RED SHARK - reviewed by Carl Hillegeist


System requirements:
Celeron 350 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, DX7 4X CD-ROM, DirectX-compatible 3D video and sound cards.

To see where Buka might be headed with the upcomming sim Fair Strike, we decided to take a peek at where theyíve already been. We obtained a copy of Red Shark back in December. Things installed smoothly and I was thankful. I had limited documentation to bail me out had something gone awry.

Let me start by saying this is an arcade shooter. All of you simmers stop reading if you expected anything other than an arcade game. I donít mean to sound harsh; I just want to be clear on the subject. Arcade shooters have their place. How many of us ran out and bought Commanche 4 just to get a peek at those gorgeous graphics? We did it fully expecting ďjust another gameĒ from NovaLogic. From a gameplay standpoint, I would have to describe Red Shark to be somewhere in between Commanche 3 and Commanche 4.

Graphically, Iíd say this game is about 2 years behind in most areas. For a first attempt, it looks pretty darn good though. The helicopter model ( KA-50 ) is nicely done, as are some of the other models. What really stands out graphically is the trees. The trees pass by with a very fluid motion and afford much needed protection throughout the maps. If Longbow 2 had contained these trees, I would have thought Iíd died and gone to Heaven. The explosions look descent, the smoke is very convincing, and frame-rates never seem to suffer.

The sounds are somewhat generic. I had a hard time distinguishing different types of explosions. The in-game music ... just needs to be turned off.

As for flight modeling, forget it. There is none, plain and simple. No ground-effect, no lift effects, no vortex ring, no auto-rotation, nada. I knew this going in, so Iím not surprised, nor am I disappointed. What frustrated me most of all is the lack of controler options. Thatís right, you use the keyboard and the mouse exclusively. If anyone knows any different, please let us know and weíll stand corrected. Adding to the control frustration, there is no cockpit, or first-person view. At this point, I knew I was ďout on the programĒ. Iím just too accustomed to flying with a cockpit after all of these years. I did my best to fly around the 3 different types of terrain, looking for baddies and not having any difficulty finding them. Thatís a problem in itself. Enemy fire comes from all different directions, leaving you utterly confused as you try to get below the tree line. Threats are displayed on a little map, similar to Commanche 4. To my surprise, everything is destroyable and thereís plenty of evidence left on the ground, something that Strike Fighters could stand to learn from.

I counted 15 missions. Everything from destroying convoys to stopping paratroopers, you name it, all of the usual scenarios are included.Red Shark boasts 60 different types of ground installations. I saw several different types of ground units. Tanks, trucks, armor, guard-towers, Para-troopers, tents, and artillery, just to name a few. There is no shortage of targets, believe me. You get the opportunity to return fire with 2 types of missiles and a cannon, 250mm I think. One type of missile is guided while the other is not. I would designate the latter as a rocket personally. Thereís no shortage of ammo either, regardless of the difficulty setting. The run and shoot kiddies would love that.

If I had this on my Playstation 2 with some decent controls, Iíd be very entertained. I would give it a really good score if it were on the Playstation or X-Box. On a scale from 1 to 10, I have to say this would receive a 5 on my scale. Itís just not my cup of tea on a PC. ,One thing I would like to stress to everyone is that I saw no crashes to desktop or system freezes. That in itself says a bunch in todayís buggy, crash prone releases.

Do the shortcomings change my expectations for Fair Strike? Absolutely not. This was a very solid first effort on Bukaís behalf. If these guys give us a good flight model to accompany their already stunning visuals, we are going to be in store for a classic combat helo sim. They have already shown us that they are interested in what we would like to see.

Our wish list, on various forums, for American gun ships was given strong consideration and now our requests have been answered. We can expect to see the Apache, Commanche, and Blackhawk. This tells me a lot, considering that they were never intended to be included. The developers chose to add them for us, despite being so far into the development cycle. They also promise to go a little more hardcore with the scalable flight model. Now, with all of that said, Iím asking myself a question. Could I do a really deep review on Fair Strike? If itís what I believe it will be, Iíll bore you to tears with details. Iíll just need a cockpit, HOTAS, and a cold, refreshing beverage !

Reviewer System Specs:
P4 1.6 Ghz
512 MB PC 133 RAM
GeForce3 Ti 200
Sound Blaster Live! Value
Windows 98 SE