It's taken eleven months of sheer hard work and programming, but it's finally here. Despite what certain other magazines claim (spit), SU brings you the first complete, definitive, review of Rainbird's Carrier Command, the sixteen-bit epic now converted to the Spectrum. And boy. has it been worth the wait!
Carrier Command is a paradise for the wargamer or the arcade fan, because it presents you with a complex strategic challenge played out in an all-action format. Using filled and vector graphics to represent a totally realistic world, the gamer puts you in command of an enormous aircraft carrier, the ACC Epsilon. Its sister ship has been stolen by a terrorist group called Stanza - your task is to stop them taking over a strategically vital chain of 32 islands. You must use all the resources of the Epsilon to defeat the enemy carrier, the Omega.
When Carrier Command appeared on the Atari ST it was hailed as the best sixteen-bit game yet; amazingly, the Spectrum conversion comes pretty close to the original, but was not surprisingly it's 128K.
Written by Realtime Software (Starstrike, Starglider) it scores well in all categories. First off, the graphics; they're fast, smooth and accurate. The game is fully icon/joystick driven. The centre of the screen shows you views from your vehicles - the flightdeck of the carrier, your Manta jets or your Walrus amphibians - while the border is surrounded by icons which access the function screens. Here you can arm your vehicles, monitor repairs, examine charts, arrange supplies and check your strategic position.
The sound is pretty amazing too; the programmers have obviously tried to mimic as closely as possible the sound of the Amiga and ST versions, and believe it or not, in some places it's identical (Are you sure about this, Tony? - JD). Certainly this is true of the engine noise made by the Manta, and the explosion effects (Oh, the buzz and the boom - JD).
Fortunately the gameplay has survived intact too. The aim is to take control of all 32 of the islands in the chain, and to do this you will inevitably come into conflict with Stanza's forces. Islands can either be friendly (if you already control them), neutral, or hostile; your computerised map tells you which is which, and keeps track of your vital supply links. The options screen lets you choose a more arcadey or more strategic version of the game.
To take over an island you have to equip a Walrus lander, launch it from the carrier and set up a command centre. You then have to defend it against enemy attack using your Mantas. Just the Manta flying routine would have been enough to make a decent game, but this is just part of the action; you also have to control the Walrus landers, the carrier's laser, automatic defence drones - the list is endless.
To take over an island which is under enemy control you have to destroy their command centre with a laser attack or virus bomb. You can then move supplies closer to your carrier - after all, three Mantas, three Walruses and a carrierload of fuel aren't going to last you very long.
What can I say? A masterful piece of programming, one of the finest products I have ever seen on the Spectrum, and a game which is on a par with Elite
Author: Realtime Software
Price: £14.99 cass, £15.95 disk
Memory: 128K only
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
"------------------!" (So brilliant, I'm speechless!)