One thing that really bugs me is being sunk before dinner time. Cruising the Straits of Hormuz certainly strikes me as a good way of passing the time, it's just that I get just so wound up when Exocets start scratching my paintwork and sending the entire fleet to the polluted bottom of the Gulf. Oops, sorry about that, I lapsed into a hypnotic state for a moment there, lulled into a world of passive dipping sonars and Phalanx antimissile cannon systems by this little gem from the Hit Squad. It's one of their Platinum Edition releases, which is another way of saying that even though It's a budget re-release, you're still getting slammed for thirteen quid. In this case though, you're getting real value.
Strike Fleet is a modern-day naval battle sim, where you get to control a surface fleet of up to 16 vessels against all manner of air, sea and sub-aqua enemies. This isn't one of those WW2 sim jobbies, where you crisscross the Atlantic plinking at destroyers. No way, what we have here Is a state-of-the-art, fly-by-wire kind of wargame, simulating all the electronic wizardry that let the allies win the Gulf War with no worse casualties than a few dozen headaches from looking at TV monitors for too long. The game's a breeze to get into, simply work through the tutorial in the manual and you'll have the mechanics sussed within twenty minutes.
Everything's mouse-controlled, and once you're into the actual game (as opposed to equipping your fleet) you have a complete overview of the game from just two well-presented screens. There's the map screen, that plonks you and your foes in some theatre of war, be It the Falklands, Gulf or Atlantic, and then there's the bridge screen. Remarkably, you can pretty much control the entire shooting match from this one screen, which means that the programmers thought long and hard before working out the game mechanics. And then went and got them spot on. You control the fleet through a flagship, but can also split up the fleet and send them off individually. Clicking on a target on the radar presents you with a view of it, and allows you to zap it with a weapon of your choice. Easy.
As well as views from all the ships, you can even fly helicopters around, boosting your radar and antisubmarine capabilities. About the only downer in the game is the size of the graphics window, which tends to give you the feeling of fighting a war looking through a letter box. The actual graphics are great, with huge plumes of water splooshing up to signify near misses, and columns of smoke lingering around sunk ships for ages after the event, but I tend to think it was the graphics window which was compromised to fit everything on one screen. It's no great problem though, and certainly won't stop me giving this one a big fat nautical thumbs up.
"Send out Hi-Tech helicopters fot remote targeting or Anti-Submarine warfare. Engage enemy fleets, submarines, long range missile bombers. Configure your task force from 12 ship classes and deploy up to 16 vessels at once. Real world scenarios." The text from the cover box :)
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