Flight of the Intruder (review)
by Bob Guerra
Climb into the cockpit of an F4 Phantom or an A6 Intruder and prepare to fly a series of combat missions over North Vietnam. This is Flight of the Intruder, a complex aerial combat simulation based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Coonts.
When you open the package, you'll find a copy of Coonts's novel, a quick-reference card illustrating the keyboard command layout and instrument panels in the Phantom and Intruder cockpits, a route map similar to the ones pilots actually carried on their knees while flying in missions over Vietnam, and a hefty player's manual. This thorough volume includes an index and a glossary, as well as two tutorials that guide you through your first Phantom and Intruder missions. For those of you who would rather act as CAG (Commander Air Group), there's a section describing how to plan and create your own missions from scratch.
Flight of the Intruder isn't the type of simulation you can boot up and play with only a quick glance at the player's manual. Only by reading through all of this material carefully at least once (preferably twice) will you be able to successfully complete any of the missions.
Another factor that makes Intruder particularly difficult to master is the relatively complicated keyboard command layout used to control the weapon and navigation systems of the Phantom and Intruder. Of the 101 keys on a standard AT keyboard, only 16 serve no function at all, while many of the others serve multiple functions when combined with Ctrl, Alt, or Shift.
One of Intruder's strong points is its authentic missions. During each mission, you're simply doing your part in a much larger operation, and as the mission unfolds, radio communication with other sections lets you know how the operation is progressing. For example, to wage a massive attack on Hanoi, you must complete two operations-Iron Rain I and Iron Rain II. Each operation comprises four separate missions, allowing you to serve as air cover or escort in a Phantom or to take an Intruder in on a specific strike mission.
Graphically, the VGA version of Flight of the Intruder isn't as impressive as you might expect because only 16 colors are used rather than 256. However,the detailed instrument panels of both planes are quite impressive, and in the F4 you actually have to change your view to see all of the instruments. Throughout the game, the animation is particularly smooth and quick.
Players who like uncomplicated simulations that you can simply boot and play or those who like to see a lot of pretty scenery from the cockpit window should definitely skip Flight of the Intruder. On the other hand, serious gamers willing to spend a little more time in flight school should give Intruder a shot, particularly because it covers a major period in U. S. military history that has been largely overlooked by other simulations.