Flight simulations are big business these days, with everyone trying to get in on the act. Fortunately the programmers behind Reach for the Skies have a very good pedigree and certainly know what they're talking about when it comes to this type of game. If you enjoyed playing the absolutely marvellous Flight of the Intruder then it's a safe bet that you are going to love Reach for the Skies. For this game, Rowan Software has chosen a completely different theatre of war than the Vietnam scenario that was favoured for their last release. This time they have gone World War II, the Battle of Britain to be specific. The reasons behind this choice are fairly obvious.
For those utterly oblivious to what happened in the Great War, the Battle of Britain was the most ferocious struggle for air supremacy in the whole conflict. Reach for the Skies attempts to reenact the whole event, offering the player the opportunity to take on three different roles.
You can choose to be either a British or German pilot, or for the more strategically minded, you can also choose to control the battles. The latter option puts you right at the heart of a complete campaign simulation which includes the production and distribution of aircraft as well as keeping up the morale of the pilots.
However, the part of the game which will undoubtedly generate the most interest is the actual flying element. The basic scenario is as follows: all of the battles are fought over the English coastline, hence the imaginative title, the Battle of Britain!
Take off and intercept any of the filthy Hun scum that are flying their planes at top speed towards dear old Blighty. That is of course unless you have chosen to fly for the Germans. In this case you must heroically risk your life for the glory of the Fatherland, in order to bomb those irritating British with their stiff upper lips and unusual sense of humour.
Once up in the sky, your first task is to find and intercept your enemy. This is done via a handy map which you can access by pressing M at any time. On the map, you will see your plane, any friendly aircraft and also any of the enemy who just happen to be in the vicinity. Click on any of the dots on the map and a summary of that particular squadron will be displayed. This will tell you how many planes are in the group as well as their height, and various other information. However, as in the real war this information is often inaccurate, so don't be surprised if the summary tells you that there is only one plane, but when you get there you find a squadron of 15 parked behind a cloud! Once you have identified your target, simply turn in its general direction and head off. As in most flight sims these days an accelerated time feature has been incorporated to speed up any boring bits, such as travelling to your destination so make good use of it. Don't worry about overshooting your target though as the feature automatically turns itself off in times of trouble.
Once you have reached your target it's simply a case of getting behind and blasting it out of the sky. Well obviously it's not quite as simple as that but what do you think this is, on instruction book?
OK then, here's a bit more detail just for you! It's a good idea to moke use of the excellent exterior battle view, which shows you both your plane and also the nearest enemy. This enables you to quickly find and destroy any enemies that are within range. Once you have destroyed all of your deadly foes then it's back to base in time for tea! If you prove to be a real hotshot then it's possible to complete a mission without destroying all of the enemy planes. If you are too much of a handful for them and take out three within the first 10 seconds then it is more than likely that they will turn tail and head back to where they came from. The level of detail in parts is incredible. I say in parts because most of the game is pretty terrible landscape wise, with just the usual green and the odd splodge of brown thrown in for good measure. However, things such as the golf courses, which contain fairways, greens and bunkers will amaze and astound you.
Flight of the Intruder veterans will recognise some of the presentational features as they are virtually identical. Features such as the video recording of a battle, and also the ability to take still photographs whilst in flight. All you have to do to access the video recorder is press V at any time, and then revel in glory back at your base with the boys and a few beers.
Although this is an excellent feature, it does detract slightly from the realism of the game. I mean, how many people do you know that had video recorders back in 1942? Not many I can tell you! But then again perhaps, that's me just being picky and trying to find fault in what is an almost faultless release.
Reach for the Skies has done the impossible. It has bettered the best flight sims available for the Amiga, including my all-time favourite, Flight of the Intruder. It maintains a high level of realism throughout what is an extremely technical simulation. However don't let that put you off because unlike most shoot 'em-up sims this one is actually fun to play and fairly easy to pick up. It's hard enough so that when you succeed, you know you're improving. This is without a doubt the best flight sim available on the Amiga.
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