Saturday, August 17, 2019

A-10 Tank Killer: Central Europe 2

Previously, we were single-handedly responsible for stopping (probably) the Soviets from invading "Central Europe", probably West Germany. From my perspective solely as an armchair commander, I imagine this would result in the Soviets losing much ground. The game however, continues roughly as normal. Before we start, I would like to point out that during the first campaign and some of this one I was under the impression that the Rockeyes were general purpose clusterbombs, but they are not supposed to be used against tanks. Our first mission is to gun down some tanks that have been sent out without air defense. Speaking as someone who has been made paranoid by years of Doom 2 wads stuffed full of monster closets, I smell a trap, but they just haven't brought in their SAMs yet.
Its times like these I wish I could hold more mavericks
Even with this terrible loadout I demolish a goodly number of tanks and SAMs. Nothing like being a one-man killing machine to get the blood pumping. A couple of clusterbombs and a few bursts of machine gun fire takes out most of the platoons until I run out. The short-ranged SAMs show up? Mavericks and they might fire off a missile distracted by chaff and flares. The command carrier? A Maverick I saved just for him. What, out of missiles? That's what the machine gun is for. Nothing left on the map except for the long-ranged SAMs. I'm not that eager to die all guns blazing, if'n you know what I'm saying.

Uh-huh. Sure is a Whiskey Delta, whatever that means...
Mission two, air support for tanks, followed by tank busting. In a city. This city is Wolfburg. Real clever guys, I'm sure no one north of Berlin will have discovered your genius depiction of their city. Of course, I have to avoid bombing the inhabitants, because otherwise twenty years from now some German will whine about America policing the world. Come to think of it, some German will whine even if I kill every Soviet all on my lonesome, so who cares what they think? My field commander for this mission is a whiny army Captain. No wait, its fair that he complains about the Air Force. Have you seen my success rate? Its gotta be in the single digits.
The mission itself goes south, not because of the army's incompetence but because the man in the A-10 can't hit tanks in cities for anything. And what do you know, but the Soviets break out the MiGs. They take me out in one hit. Feels weird to be on the recieving end of that missile.
So my "plan" and it was absolutely planned out, not accidental whatsoever. Gun down as many tanks as possible, then when they say they're getting close but before the boss man says get to the base, flee. My hope being to lure the enemy into SAM range, but they're too smart for that.
Eventually, and by eventually, I mean long after I was actually hoping to win, I finally win. It involved a combination of luck (apparently Mavericks aren't perfect) and a changed loadout. (apparently the clusterbombs are lighter than Mavericks) For my reward, I just get my CO saying congratulations.
Sounds like my kind of job, Colonel, what's the catch?
Mission three, kill some armor. This sounds real easy, but that's where the mission's title, Crippled Bird comes in. We have to protect a A-10 undergoing repairs. Personally, I can't blame the Soviets for taking the easy way out with an A-10. Apparently its my old friend Captain Stokes. Who I presume was my squad leader during the escort mission, I didn't write it down. I'm also not surprised at this revelation if my suspicions are true. Now, the question is where this mission is going to throw a curveball.
If this were the X-Men, Mr. Sinister would make a joke about mountains
 Tanks, SAMs not to far afield. This would be easy if it weren't for those hills. Shooting tanks isn't as hard as it seems, its easier than aiming Rockeyes for the most part. Assuming you aren't over 300 or 400 on the altitude meter. Then its more of a challenge. Hills, of course, make it more difficult to aim at tanks. Stokes turns out to be surprisingly difficult to keep alive even with me downing tanks like its open season. Hills, plus SAMs equals pain. When its down to the Avenger, and it will be, because there are a lot more than eight tanks. Plus the SAMs are closing in as you work, meaning you have to save a few Mavericks for them.
Several dozen more attempts and I'm starting to suspect I'm playing a goddamn Kobayashi Maru. Because trying to actually kill off the tanks results in me taking so many missiles I'm in worse shape than Stokes is. You have to jam on F & C while monitoring your speed, altitude, where your gun is pointing and if you should use a missile. Imagine doing all this while bits of your plane keep breaking off. Clearly, then my next plan is to fire Rockeyes at tank clusters I know a SAM is in and hope for the best. And I'm starting to suspect the game is working against me, because my targeting system is focusing on the hanger of all things. This is getting on my nerves. That's not something I noticed before. I mean, yes, I could get better at turning around, but there are flaws in the targeting system that don't make any sense.
I finally say screw it and mess around in single missions as an invincible killing machine with infinite ammo. Testing out new flight manueveurs, testing Rockeyes at closer ranges. When I get to the mission I'm currently stuck on to check out the amount of enemies, I see some startling news. Apparently my failure to completely kill all the enemies in the first mission has screwed me over here. And the game has a curious method of how it handles difficulty. In something like Doom it just doesn't spawn them, but here, it just kills them when you don't have to fight them. What makes it worse that even with all these handicaps in my favor Stokes' survival isn't guaranteed. Its like trying to get better at running so hard your leg snaps off. So instead you compete at the Special Olympics, but Usain Bolt lost his arms so he's there too. But I've got to figure this thing out. Somehow.
Still, I am getting cleverer. You can aim your gun on the ground. Its a bit harder than it sounds. I do finally figure out the thing that's going to solve this once and for all. You see, once again, I missed something in the manual. In my defense, this has been because I haven't needed it thus far. Tab cycles through targets. I've never had to perform a precision strike like this before.

