Air Raid: This Is Not a Drill is a simulation of firing a 40mm Bofor Anti-Aircraft gun from the deck of a battleship as wave after wave of enemy pilots in various aircraft swarm your position. The 99 missions grow progressively more difficult as the enemy attacks with more planes, higher aggression levels, and better maneuverability in defense. In each scenario, players receive a set number of Depth Charges ("K-Gun" Mark 6 Mod 1), 40mm AA ammunition, and RIM-7 missiles to fend off enemy boats, air-gunners, air-bombers, torpedo bombers, ace fliers, and patrol aircraft.
In-game documentation includes a listing of the types of targets, each with a profile picture and statistics (power plant, armament, dimensions, performance, and the number of hits by weapon needed for destruction). Weapons and ammunition are rated where appropriate by length, diameter, launch weight, war head, guidance system, propulsion, range, ceiling, maximum elevation, and rate of fire. Ammunition must be managed effectively, as running out will doom the mission to failure.
Atmospheric music from the WWII era begins each mission and a small radar screen helps players track incoming targets. After successful completion of missions, players receive points based on the number of shots taken and accuracy, types of aircraft or boats destroyed, and bullets, missiles, and depth charges remaining. Points are awarded for each level, with an accumulative total tracked for the entire game. Based on the number of levels completed, players receive specific medals, ranging from Navy Occupation Service (ten levels) and Navy Expeditionary medals to the Defense Distinguished Service medal, the Navy Cross, and the highest, the Medal of Honor (99 levels).
Much like Beachhead 2000, this is a simple exercise in clipping the wings of planes over and over again ... except Air Raid is nowhere near as bad. Published by Big City Games (Strategy First's budget arm) and developed by Made by Kiddies, Air Raid places you in the gunner position on a battleship for wave after wave of fighter planes, bombers, and the occasional ship or two. Think Galaga or Galaxian (or Gorf for the really old-school) in three dimensions with (kind of) realistic-looking aircraft, and you have the right idea.
While the arcade-style games were designed to eat your pocket change, games made for the PC (and consoles) shouldn't be that way. Air Raid succumbs to this to a certain degree, with things like extremely limited ammo and insanely fluctuating difficulty getting in the way. For example, the third level is a test of your ability to conserve ammo, while the fourth is a walk in the park. The fifth level is almost pull-your-hair-out difficult (artificially because of ammo limitations), but the sixth level is simple. The entire game sways like this, and although the box proclaims "sophisticated and dynamic AI," every plane and ship is pattern-based.
For some reason, the developers thought that a multiplayer option in this game was a good idea. While it's functional, it's practically pointless. Not only are there virtually no players online, the interface for going online is, well, lacking. There's no sorting, no favorites, no filters, no buddy lists, no nothing. I managed to pull it off on a LAN, but even then it was a so-so affair. Would it be fun to kill wave after wave of enemies in Galaga with a friend? No, you want a high score, not a partner.
As budget games go, the graphics are not bad. The screen shakes far too violently whenever you're hit, but other than that, it's a decent effort. The game handles resolutions up to 1600x1200, and it's mostly average fare. The explosions are surprisingly satisfying, but the water effects are perhaps the reason Dramamine was invented. If you've ever had a few too many and then tried to stare at a wall, you know what this water looks like.
Sound is a weird mix as well. While most of the gunfire and explosions are decent enough, each level starts with anywhere from 5-30 seconds of poorly recorded "period" music. Maybe this is what a radio sounded like in the '40s, but it seriously sounds like someone held a cheap microphone next to some cheap speakers and hit the "record" button. It's all rather distorted as well, and particularly pronounced when playing with headphones.
Mixing nicely with the mismatched graphics and sounds, the menus and controls are equally in need of balance. The entire game is played with the mouse (except for the spacebar for depth charges and a few keys for pausing, chatting, etc.), but when the game is paused, the mouse doesn't function. You have to use the arrow keys to select options when paused, an oversight it seems a rookie developer would make.
Also strangely missing is the ability to reverse the mouse axis. I come from the FPS school of gamers weaned on flight simulators. In other words, pulling down should move my targeting cursor up and vice-versa. There's no option for that, and it took me a good 20 minutes to come close to not thinking that way. It seems like such a simple thing, too.
Overall, Air Raid is begging for polish. It's fun in short spurts, but after 20 minutes or so, you've experienced everything the game has to offer. Granted, major hits like Pac-Man and Robotron counted on such familiarity, but this is certainly an acquired taste.
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Afterburner 3D, AirStrike 2, AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder, AirStrike 3D: Operation W.A.T., Alien Trilogy, Alien Blast: The Encounter, America's Army, Battle of Europe
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