Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Fighter Pilot'

Rating:4 User: Matt_B

After Psion's Flight Simulation had set the early running for the genre, Fighter Pilot was the first game to come along and offer some serious competition to it.

And serious it was, in that instead of a light aircraft in the earlier game you got to fly a supersonic jet powered F-15. However, unlike many later flight simulations, this is no glorified shoot 'em up. Instead, you've got to put in some serious training just to land and take off again, let alone get to the stage where you can take part in aerial combat.

In terms of realism it gives the Psion game a good run for its money too. There's a reasonable attempt to model the effects of the different flight surfaces and the controls respond in a semi-analogue fashion where the longer you hold down a key the more severe the response is, allowing you to perform delicate adjustments with a series of short taps. This is in contrast to later simulations like Spitfire 40 and the Microprose games where you bank in obvious 15 degree increments.

When you finally get around to it, air to air combat is a tricky affair. You've got to set your flight computer to the right mode, locate your opponent on the map and fly to the right altitude. Once you've managed that you can locate them visually and manoeuvre into position to fire your cannons. This is by no means easy, and there's a training mode where the enemy aircraft fly straight and level which is worth using to get the hang of it before you take on an enemy that'll try to fight back. Strangely, for a simulation of a modern jet fighter, there are no air to air missiles, which seems something of an omission.

Visually, it's not really up there with Psion's game which had some lakes dotted about for scenery. All you get, aside from the runways, are the occasional square or pattern of dots. The cockpit and map graphics are nice, but that doesn't really make up for the Spartan visuals outside the plane.

On the whole, like Psion's game, it's one that appeals more to those who want a realistic feel to their flight simulators, rather than the mission-oriented combat that would typify later games. Digital Integration themselves would later release F-16 Combat Pilot, which did a similar job on the 16-bit machines and was itself back-ported to the Spectrum.