FAIR STRIKE       preview by Matt "LIONPRIDE" Starace

Developer: G5 Software
Publisher: Buka Entertainment

Let me start by saying this is NOT Red Shark, folks. Fair Strike is leaps and bounds above G5's disappointing first attempt at a helicopter sim. Fair Strike proves to give Comanche 4 more than a run for it's money ... and this after only playing the Alpha version.

As with any DEMO or ALPHA version of a game, some features and bugs seemed to stick out more than others. The loading times were a a bit long ... even frustratingly so at times. A G5 spokeman ensured me that the load times will be reduced somewhat with the retail version. Controller editing was a bit difficult and near impossible in some cases. I still use my ole' game-port Combat Stick and pedals though.

From the beginning I was able to see the love that went into this sim/game. The GUI was functional as well as artistic. The breakdown of the menus allowed someone like myself to jump right into their first mission without even having to read the documentation first. Of course, that came later. Selecting missions is done on a sort of "tree" theory, where you can pick whichever missions are listed in the "tree". A bit clunky there, but still functional. The debriefs in the ALPHA were mostly text with some unfinished voice overs. No biggie. I was able to get the objectives from the visuals and text on the bottom. The GUI for the helicopter and weapons selection was excellent. Reminiscent of LB2's interface where you see the helicopter and then a list of ordinance that you can choose from. A brief description is given with each weapon. I thought the camo-selection feature was one of the coolest features I'd seen in a while. Some had 4-5 different camos, ranging from Urban to Jungle. Probably more useful during multiplayer, since no helicopter sim has been able to prove that the changing of camo hinders enemy AI from seeing you.

Thank Goodness ... I started on the ground for each mission. No engine start-up feature though. But that didn't bother me in the least. Flying these helicopters were a bit weird. Not much variation between their flight models in this ALPHA. At first I used my mouse for many of the flights. I found it actually easier to fly this way than with the stick from time to time. Especially in the KA52. Trying to cycle through weapons and keep her airborne was tough with all the action. The action packed "arcade-style" missions will keep you busy with tons of targets of opportunity. The idea of having 6 helicopters to choose from (The AH-64A Apache, RAH-66 Comanche, PAH-2 Tiger, Ka-50 Hokum, Ka-52 Alligator and the Ka-58 Black Ghost) and to be able to vary your flight group is an idea you don't see to often. A welcome site here.

The graphics are par with Gunship and Comanche 4 ... all wrapped into the same game. The cockpits were simply amazing. The detail was well done. Definitely using the abilities of the high end computers of today. It's nice to see a modeled cockpit that you can actually read the analog dials in case of a HUD failure. Most other sims have analog dials, but you have to use the games' zoom features to read em. In Fair Strike, you can use the displays and still see outside. With the open fields of view provided, I was able to see all the action unfold as I blew the crap outta my enemies.

Getting back to the graphics; You have to see the explosions and collateral damage to believe em. debris flies everywhere. As I was making an approach on a village toward my objective, I popped-up to get a "site" on the area. They opened fire with small arms as I ducked behind the hill. I could see and hear the dirt kicking up from their shots that were hitting the hill side, leaving my mouth gapping open with awe. During a Jungle mission, I had to take-out a couple of patrol boats in the harbor. The commotion caused from missiles I had shot made it near impossible to track them as they jockeyed for position. The detail of water spraying everywhere and sporadic fires from their damage was pure chaos. I loved it!

Some previews won't mention the things we take for granted. Such as the MFDs that most sims/games have pretty much "mastered". Been a while since I've seen a bad one. Fair Strike is no different. The MFDs were well done. The DTV camera views were very detailed and useful. The map-views were excellent as well, marking each target with a red symbol ... ala C4 and Gunship.

There's not a whole lot to complain about. This was an ALPHA version after all. The linear game play is comparable to Comanche 4 and Gunship. You have to pass the mission to progress. Not exactly what the hard-core simmers are hoping for, but sure to be a popular Multiplayer-Deathmatch game on sites such as the GAMEZONE and GAMESPY. G5 is well on it's way to making the helicopter sim to replace Comanche vs. Hokum. Just a dynamic campaign engine is all it needs ... and maybe a bit better flight model.

G5 developers say that the realism settings make the flight model more believable. It was slight ... but barely noticeable in this ALPHA. G5 tells us In the present state (beta2) flight models have significant differences - especially between the coaxial helos and traditional scheme, and of course all crafts have weight and speed differences

The missile sound effects were more sci-fi than realistic and the outside noise seemed a bit too quiet. The BETA versions already have more sounds. There was absolutley no radio chatter heard during my gameplay with the ALPHA version, But final release will indeed have this feature.

There wasn't much in the way of radar modes. The arcade-style map views coupled with the [TAB] key to toggle through targets got old.

I ran this sim/game on a P4 2Gig system with 128MB RAM and a 128MB NVidia G4 card. It stuttered from time to time when approaching buildings. This is definatley a power-hungry sim/game. Maybe some graphics tweaks before release are planned. This gives me a good reason to drop some more cash on RAM ... :).

G5 spokesman tell us that the game is already MOD friendly, because it has open architecture - all the game scripts are in text format. Example, you may change the amount of rocket damage simply by editing text script with Wordpad or similar editor. This is a BIG PLUS for the sim/games' longevity.

Overall ... G5 has a winner here. Definitely worth the money that we see on some of the higher priced games of today. I have to say that the graphics and gameplay so far warrant an 8 outta 10. Mostly due to it's high-paced multiplayer promise. This sort of gaming keeps Comanche 4 and Gunship alive today, even after 2 years.

Specs Required : Pentium III 800 MHz (Pentium 4 1.4 GHz recommended) / 700 Mb HDD space (1000 Mb recommended) / 256 Mb RAM (512 Mb RAM recommended) / Video: Geforce2 MX (Geforce3 or higher recommended)



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