In the first of a semi regular series of articles, I look back at fondly remembered games throughout my life and over the many gaming systems that I have owned, hopefully sharing some fond memories with the readers here on GGUK and encouraging you to share your thoughts and memories of the same games in the comments section.
For the first article in the series I chose not one game which I fondly remember, but a trilogy of games from a series of five, the first three from the Strike series, namely Desert Strike: Return to The Gulf, Jungle Strike and Urban Strike. These games were released annually from ‘92 through to ‘94 and although the gameplay and presentation over the three games in question remained more or less the same, each one brought some new small feature to the series, ensuring they were continually fresh and exciting to play.
So over the five or so years before the original PlayStation came into my life, the majority of my gaming was carried out on the Sega Megadrive and it was on this console that I played and fell in love with these three titles from the series. The games had the player primarily taking on the role of an attack helicopter pilot and was expanded on through the second and third games to include land vehicles and even controlling the pilot himself on the ground. But more on that later. The first game in the series, Desert Strike: Return to The Gulf had the player flying an AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter fighting in the Gulf, set a short time after the first real life conflict in the area. It has the player returning to the desert combat zone when a fictional General Kilbaba has his mind set on beginning World War III. The player, as the combat pilot in question, is tasked with various missions in turn clearing the way for the ground troops to move in.
Stages in all three games played out over pretty large sized maps throughout which there was more than one objective. These could be anything from the basic destruction of a target to the rescuing of a prisoner of war or providing cover for an important friendly target. The fact that the missions were all played out over the same map means that they could technically be played in any order the player saw fit. There was however a flaw to this course of action in that carrying out the missions in the order they were given to you was a whole lot easier due to the fact that the areas with missions you were yet to be presented with, although achievable were a whole lot tougher due to them being within a “danger zone” where enemy fire had a much greater range and dished out much greater damage, making them much more deadly. This ensured it was always a better idea to stick to what you were tasked with doing at anyone point. But the fact that you were offered the choice to carry out missions when you liked was welcome and in general not a very common occurrence in the majority of games back in those days.
Giving the game and the players a challenge was the fact that armour, fuel and ammunition for all three weapons on your helicopter – machine guns, hellfire rockets and missiles – were all limited. This meant that when you were running low you had to search for more of whatever you needed, hover over it and winch it up before continuing on your merry way. Running out of ammunition was not the biggest problem as you could always back off and rearm. Running our of either fuel or armour however would see your helicopter going down, resulting in a life lost. So it was always within your best interests to avoid any such occasions.
The second Game, Jungle Strike, followed the exact same gameplay style with the player starting out in the RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter. I say start out in as what the second game brought to the series was the ability to take control of a wider selection of vehicles, both air and ground based, including a hovercraft and F-117 Nighthawk fighter plane. This time the story has the player fighting against the son of General Kilbaba from the first game, who has teamed up with a drug baron Carlos Ortega, both of whom have a score to settle with the American government. The majority of the combat in this game takes place in and around the jungles of Cuba. Despite this fact though, both the first and the last missions are actually set around The White House and Washington DC and included such tasks as protecting the presidential motorcade. The missions within the game remain pretty much as they were in the first game, only this time, as mentioned before, other vehicles were introduced, most interestingly the land based vehicles, primarily the hovercraft. These were used for reaching places more accessible from the ground than the air. There were alsoÂ small sections in the game where the player takes control of a motorcycle, but the land based play was mostly hovercraft based.
The third game in the series’ first trilogy, Urban Strike, began like the previous game in a location not fitting of the title. Instead the action kicks off over Hawaii before moving to cover the United States Of America and North America. The game was set in 2001, which at the time of the games release was in the future, and had you this time fighting at first a cult leader, H.R. Malone who is planning on overthrowing the US government with a super weapon, but in a little twist the real bad guy of the piece turns out to be Carlos Ortega, the drug baron thought to be dead from the conflict in the second game. Again the missions are pretty much as to be expected, following in the footsteps of the first two games, with very little changing and quite rightly so. As the age old saying goes, if it is not broken, then do not fix it. However like the second game this one also brought a little something new to the table. This time these new features involved, much like game before it, land based segments of the missions, only not in vehicles which up until this point had been at the centre of the game, but on foot as you take control of the pilot exploring exterior and interior locations armed with a rifle and rocket launcher, giving the game an interesting new take on things. A strange fact about this the third game in the series which is still discussed on some websites was that it included a scene, which if implemented in a game today would be hugely controversial, but being released in 1994 the developers were never to know about events of the future. A section of the game where the twin towers in New York are the centre of a terrorist attack, and with the game being set in 2001, it really was an eerie glimpse into the future.
All three of these games were presented in a two dimensional isometric view with graphics which at the time had to be said were pretty impressive for the console they were running on. The controls likewise were pretty impressive, giving you complete control over your helicopter – accelerating, reversing, turning left and right, as well as strafing which led to much more accurate firing of the weapons. The handling of the vehicles was surprisingly well done for a game back then, although the helicopters remained at a constant altitude negating the need for one more set of controls and ensuring the player had one less thing to worry about and could therefore keep their mind more on the action side of things. The Helicopters also actually carried some momentum, giving them a slightly more realistic feel rather than just stop and go handling and ultimately I think this is why the developers chose a hovercraft for the primary land based vehicle in the first sequel, as the handling of both were of a pretty similar nature.
The appeal of these games to myself and the many other fans of the series was, I think, that they were primarily action shooter games only on a slightly more immersive scale. Along with the larger play maps came a wide variety of missions for players to undertake and this meant that not only was it a fun to play action game but, unlike many others back then, there was a good story and structure to it also. All of these details coming together make it one of the more enjoyable collections of games from back in the early to mid nineties. The series did spawn a further two games on the original PlayStation later in the decade – Soviet Strike and Nuclear Strike – showing just how popular the games were as it carried over onto the latest console. Although I also played and enjoyed both of these games, it was still the first three titles on the Sega Megadrive detailed above that held the fondest memories of the series for me and I am sure many others that were gaming back then. With that I bring to a close my memories of these games and I encourage you all reading this to comment on these views, sharing any similar memories you may have yourself on the Strike series of games, as I would be most interested in hearing them.