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1988
Tactical Combat
£9.95
£3.99
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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22
Stuart Wynne, Mark Caswell, Nick Roberts
Chris Bourne

INVADE COUNTRIES EVEN SMALLER THAN GRENADA!

You're one of the elite, a member of the US Army's Airborne Rangers, last in action spearheading the invasion of Grenada. Each and every Ranger is expected to have the diplomatic skills of Sylvester Stallone, the muscles of Woody Allen and Dan Quayle's combat experience - or something like that. Naturally you're the best of the elite and the automatic choice for 12 dramatic missions pitting just one Ranger against enemy battalions.

The scenario and overhead view may suggest just another Commando-type shoot-'em-up but open the attractive box and you're faced with a 34-page instruction manual. About half of it is a history of the Rangers, but the rest is crammed with game details.

There are, for example, three different terrain types; temperate (like Central Europe), desert (heat increases fatigue) and Arctic (lakes are covered with thin ice). Missions range from simply destroying a munitions depot and photographing secret aircraft to freeing hostages. Extra points are given for the amount of damage inflicted, but on several missions stealth is essential. Each mission has a rigid time limit, after which the aircraft sent to pick you up leaves for home. To get to the pick-up point you ' can walk (restoring lost energy), crawl (especially in ditches to avoid being seen) or run (draining energy). Modes are switched between by keys and there's a useful keyboard overlay. Also selected by keys are weapons including a rifle, hand grenade, LAW rocket and time bombs. A cursor, fixed at the point the ranger is facing, helps aim these. If you're hit yourself, a first aid kit can remove one injury - take three untreated hits and you're dead. Extra ammunition, and first aid kits, can be picked up by supply canisters you drop over the combat zone at the start of the game.

This is, potentially, an excellent game with a first-class mix of strategy and arcade action. Unfortunately every time you die you must reload the mission you're on. When you're just getting started this is exceptionally irritating, especially as the multiload is otherwise excellent, clearly showing what's either loading or passing by. Once you become better at the game, and can survive longer, the problem is obviously reduced. In fact, the easier missions can soon be completed with a bit of patience and planning. (There is an option to increase their difficulty.) Successive missions then build up a cumulative high score until you lose your life. Graphics, by RoboCop's Dawn Drake, are generally good and scrolling is fairly smooth -sound is minimal however. An innovative and original game this is well worth considering.

STUART ... 84%

THE ESSENTIALS
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: well-drawn sprites and fairly-detailed monochrome landscapes
Sound: quiet, informative effects
Options: definable keys. Choice of mission and difficulty

CRITICISM

'My first few attempts at Airborne Ranger were rapidly terminated by either enemy troops, gun turrets or landmines. But once I'd learned stealth with a knife gets you further than blasting everything in sight, I finally found some success. After that, trying to complete the other missions was quite compelling. Presentation is effective, with some nice monochrome graphics. Although my first feelings towards Airborne Ranger were ones of frustration, a bit of time and effort does pay off. A game which needs careful thought as well as great firepower is revealed.' MARK ... 82%

'Mmm ... an interesting twist on the Commando theme. The multiload is, of course, simply inexcusable but the rest of the game is quite good; killing the enemy and ducking into a nearby trench is mildly addictive. A good game for a while but not up to the usual MicroProse standards.' NICK ... 80%

General Rating: A very competent and unusual simulation which has long-lasting appeal.

78%
77%
45%
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82%

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LOST IN THE FOREST?

Drop your supplies over the areas where you're likely to need them.

Stay in the trenches as much as possible.

Remember supplies weigh you down, increasing fatigue.

Use rockets to destroy large enemy Installations even when they're off screen.

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Air-dropping supplies over the enemies' fortifications.

Rushing a machine gun nest on yet another special mission.