Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Carrier Command'

Rating:4 User: Matt_B

Carrier Command was the big hit of 1988 on the 16-bit Atari ST and Commodore Amiga computers; a mixture of strategy and simulation where you command an aircraft carrier along with it's wing of Manta fighter planes and Walrus amphibious assault vehicles. The game's main selling point was its 3D graphics which were fast and detailed for the time.

The plot is simple, but the game is complex; your carrier is up against a rogue computer controlled one and you've got to take it out by any means possible, whilst managing your supply network across a chain of islands, and extending it by capturing enemy ones. Your Manta fighters can carry missiles, bombs and lasers, and the Walrus AAVs, although capable of carrying weapons, are largely given the job of capturing islands and establishing bases. Whilst there are autopilot controls for sending the assorted vehicles to particular locations, it's totally hands on when it comes to combat giving a balance of twitch and strategy skills.

As could only be expected the Spectrum version of the game was inevitably cut down, although considerably less so than the C64 one which was essentially turned into a 2D scrolling shooter. However, the 3D graphics survived more or less intact on the Spectrum version. Reduced to monochrome it was never going to look as good as the original, although the use of shaded textures helped it retain a reasonable amount of clarity. Perhaps most obvious is the slower frame rate; still not too bad for a 3.5MHz 8-bit computer doing the work of an 8MHz 16-bit one.

Elsewhere it's a pretty faithful translation, with the same basic strategy and objectives. You can either play a cat and mouse game to try and take out the enemy carrier's base by continually cutting its lines of supply, or try to assault it head on; the latter option can be very tricky as it's a lot more powerful than yours and can use all its weapons and Mantas at once.

In some respects the gameplay is even slightly improved on the Spectrum. The gaps between the islands, are smaller and it took less time to travel between them. Some of the brute force strategies for capturing an island - such as standing off and blasting away at the command centre with cruise missiles - are no longer possible, meaning that you had to use more skillful means.

So, on the whole it's an excellent game and the Spectrum version sensibly makes the most out of what the machine is capable of. However, I'd still recommend trying out the Amiga and Atari ST versions to appreciate it at its best.