It's hard to completely damn Strike Fighters, as it shares a lot of the same love of its subject as the IL-2 Sturmovik series. Unfortunately, the fact that the titular aircraft are so well modelled just shows that the developers became too caught up in their passion to leave any energy for the rest of the game. Ultimately, it all comes across more like a Combat Flight Sim add-on than a game in its own right. Maybe Project 2 can get it right?
Download Strike Fighters: Project 1
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Strike Fighters: Project 1 is a flight simulator that depicts the F-100 Super Sabre, A-4 Skyhawk, F-104 Starfighter and the F-4 Phantom II. It is an air gaming link between MIG Alley and the multitude of titles covering later machines and so is a must-have for air historian/collectors. It's also good -- not great -- software on its own merits. Though in places it feels incomplete, the basic flying game plays well and the graphics are outstanding.
Though "strike" is in the title, the documentation -- while it does a good job covering flight and dogfight basics -- does not explain ground attack techniques. (Tip: With iron bombs, get down to 100 feet. Fly level over the target and when the waypoint changes, drop the bombs.) Nor is the meaning of 'Project 1? explained. Forward air controllers are mentioned ("Snoopy") but in testing contact was never established and some ground attack missions seemed to end early.
Your jet gets tangled with the ground at times, bouncing weirdly around undamaged. Enemies you've downed in dogfights, unless they are completely obliterated in the air, seem to take up residence after augering in, remaining as threats both on your in-flight map and to your tactical flight controllers. These are not showstoppers, however.
There are instant action missions, single missions and one desert campaign involving fictional countries. The campaign is dynamic but missions are weeks apart and there's little feel for the strategic situation. Conspicuous by its absence is a Viet Nam campaign. Luckily the game is "open" architecture so when a campaign editor appears you can be sure a less timid fan will give us Rolling Thunder. Can't wait.
Multiplayer for this game works well and is available on GameSpy Arcade for both dogfight and co-op missions.