Am I dreaming?
Nice to see someone else crush some tanks for once!
A combination of luck and figuring out the right way to approach to get rid of the SAMs, it wasn't even all the SAMs for once, and Stokes finally breaks free. The few tanks that are left I'm gunning down on the ground and he's shooting missiles at. I can't even get up off the ground now. I'm not even upset. Will this be the big difficulty spike of the campaign?
It's cheaper to use a tank, sir.
What's the catch?
The next mission, the Soviets' defense has been weakened, no doubt by their previous offensive, to get a single plane. Our army shall destroy their supply bases. I provide air support once again, bringing back our old friend Riker. No doubt I will have to further destroy a few bases on my own.
Well, Riker, you ever see the film Dead of Night...?
The mission turns out to be deceptively easy. I say deceptively, because if you're not careful, like I wasn't, you'll end up losing a squad of tanks. As we've previously seen in Central Europe part 1, this will bite me in the ass. So, I've got to go flirting with the enemy's SAMs so I can take out tanks so they won't take out our tanks. Fun fact, I didn't realize it until now, but the Rockeyes carry momentum from your plane, so you go full speed, drop a missile, then slow down and the missile travels ahead of you.
Hey, Riker, I don't have those kinds of nightmares anymore.
After far more tries than I want to admit, I win. The CO's very brief debriefing betrays how quickly I was supposed to blaze through this one. Even in the final victory my run didn't go as smoothly as I hoped, I had to double back on one group of tank-killers. Their sneaky trap for us was a group of HINDs. The only time I didn't get them was when I accidentally landed and couldn't get back up. Quality strategy there, what's next? Guarding the Kremlin with a single short-range SAM and a pair of T-80s?
Do I ever do anything else?
Mission five, Deep Strike. Soviets are reinforcing the region, so we have to stop that post-haste. Destroy airbase, kill some tanks, don't attempt to introduce Mavericks to the very lonely Soviet SAMs. I don't even have to deal with some futzy ally forcing me to adhere to a schedule...there's going to be a swarm of MiGs dropping in, I just know it. You can't just have fun with a mission, there's always got to be some kind of twist. Which is of course, that I have to take out the tanks before I bomb the airbase before the SAMs swarm their airbase, introducing me to their overly friendly girls. So to speak.
Wow, that's the first time you've contributed something here
It's actually quite telling of my abilities that this mission caused me less trouble than previous missions. The tanks, of course, are no problem. You've got to take a long time getting to the base, since you have to fly all the way around their SAM line. Only the south way, the north will cause you to get killed. So, naturally, I get there just in time, blow up their base before being told I should've gotten the runway, turn around, get my wing blown off, destroy the runway. This completes the mission, but my co-pilot, for once actually contributing something beyond letting me ignore landing, notices something ahead of me. Its a HIND base, and guess who has more bombs? Its not quite a barrel shoot, barrel shoots involve you not missing because your right wing was destroyed. Barrel shoots also don't involve you crashing into the ground. You want to know a fun thing I discovered on the next attempt? SAMs can't hit you if you're lower than them. Like if they're next to a river. Like on this map.
Naturally, because I perform perfectly, in a way that assures me getting a medal from the president, I get the lowest score so far of just under 35k.
Just so I don't sound like I made the part about missing a wing

