Friday, August 19, 2005

AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder Review

AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder PC, developed and published by Divo Games.
The Good: Tons of weapons, constant action, cooperative play, tremendous graphics and effects, challenging
The Not So Good: Low replay value, repetitious for some
What say you? Innovative arsenal and fabulous graphics make for a satisfying vertical scrolling shooter: 6/8

POORLY WRITTEN INTRODUCTION
Scrolling shooters have had a long and distinguished presence in PC gaming. Since the first computers were built that could handle the graphical load, action-packed scrolling shooters have delivered non-stop thrills for fans of the genre. I can remember playing Apogee’s Raptor back in the early days of shareware, and have a special place in my heart for arcade games that feature blowing lots of stuff up.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND
AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder features very good graphics for a top-down perspective. All of the units in the game are detailed, and there are some high-quality lighting effects when enemies explode or weapons are fired. The game does feature 3-D models of all the units in the game, as you can see them from various viewpoints while turning. There are some very satisfying moments when the screen fills with the destroyed metal of opposing foes. I can’t see scrolling games getting much more detailed than AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder. The sounds are very basic, as you would expect: sounds of weapon fire and military-themed background music are found within the game. The sound in AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder doesn’t add nor subtract from the gameplay.

ET AL.
AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder features 24 operations (or missions) to play through, each of which needs to be unlocked by completing the previous mission. You are given two goals in the game: survive, and shoot as much as possible to increase your score. Your helicopter is equipped with three weapons: a primary gun, cannon, or laser with infinite ammunition, secondary missiles of various varieties (small, heat-seeking), and wonderful power-ups, with are very powerful low-use weapons that can level everything in your path. Using the power-ups can bring a smile across your face, as the seemingly daunting task of eliminating tens of enemies at once can be reduced to rubble. The game features five difficulty levels, and the game can become quite a challenge on even the moderate settings. You are given a set number of lives per mission (usually three to four), and respawn at the same location with the same score assuming you have at least one life left. As you progress through the game, you are given access to different helicopters that trade more speed for less armor. If you find that you can’t beat the game alone, cooperative play on the same computer is available. You can set up two separate control sets for each player, and rack up the points together. An interesting sidenote to the cooperative play is that you can run into your partner and move them (rubbin’s racin’), so some coordination is needed. Since you can use the mouse (which is very nice, by the way) and the keyboard to play, you can set up cooperative play and still have some room to maneuver. It may seem like on the surface that the gameplay is fairly straightforward, as you basically need to hold down the fire button and dodge the incoming rounds. Some strategy is found in AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder, however, as you are limited in the number of missiles and power-ups you can receive, and not all bonuses that spring up on the map can be picked up at once. This makes saving your more powerful weapons for the more powerful enemies important.

IN CLOSING
Overall, I really liked AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder. At first, I sarcastically thought, “Great, another helicopter shooter.” But after I started playing, the advantages of this game over others became apparent. The graphics were nice, but the variety of weapons not really seen in other games works to the game’s credit. Cooperative play is handled very well, and giving the option to control the game with the mouse is an added bonus. AirStrike II: Gulf Thunder is a very fun arcade scrolling shooter, and is recommended to anyone who is interested in this type of game. The only possible features that are missing are on-line cooperative play and a map editor, but those are easily forgotten as you have too much fun blowing stuff up in the desert.