Computer Graphics Memory Disk Space Minimum 386SX/16 VGA 600K 2 MB Max/Rec. 486/33 Control: Keyboard Sound: Adlib, Sound Blaster, Roland LAPC-1/MT-32 Notes: Requires Tornado. A realistic minimum CPU requirement is probably a 386SX/25.
Digital Integration's DESERT STORM is an add-on scenario disk for their successful TORNADO flight simulator. Desert Storm is included as standard on the recently released CD-ROM version of Tornado. Although both add-in and CD-ROM have been available in Europe for some months, Desert Storm is (at the time of writing) still awaiting release in North America. This delay is, apparently, due to a change of distributor: whilst Tornado proper was (and is) distributed by Spectrum Holobyte, Desert Storm and the Tornado CD-ROM will be distributed by Trimark inc. The US CD-ROM will, apparently also omit the music tracks (from the Tornado music CD!) included on some of European Tornado CD-ROMs.
Desert Storm comes on a single floppy disk and installs directly over the existing Tornado hard-disk installation. Installation is entirely straight-forward but does entail the loss of existing pilots and partly completed campaigns. The existing installation of Tornado is automatically upgraded to the latest (1.0d) revision. This does, however, require a little more conventional memory to run than earlier revisions. Thus, if you're using a DOS configuration where Tornado just barely fits you may need to optimise a little to find the necessary space.
As its title suggests, Desert Storm extends the original Tornado game with a new warzone loosely based around the Gulf war. This provides 20 new pre- programmed missions along with Tornado's usual 3 levels of campaign play. The new warzone is not, however, just a new map and set of missions. Landscape and 3D object graphics have been entirely reworked for the new scenario. The new warzone approximates the geography of the region and is, of course, rendered in desert browns and yellows rather than the original warzone's `european' greens. Similarly, the frequents towns, factories and powerlines of the original scenarios have been replaced by open desert broken up by oil-fields, sand-dunes, bedouin encampments and similar paraphernalia.
Although the limitations of the Tornado graphics engine with respect to topography (narrow, steep, valleys are impossible) and map size (roughly 200 miles square) are noticeable, there are compensating strengths. The map is `dense' with many highly detailed 3D objects that are convincingly `arabian' in appearance. There are also plenty of minor objects, and gentle undulations in the scenery so that landscape feels `alive' and altitude is easily judged. The various vehicles and aircraft appearing in the game have also been thoroughly updated for the new scenario. Colour schemes have been adjusted for desert camoflage, and types not present in the Gulf have been replaced by those that were. For example, the advanced Mig-31 and Su-27, which the Iraqi's did not own, have been replaced by the older Mig-25 and Mirage F-1 (with flight models to match). Personally, I found it rather pleasant change to be able to come to grips with enemy interceptors in air to air missions that did NOT have a big maneuvering advantage over the Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant)!
Desert Storm also updates the wargaming engine that works out the course of campaigns in Tornado. In the original Tornado the wargaming engine almost always results in campaigns that resemble wars of attrition with the opposing sides slugging things out with relatively little movement. In Desert Storm, however, anti-air strikes have been given more weight and conflicts between opposing ground forces made faster so that campaigns become more mobile - more like wars of maneuvre such as Desert Storm itself. Unfortunately, these changes also seem to have brought a couple of bugs in their wake: according to DI a new revision (1.0e) is imminent that fixes some known flaws in the campaign engine in the current (1.0d) version of Desert Storm.
As might be expected of a follow-on product, Desert Storm's programmers seem to have had the time to add polish to their game as well as just `essentials'. The 20 pre-programmed missions are designed to approximate the course of the actual Gulf war, with the manual providing much entertaining and informative background material on both the simulation and the real Gulf war. The warzone map (although hardly `geographically accurate') contains numerous features drawn from the actual conflict. For example, the range of hills south of the main allied airbases contains a long narrow valley. This is, presumably, intended as representation of the `Star Wars Trench Valley' beloved of allied pilots as they honed their skills prior to going on the offensive. The Iraqi defensive line is also modelled: the map includes an extensive east-west line of trenches and bunkers whose floors actually seem to extend below `ground level'!
If you have bought and enjoyed Tornado, the relatively modest cost of Desert Storm (about 1/3 of the cost of a full-price game in the UK) will almost certainly be money well spent. The new desert graphics, 20 carefully designed missions and the refinements to the campaign engine all add significantly to the game's appeal.
Equally, if you're looking for an accurate flight simulator that emphasises air warfare and air-to-ground flying rather than air superiority, the combined Tornado/Desert Storm CD-ROM package is well worth considering. The game's attention to detail and challenging gameplay (see GB16 for a full review) ensure long-lasting entertainment. The graphics are not as technically sophisticated as the very latest simulators, but they are fast, and carefully designed to provide the depth-cueing vital for (simulated) low-level flight. However if you're purely looking for a simulator emphasising air-to-air combat, or an air combat simulation game other choices might prove more appropriate (for example: Falcon-3, F14 Fleet Defender, TFX or Strike Commander). Personally, I find Tornado's air to ground emphasis offers just as much excitement and challenge and a welcome change from simulated air-to-air fighting.This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Andrew Stevens for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.