James V. Trunzo
Operation Whirlwind, by Broderbund, is a new and unique computer war game for the Atari 400/ 800/1200 computers. Brøderbund, heretofore better known for their superior arcade games and more recently their word processor, Bank Street Writer, has released a World War II strategy game that is in many ways, an original.
Computer war games usually bring to mind endless hours of tedious movement and even more tedious perusing of a book-length set of instructions. Operation Whirlwind, however, is simple to play, yet authentic and challenging.
All The Classic Moves
Operation Whirlwind, while not based on any specific battle or operation, adheres to all the subtleties that go into a first-class war game.
Terrain, movement, fire-power, range, line-of-sight, and unit disorganization are all incorporated into the game without the usual burden of a multitude of charts and tables.
The sequence of play for Operation Whirlwind consists of one turn broken into five distinct phases, each activated with a joystick and, on the Atari, the yellow function buttons. No keyboard input is required during any phase of the game.
The first phase is the Command Phase, during which you can either order your units to dig in or keep them combatready. A unit that has dug in regains lost combat strength through reorganization and rest. They can defend their positions, but they cannot assault a position or move. Like all orders throughout the game, you give a combatready or dig-in order by placing a hollow square cursor over a unit and pressing the joystick button.
Armies On The Move
The second phase is the Movement Phase. Use the joystick to place the cursor over a unit, then press the joystick button to begin the unit's movement. Movement must be either horizontal or vertical. Movement rates vary, depending upon unit type, terrain being traversed, and remaining unit strength. Movement can also be halted by severe enemy fire or by damage from hitting mines.
It should be noted that an enemy unit is invisible until it is spotted by your recon units or it fires on your units. Mines are never visible.
Movement is completed by pressing the fire button again and releasing the piece. You can move all, some, or none of your units each Movement Phase, and each unit can move its entire allotment or only part of it.
Using all of a unit's movement allotment, however, prohibits it from firing during the turn. To indicate that you are approaching total depletion of activity points, the cursor turns red.
Combat Is The Action Phase
The third phase is the Combat Phase. Unseen enemy artillery starts to shell your troops, and sighted enemy units also open fire. To return fire, place the cursor over the unit which is to fire and press the fire button.
The cursor turns into a blinking cross hairs which you then move from the firing unit to its target. Press the fire button again to activate the shot. Several things can occur at this time: 1) You can score a hit (don't count on any single hit taking out an enemy unit); 2) you may get a message indicating that the target is out of your range; or 3) you may get a message indicating that your line-of-sight is blocked. The number of shots each unit receives is determined by how much movement it did prior to the combat phase.
Assault Order Phase
The fourth phase is the Assault Order Phase, during which units with activity left (those not using it all during the movement and combat phases) can assault enemy units adjacent to their positions. Assaults, or overruns in the case of tanks, are devastating attacks, but they also inflict many casualties on the attacking units.
Assault orders are used for a second important purpose. There are two rivers that must be crossed before getting to the occupied city. To cross them, your engineer units must build new bridges. This is handled by placing an engineer unit next to the river and giving it an assault order. All orders are given via joystick, with the cursor turning into an arrow to show the direction of the assault.
The fifth and final phase is the Assault Phase. All assault orders given in phase four are carried out during this phase, though not always successfully. It might, for example, take several turns to build a bridge or dislodge a strong defending enemy unit.
At the end of this phase, enemy units may move, either in retreat or simply in an attempt to fortify their defensive positions. They will fire a parting shot at any unit in their range as they go.
To get from one phase to the next, use the yellow function keys. Press the START key whenever you wish to move from one phase to another, and you are on your way.
This description of the phases is simplified. Much strategy and planning are involved in all areas, and there are many programming niceties such as cursors changing color to indicate that various events have occurred during the game sequence.
Assessing The Action
When you have completed all five phases, you have completed one turn. You will be informed of your chances for victory (doubtful, marginal, tactical, etc.), and you will be asked whether or not you wish the game to be saved before starting the next turn. Saving (and reloading) a game is accomplished with the yellow function keys. Games may be saved to either the master disk or to a formatted, unused data disk.
The game has four difficulty levels. In addition, each level of difficulty can result in one of five levels of victory or defeat. Furthermore, the computer-controlled German forces will randomly employ one of four different strategies to add to the variety and enjoyment of play.
Realistic Sound And Graphics
Operation Whirlwind has excellent sound effects and a good graphics rendition of typical war-game unit and terrain symbols. Even when viewed on a television instead of a monitor, the symbols are sharp, making unit identification easy.
The cursor movement and scrolling are smooth, which is important because the battlefield is about three television screens wide.
Operation Whirlwind differs from some other war strategy games in that it concentrates on a single, ongoing battle with a single, well-defined objective rather than trying to simulate a far-flung campaign. Just as you are celebrating your conquest of the German-held city, you are greeted by the sounds of the marching units that make up the unrelenting German counterattack.
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