At last. 128 owners can take a Cobra Mk III for a spin in Firebird's new version of its classic Elite trading and combat strategy game.
The new version uses the same plot and trading missions as before but the graphics and action have been improved. You start the game docked at the space station in the Lave system. Short-range scanners tell you where your fuel can take you and a trading list gives information on the prices of goods you can acquire on the planet of your choice.
You are a trader, of course, and the aim of the game is still to buy from one planet and sell at a profit on another and you still take part in speedily fought space battles in glorious 3D white on black.
On the 128 version. Firebird has included three special missions and to become an 'Elite' you must kill 6,000 ships, which seems an almost impossible task.
Firebird has also incorporated a couple of novel features into the new version. The first stops you from using the famous bug at the start of the game to amass thousands of credits in a matter of seconds.
The company has also made some concessions to players who find it difficult to stay alive before and after hyperspace travel from one planet to another. Just leave the space station in Lave - don't touch the movement controls - and slowdown.
Select a new hyperspace destination, pull the joystick up to loop-the-loop and come back on a heading for the station. As you re-enter the station press hyperspace and you'll be transported automatically to your new destination. This feature doesn't work with all of the planets - you may crash into a station if you pick the wrong one.
Otherwise the usual rules for playing Elite apply. You can select your moral class - you can be good or bad - and become involved in battles between space police and pirates if you become a rogue, trading in drugs and other illegal substances. You should be thoroughly wary of any ship which hoves into sight. There are nine major types some of which will require more laser blasts than others to destroy, or even be impervious to your missiles.
In the old Elite ships such as Vipers appeared from nowhere. More attention to detail in the new version means that ships appear from the hatches of space stations and, if you wait around long enough, you can knock them off as they exit.
You get a few credits - the universal monetary unit - for bumping off other ships if they're owned by pirates but the mega-credits are made in trade. The type of goods available on a planet depends upon geological environment, level of civilisation and type of administration, and you need to take these three aspects into consideration when you sell on a planet. For instance, you could sell computers to a culturally dormant society at a huge profit.
Elite is still as gripping as when it was first released. The shear volume of detail included - the histories of hundreds of races, details of planetary geometry, culture and government - make it still the most complex arcade strategy game ever devised.
Reviewer: John Gilbert
Re-release of a stunning arcade simulation. The yard-stick by which to measure other strategy games.