Operation Harrier is an action game starring Britain's famous VTOL aircraft. It uses an enhanced version of the Rotoscape system first used in Creative Materials' earlier Rotox: the own plane is seen from the top and when steering left or right the polygonally rendered background rotates around it. A new addition is the ability to change altitude. The game consists of several missions, each with a specific goal like destroying an enemy cruiser or power plant or defending an airfield from enemy fighters. Before a mission, the Harrier can be armed with a variety of weapons, including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles as well as two types of bombs. Standard armament is a forward-firing cannon with unlimited ammunition. A radar screen and a map help finding the enemy during a mission. Fuel is limited, but in some missions in-air refueling is possible. While the Harrier can survive a few hits, it can also be repaired (and refueled) after mission's end. Sometimes it is also possible to make a mid-mission resupply landing at a friendly base.
One of US Gold's most overlooked games, Operation Harrier is a fun top-down shooter that plays similar to EA's Jungle Strike: it's essentially an arcade-style game that puts you in control of a plane, shooting enemies below. Operation Harrier offers more depth and gameplay variety, however, because you have to pay attention to various flight-sim parameters including fuel, your altitude, and the nifty radar that shows where your enemies are. The graphics are better than average, as appropriate shadows and animation effects give a good illusion of 3D, even though the game is based on 2D sprites. Overall, if you enjoy a fun shooter that requires you to pay attention to more than just the trigger button, Operation Harrier is well worth a look.
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