Arcade flight sim from FEDNET Software. Reviewed by Rob Gibson.
Note: This review was originally written for the Illusions disc magazine well before Acorn Arcade was born, so we make no guarantees that this game will work on more recent machines. Many thanks to Richard Goodwin, Phil Coleman and Rob Gibson for allowing us to reproduce this review on the site.
Trying to define exactly what Star Fighter 3000 is is a bit tricky, but essentially it's a very slick mix of 3D vector graphics with a bitmap landscape that looks like a pretty good flight sim. However, it certainly doesn't suffer from the usual problem of endless flying around trying to find some action.
What do you mean, 'whoops'?
As with FedNet's previous outing, Stunt Racer 2000, the idea is that you're doing incredibly dangerous things to satisfy the bloodlust of a TV audience. Like SR2000 you can make money through various deeds, and use these at a shop to upgrade your vehicle, which in this case an extremely manoeuvrable futuristic fighter 'plane. Unlike SR2000 this is not a Fourth Dimension production, and it shows - there's actually a half decent loading screen, some fairly good tunes and although presentation is still not quite up to the standard of PC and Amiga games, at least they're not using the system font any more. But what really matters is that there's plenty of action. There's a few training missions to warm you up which are pretty easy, then you get thrown into the deep end with an extreme number of enemy installations and craft all bent on making sure the only way you'll appear on TV again is in a repeat.
Some of the better players out there might even get to see the cool docking sequence in full
Hey good lookin'
You view your ship from outside, and can pan the camera around to give the best view, or you can switch to views from friendly or enemy ships, or even from the point of view of a homing missile as it wings its way to deliver several megatons of high explosives up the rear end of some unsuspecting bad guy (or fairly innocent block of flats, as the case may be). All the targets and scenery are drawn using the familiar vector graphics style, but with for instance mountain ranges that actually do look like a bunch of mountains complete with snow caps rather than green pyramids as with most other flight sims; apart from these, you can blow pretty much anything up, from two different types of tree right up to aircraft carriers (complete with aircraft coming off them) and orbiting space stations. The floor is done in bitmaps to get away from that too-smooth look, and can show various landscapes such as land or water, snow, a moonscape, and a deathstar, plus details like roads, runways, advertising slogans, landing lights etc. You can even blow all of this up, although you don't get any points for it; for instance, firing at land will cause the grass to burn, glowing orange then fading to leave a large black patch; water turns white, before settling back down to blue. The horizon is made up of large bands of colour to simulate sunsets etc., with various pictures of planets seen hazily in the sky, but if you fly straight up you can go into the upper atmosphere the horizon shrinks, the sky turns black, millions of bitmap stars come out in various colours, and you can see planets, moons and suns. It's all very pretty and a lot of effort has gone into adding some great touches, but there's not much time for sight-seeing.
Err... I think I got it.
There's never a dull moment with this 100-plus level game, and some of the missions are much too hard to complete on your own, but never fear! they've kindly allowed a few of your mates to tag along and wreak even more havoc! There's an intelligent formation facility where you can have a number of computer-controlled wingmen following you, which at your command (or even if they just feel that there's a threat great enough to warrant breaking formation) will break off and attack enemy air targets with both lasers and missiles. When they've done they'll politely ask if they can rejoin the formation, or if they get into too much trouble they will ask for your assistance. Once back in formation you can go and attack ground targets and your squadron will fire with you, enabling you to take out large targets much quicker. Being in charge of ten planes at once is great fun!
Some of the lads lookin' for a rumble - just one of the formations given to you to aid you in your quest for maximum viewing figures
Your weapons include lasers, air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground missiles, plus extras like free-fall cluster bombs on certain missions. Once the missiles are selected any target stupid enough to get in front of you will be highlighted in orange or green, and pressing the fire button will send a fire-and-forget greeting right down the enemy's throat, complete with smoke trail; you can have loads of them in the air at once, which is handy as some targets take a lot of beating. Collision detection is excellent; missiles can be shot down, planes can smash into each other or crash into mountains, and if you're hiding behind a building enemy guns will actually destroy their own property in their eagerness to blow you away. One of the best features of this though is when you blow up a ground target that has a lot of close neighbours; any target blown up will cause a mushroom cloud of dots, plus lots of large pieces of shrapnel will fly up in the air, and when these pieces come down they might smash into another target, causing this to explode which will cause dots and chunks to fly and so on and so on - you can take out whole cities like this! When taking out major installations, you get bombarded with hundreds of laser beams whizzing around, which if you fly quick enough won't actually hit you - it's just like the end sequence in the Eighties film version of Flash Gordon.
Some of these great features do of course have their drawbacks, the main one being speed. Star Fighter 3000 plays well enough on an Arm 2 computer, as long as the quality has been turned right down (which is done automatically), but when you blow something up close to the game practically stops - not that this is a big problem, as the screen will be so full of flying debris you won't be able to see what's going on anyway. Of course and Arm 3 computer is much better, but if you turn the quality up to full then you start to get the same problem. Lower quality means that it's harder to find things as they will only appear when they're fairly close. Generally though the speed is pretty good, the 'plane flipping round so fast it would probably break the neck of any human pilot on board.
Extremely good fun to play as there's never a dull moment, but it could be a bit too hard for younger gamesters. Generally well presented with a professional looking manual. Could have had a save game facility, as games can last a long time and although there's a password facility to skip levels you lose most of your money and all of your upgrades and score. Definitely should have you coming back for more. For once a good non-conversion - buy it NOW!