The game that's been causing Commodore (spit spit!) owners to emit grunts of delight for the last year or so has finally been converted to the Spectrum. Yes, at last Gunship is finished, and now we can experience the joys of some real serious Commie-bashing.
In case you hadn't heard, Gunship is a helicopter simulation, and a pretty comprehensive one at that. It's along the same sort of lines as DI's Tomahawk, but a little bit more complicated, to say the least. For a start, one glance at the 84 page manual will be enough to put many people off. But don't be one of them, 'cos Gunship should be at the top of your Christmas present list.
Having fought your way through the box-load of bumph that accompanies the game, (the box would be great for carrying groceries home from Waitrose once you've finished with it), selected which of the two tapes is the one you're after and loaded it up you'll be able to start the pre-flight checks.
It's not just a case of jumping into the seat, switching on the ignition and taking to the skies like they do in Airwolf. A lot of options need tweaking first, such as scenario, weather conditions, enemy skill and simulation level (simplified or realistic). Once you've done that you'd be advised to read the mission briefing and intelligence report. Finally a few adjustments to the chopper's armaments and you're ready to go.
Actually getting off the ground is the next obstacle. You'll need to wade through pages of explanation of flying principles and equipment descriptions before you can get onto the meaty stuff: switching on the engines. Then, with your joystick between your knees and a cigar between your lips, engage the rotors, twiddle with the collective and you're flying.
The improvements over previous simulations quickly become apparent. The ground is covered in buildings, rivers, roads and, of course, those dastardly Commies. Mountains are property filled in, so there's none of that wire-frame rubbish we've been used to.
Anyway, you're flying along, minding your own business, when suddenly your VDU flashes up "Target". Press fire and a close-up of the target, be it friend or foe, appears on the screen. Yeurch! Time to reach for the manual again.
Your AH-64 Apache is armed with four types of weapons. Firstly there's your basic chain gun. This is aimed automatically by the TADS system, so all you have to do is press fire when the target is in range. Then you've got unguided rockets, Sidewinders for knocking down enemy helicopters and Hellfire guided missiles for those really tricky targets.
It's not all fun, though. In your briefing you're given the location of a primary target which must be found and destroyed. It's normally one of the enemy bases which are dotted around the map, and if you manage to reduce it to rubble and get safely back to base you'll be given a medal, promoted and set out on another even harder mission.
The missions vary from training nice and safely in America, to full blown combat against the Reds in Europe. I couldn't even get past the second mission, described as "Easy" in the briefing, it's going to be a real long-term challenge to work up the ranks to a Colonel with a Congressional Medal of Honour.
Obviously Gunship is only going to suit the sort of people who beat Elite while they're waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of tea and eat Starglider for breakfast. However, persevere and the rewards are worth it. Totally compulsive and thunderin' good value!
The ultimate flight simulator. It'll take a lot of practice, but puts the rest to shame.
No, not the interior of the USS Enterprise but your control panel. In the middle's the view out of the cockpit. Below this is the VDU which normally displays a scrolling map, but also gives close-ups of targets and messages. On the left, the fuel and throttle indicators. Hang on! They're both on zero! Oh shh...
This is the armaments depo, where you load up you Apache's wings with the hardware you'll need to wipe out the enemy. Ammo for you ultra-powerful chain gun is worth having in large quantities. It's automatically aimed at the target you select, and will dispose of almost anything on the battlefield.