Fighter Pilot

Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

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Digital Integration
48K disk £12.95
48K cassette £9.95
1 player

Already a huge hit on the Spectrum, FIGHTER PILOT from Digital Integration has now been converted to the Atari. Normally, this wouldn't be anything to get excited about - conversions from other computers are usually pretty naff - but the programmers have obviously taken the trouble to delve into the inner workings of the Atari to produce a truly excellent software package.

First a quick word about the 'Lens-lock' - a software protection device which comes with the program. Lens-lock is a plastic lens which is folded and placed against the TV screen in order to read a security code which you must then authenticate to play the game. As a security device it is quite novel. I found it easy enough to use but if your TV picture is fuzzy or your eyesight less than perfect, you may well experience a few problems. It definitely serves it purpose though as the program is totally useless to anyone without it!

FIGHTER PILOT is a flight-simulator based around the F-15 EAGLE, USAF air-superiority jet-fighter. A colourful 'Options' screen kicks things off and gives you the choice of various game options ranging from Landing Practice or Flight Training right through to Air to Air Combat. Other options such as Crosswinds & Turbulence and Blind Landings help to make the simulation as realistic as possible and you can even change the ratings of the enemy pilots - trainee, squadron leader, instructor or ace - in order to test your combat skills to the limit.

Once into the simulation itself, the top three-quarters of the screen is taken up by the view from the cockpit window with the remaining quarter representing the instrument panel. The panel is clear, well laid out and contains all the instruments you'll need to pilot the plane successfully - airspeed, fuel, thrust, roll, pitch, altitude, flight computer, ammo, etc.

You fly the plane using the joystick but keyboard inputs are required for the more important aspects of flight control. You can even call up a detailed map of the ground terrain by pressing the appropriate key!

In combat mode it's your job to defend four airfields from enemy attack. A target cursor is super-imposed on the screen to help you line up the enemy aircraft, but shooting them down is no pushover. In this simulation the emphasis is on 'Speed' and your jet fighter responds quickly and instantly - sometimes too instantly - to the controls and a delicate touch is needed at all times it you wish to avoid rolling upside down! It takes some getting used to.

The graphics are superb and the whole simulation has a tremendous feeling of both speed and realism. It beats the heck out of all those boring 747 simulators which give the impression that you're at the controls of a flying tortoise and are good only as a cure for chronic insomnia. Once you've flown an F-15 you won't look at a 747 again!!

Inevitably, this program will undergo comparison with Microprose's STRIKE EAGLE as they are similar in concept. STRIKE EAGLE is the slightly more complex of the two but it concentrates more on the combat side of things and is, therefore, more arcade-orientated than FIGHTER PILOT, which is a true flight-simulator in every sense of the word.

Looking at FIGHTER PILOT purely as a flight-simulator alone, there is no question that it is the very best available for the Atari so far (and a good deal cheaper than most of the others). Digital Integration are to be congratulated for getting it right first time. Let's hope there's more to follow……..