Air Force Commander. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Bob Guerra
As Coalition forces demonstrated during the Persian Gulf War, achieving air superiority can be an important first step toward reaching your military objectives. With Air Force Commander, you'll get the chance to direct the operations of your own air force with the ultimate objective of doing just that--achieving air superiority in several simulated military conflicts.
Air Force Commander is a strategic game of modern air warfare set in the Middle East. The game features 14 scenarios of varying difficulty and complexity involving the United States and several Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Kuwait, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. Some of these scenarios are loosely based on historical conflicts such as the Iran-Iraq War of 1973, the Yom Kippur War, and the Persian Gulf War, while others are based solely on hypothetical situations.
As the name implies, Air Force Commander puts you in control of an entire air force, not just a single fighter plane or bomber. Thus, your view of the action is from a radar map in a war room rather than from the sky. Here, all aircraft are represented by vertical dotted lines that travel across the map in accelerated realtime. The length of each line indicates the altitude of the plane it represents--the longer the line, the higher the plane.
Although you can direct your fighter squadrons to intercept specific enemy aircraft, your fighters are used more efficiently if you simply set up patrols around the areas you wish to protect. In addition, bombers are available for high-altitude bombing and ground strike missions against specific targets in enemy territory. To extend your radar coverage, it's important to provide air cover for your bombers as well as for AWACs planes performing circular sweeps.
Squadrons can be placed on auto-launch so that after a mission they'll automatically return to base, refuel, and head back out. It's important, however, to monitor the efficiency of your squadrons and rest and repair them as necessary to make sure they perform at peak efficiency.
While the real objective of Air Force Commander is to achieve air superiority, the game can also be won by turning public opinion in the opposing country against the war. You do this by attacking its power stations and sources of food and water.
As for Air Force Commander's sound capabilities, the digitized voice (with a Sound Blaster) is a nice touch, but the loud explosions that accompany air combat and bombing raids are more of a distraction than an enhancement to the action.
The various maps are nicely drawn and seem to be fairly accurate, but in general the graphics remind you that you're playing a computer game rather than participating in a realistic simulation. Air Force Commander is an enjoyable game, but not one that's likely to win any awards.