Should I dress up like Prince Charming?
Mission six, The Vise, so named because armor has surrounded. We have no armor, so its me against the Soviet zerg rush. Well, scratch that, its me and Stokes against the Soviet zerg rush. Will Riker and co be riding in at the last second or are they being save for the last mission. I already have no doubt in my mind as to the Soviets plans, take out SAMs, take out base with MiGs. Then my CO informs me there shall be no MiGs. Wow, this campaign has really come together for me. I'll be protecting the south side of the base, presumably until Stokes screws up. The default loadout gives me LGBs. Will I need them, or are the developers trying to psych me out? I'll see in a moment.
What? What? What? Five squads of tanks, only two of which I had to kill? Are you serious? No, no, let's keep flying. There's gotta be something hiding south or west. Its a big map. Hell, if Stokes was dead I don't think I'd have too much trouble. That's it. Something that was literally a stepping stone in the last mission is my entire job this mission. This was the map from the last mission too. They pulled out their SAMs. Wow. I still get a higher score than the last mission despite basically doing nothing.
And I've been RSVPed, joy.
Mission seven and the final one, Air Support. I wonder what my objective is going to, all the armor and all the MiGs. We won't be seeing Riker, as only Quaid's platoon has survived. Is this a glitch or was this supposed to happen? Thanks to my efforts during Deep Strike, AKA turn the Soviets into blubbering messes, they won't have any HINDs to screw with our remaining tanks. Cord also says the mission will be difficult. That was what he said about the last one. It wasn't true then, will it be true now?
I'm not saying the Soviets have alien tech, but those MiGs have been hovering there for a while
The mission starts off with Cord telling me to look out for choppers. I thought I stopped that already. Make up your mind! I start suspecting someone at the Dynamix rushed out this mission because Riker tells me he needs air support. Now there are some problems with this mission, namely, I'm back at humming the Mission: Impossible theme for giggles because if we don't I'll scream. You see, I have to kill three seperate groups of tanks and SAMs. The SAMs because I need the skies clear to clean out the tanks. The tanks because they'll take out our tanks. Then I have to take out three groups of tank killers. Then I have to hope my left wing isn't blown off because there are still MiGs to deal with. By the way, when the enemy tanks are all dead, they say the battle is over. Its not. That screwed over a couple good runs. Which gives me three options, figure out this mission while cheating, playing this mission until I feel the desire to use the disc the game came on as a gardening tool, or play a different game.
Now, after a few failed attempts at defeating the mission. I get to thinking. Why do I need Mavericks for this mission? It isn't like I'm going to be killing anything that needs only a Maverick, but even if I do, I have the cannon. That doesn't work. Just take out the tanks? That completely wrecks my plane and makes me unable to fight. Hug the ground like I forgot to fly, however, works like a charm. SAMs can only rarely hit you on the ground, usually if you've just landed in front of them. Barrel in front of them from a distance and by the time they realize what's happening they're already dead. Only even fails the first time because I spent too much time aiming at an enemy tank killer. This sounds like an exploit but as previously mentioned they still fire SAMs at you. Combined with opening up with a rockeye, this starts working really well.
Is that a little dot there? Let me get it out.
Despite the appear of enemy MiGs at the last second and the game's insistence that the battle is over before its over, the final part of the mission is rather easy. Really, the difficult part is the aforementioned tank-busting. All I have to do is sneak behind some hills and over some fields before dropping a couple of bombs on the enemy base. I'm not even sure I needed to sneak behind the hills, those MiGs seemed pretty content at testing out their alien tech as long as I didn't jump them.
...You can do that? I guess if anyone deserves it, its me for being the main force behind our victory.
Colonel Cord tells me what a wonderful job I did, and how this will probably be my last mission. Of course, if you're already familiar with the game, you know this isn't the last we'll be playing of it, although its the last we'll see of Cord. First, we'll discuss how the game itself stacks up.
As per last time, my scores. So much for bridge-busting.

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