Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Game 7: A-10 Tank Killer

 A-10 Tank Killer is one of the first games to represent a modern simulation of combat. While it is perhaps not the most accurate simulation, it is a fun, if very frustrating experience. A-10 is also the first in Dynamix's Aces series (or Great War Planes) a series that will last until about 1997. It might not be the intention, but I walked away from this with a bit of respect for the machine those that had to fly it. How many games can you say gave you that feeling?

Because of the game's late cold war era, it doesn't follow any real wars or conflicts, except a theoretical invasion of West Germany by the Soviets, or just East Germany gone rogue. It also ends quite predictably, not just due to any ability and the obvious plot thread, but also due to my modern knowledge of the Soviets military strength. Which is to say this would've been the actual outcome.

One thing I was disappointed by was the lack of a level editor. This game goes as far as the first Gulf War, the first real life appearance of the A-10, but I'd like to see it in more theatres. Korea, China, Africa, maybe the War on Terror. Maybe something crazy like the Lebanon war or the Yugoslavic wars. The Gulf War came in a later version, so that shall be finished off in another post.

Another thing I didn't discuss was your co-pilot's reaction to you hitting the wrong targets, nor Cord's reaction. Most of the co-pilot's reactions are lame, but Cord gives a right chewing out depending on your actions. Let me give you some of his greatest hits:
This one happened right after the crop-duster comment.

You have the Avenger machine gun, overheats real fast but that might be realism. You have five missiles, two of which are for special targets, one only on air targets, one ground homing and one ground that misses all the time. Now, the problem is that these are all going to be fairly realistic depictions of said weapons. Presumably actual pilots have a decent idea of how their dumbfire missile is going to hit. However, in this game I could never get that down. Point for realism and minus point for uselessness balances out. 4/10

Effectively, there are three types of enemies, targets, targets that kill your allies, and things that will destroy you. The things that actually have a shot at killing you almost alway succeed and the things that don't rarely touch you. Befitting a modern setting, there's no real difference to you what an enemy is except for what missile you use against it. 2/10

Characters supposedly have their own AIs which they use to handle problems, but I call bull on that. They have a pre-programmed routine they use and they stick to it, even if it means your death. Admittedly, impressive for 1989, but that doesn't make it good. My allies were rarely allies, just people I had to babysit. 2/10

Each level is effectively an action puzzle of figuring out what goes where and how-so. There's not much replay value, hence my complaint of no level editor. Once I burn through the Gulf War, which was added later, this monkey has gone to heaven. 7/10

Player Agency:
Befitting a flight sim, there are tons of little things you can screw around with. You can activate the landing wheels on and off. Speed and movement were almost never something I felt I couldn't control. Almost, sometimes buttons failed to work and I needed some kind of visual indicator that missiles were fired. I didn't mention it in any of the levels, but you can screw around with the camera a ton by using the function keys. More than humanly necessary, you're only going need it on like two missions, only to see your wingmen. 7/10

Uh...you can destroy civilian targets. 1/10

There's a real feeling of this being a simulation, even disregarding the actions of your allies. Maybe its just that I restarted a mission too many times, maybe its the now unimpressive graphics. I think I'll piece it together later, with other games. 3/10

It's worth pointing out that despite being little more of a wireframe that this is really impressive. Before this a flight sim involved barely more than a blue sky and a green ground. Hills? With multiple colors? This is some dark magic. The 2D sections are mostly real photographs, converted nicely to VGA. 3/10

A hesitate to call this game story-based, but there's no denying that it contains a lot of dialog, more than would be in regular shooters until 1994. On the other hand, remembering the overly melodramatic stories of some modern shooters, a simple continuous story without any WCW-level swerves is a nice thing to have. 3/10

It's hard to describe in terms of genre. You've got a steady drumbeat with a synth instrument over it. Feels nice. Even if you just screwed up, there's the music to sooth you.
On the other hand there's the sound, or lack thereof. In the manual the pilot of an A-10 says you never get used to the explosive force of the Avenger cannon. I never got that feeling. It felt weak. I didn't get the feeling that the plane was shaking. The missiles were worse, having a sound effect of a click and no other indication. 4/10

That brings us a total of 36. Perhaps a bit low compared to other flight sims and my fun level. The only comparison currently up is Inca, at a 32 for not even being a good shooter at all. We'll see how that compares to other games released this year later, but first we're going to go to the past to play F-15 Strike Eagle, or maybe I'll finish Spear of Destiny first.

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