War in the Gulf

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a game by Oxford Digital
Platform: PC
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 2 votes
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War in the Gulf
War in the Gulf
War in the Gulf
War in the Gulf

Here's a wargame based onlhe Gulf War they said. Well, there's a challenge said 1, trying to sound interested. No. it's quite hard they said - the Iraqis actually fire back. Oh. yeah? Let's face it. in order to get any semblance of play balance you'd have to remove the guns from the American tanks and make the Allied soldiers walk. Or perhaps let the odd Iraqi plane get up into the air. And bang goes the realism.

Actually I was dead wrong - War In The Gulf is about the second Gulf War and it doesn't take place until 1995. If my first half dozen attempts at the first scenario are anything to go by. the Iraqis won't do too badly in the replay either.

We're talking about a follow up to a follow up, of course. The original game in the series was Team Yankee, based on a Soviet invasion of Europe (those were the days), and that was followed by Pacific Islands. Islands had much the same game play but with many more scenarios and a slightly different colour scheme. Both worked in much the same way too - you take your 16 strong mixed force of tanks and mechanised armour through a series of well-designed scenarios, with varying objectives and enemy counter-attacks. If you fail one scenario, you have to do it again until you get it right. No such luck in real life, I fear.

Nothing much has changed in the third part of the trilogy, which probably isn't a bad thing. In terms of appearance, the only way War In the Gulf differs from its ancestors is the new colour scheme; the tanks are all decked out in a tasteful sand colour, the ground is. well, sandy, and the hills are yellow. Oh and we mustn't forget the flaming oil thingies. You know, the big pipes with fire coming out of the top? Couldn't find the right word in my thesaurus - or even the manual for that matter -but you can't miss them, especially when you're using infra-red sights.

War In The Gulf runs on any pc. even xts. which is a refreshing change for those who can manage to live quite happily without the latest hi-tech hardware. It runs straight from the single high density disk that it's supplied on so you don't need to scrape around for hard disk space. I don't know about you, but I'm fed up with throwing CorelDRAW! off my hard disk every time something a bit tasty comes along. What's more you don't have to strip down your autoexec.bat file every time you want to play the game. It doesn't need expanded memory and it only needs 550K of free conventional memory so you can keep half a dozen tsrs in memory and still play the game quite happily.

I know what some of you are thinking, though. In these days of bigger and bigger games and rapidly expanding hard disks, I'll bet the first thing you look at is the number of disks you get for your money. Well, I've got news for you - it is perfectly possible to get a fully animated intro with digitised speech and a good, playable game with stacks of scenarios and sound effects onto one measly little disk.

Installation is pretty basic, as you'd expect, but once the game starts, you can watch the animated intro or hit a key to consign it to electronic neverland and get straight on with the action. Animated intros seem like a lot of wasted programming time to me - the reviewer plays it once to see what it's like, the production staff take screen shots to prove it's still there and whoever buys it probably runs through it once just to see what they've paid for. Actually, what he's paid for is for some programmer to take time off the serious business of coding a game to have some fun with sound and graphics and show off to his mates. The one in War In The Gulf is no better or worse than a thousand others. Do yourself a favour, watch it once and forget it.

Tracks away

The first thing you do is pick your man and move on to the briefing where you can get to grips with the plot and plan your moves beforehand, with all the time in the world. You can also plan artillery strikes and lay mines in some scenarios. Next comes the vehicle recognition phase where you have to correctly identify three armoured vehicles. This is a puzzle because there are only eight types in the game (four us and four Iraqi) and it's not too hard to remember which is which after a couple of games. If it's meant to be copy protection, it's hardly worth the effort.

Then it's over to the armament screen where you can completely customise your teams (with one eye on the all-important bank balance that controls your re-supply and repair) or simply take the default set-up. You can also purchase rest and relaxation to improve morale or repair vehicles to make them more efficient. This is only useful after the first mission though. Be warned too, that once something is selected, it can't be undone.

There's a tutorial scenario which introduces you to the game control icons or brushes up your skills, depending on whether or not you've played before. After that there are 25 scenarios and five different islands to conquer.

The game centres around the quadrant screen displaying the four units at once, or the individual unit screen which has roughly the same display but for only one unit. The other three are left to fend for themselves for a while in this mode.

The quadrant screen is a bit like watching four tvs at once except worse in that you can't just watch dumbly while your armour gets recycled by the Iraqis. In unit mode things are a lot easier to operate, but it can be disconcerting to hear the sound of explosions and not know which unit is in the proverbial.

There's a strong strategic element to the game in that it's up to you to send your four teams to wherever you decide in whatever formation you decide. While they will defend themselves, they're pretty pathetic at it and if you don't help units out. there'll be a lot of letters to write. In arcade mode you can choose normal vision or infra-red - the main advantage of the latter is that you can see through your own protective smokescreen but the Iraqis can't. The disadvantage is that you can't easily see where you are in relation to the various landmarks. Destroying opposing armour is pure arcade action and the mouse is definitely the best method of control. It's just point, click and boom, as the electronic gadgets do their thing and another Iraqi tank is turned neatly into scrap. The noises are good too and I just love the machine gun.

But if the shooting is relatively easy, at least within reasonable ranges, the strategy isn't. It takes at least half a dozen attempts at a scenario before you realise which way the enemy are coming from and. although this tends to remove some of the surprise element, there's nothing easy about it. There is more depth to the gameplay too. Destroy objectives quickly and fewer reinforcements arrive, making it easier to complete the mission. Good strategy pays twice over and it's this that offers the lasting appeal.

Team Yankee was a bit too easy so Pacific Islands was made much harder and War In The Gulf is harder still so you'll have plenty of long-term action for your money. There is much more scenery, from grounded helicopters to flaming oil wells that you have to cap. All the buildings can be destroyed but 'collateral' damage isn't rewarded and your funds can suffer if you're too gung-ho with the high explosives.

Empire have built another excellent game on a solid foundation. They've added plenty of new features without overcomplicating the tried and tested game system. It takes a bit of time and patience to master but it's well worth the effort. The graphics don't quite stand up against those in newer games but that's a small price to pay for a game that runs from a single disk and offers a month or more of late nights.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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