What do you get when you combine the brains behind MicroProse's strategic games with first-rate arcade-style action, animation, and graphics? An arcade game that makes you think.
Airborne Ranger puts you at the cutting edge of combat. As a ranger, you might be asked to serve in the desert, in the arctic, or in a temperate zone. Your weapons vary according to the mission you choose and may include a carbine, hand grenades, rockets, or a knife.
Before the game begins, you select whether to play as a practice or veteran ranger. You can't be a veteran unless you are a veteran: The game lets you save, on formatted disks, a roster of veterans who've proven themselves. When a veteran doesn't make it back from a mission, his death is reflected on the roster. My advice is to stick with the practice ranger until you begin to complete missions consistently.
The next step is to select a mission. It's difficult to advise you on mission selection, since they're all difficult. The mission's difficulty level may also be selected. The lower levels affect the types of weapons available to your adversaries.
You're given your orders, which may involve destroying an ammo dump, creating a diversion, kidnapping an enemy officer, or completing any of nine other assignments. The level of violence varies widely among the available missions.
A fatigue test requires the game's manual as a reference, ensuring that your copy is legitimate. If you fail the test, you are told you are too tired to continue. You take R & R, which means rebooting the disk.
The mission begins. You fly at a low level over the target area, steering the fast, quiet V-22 Osprey and maneu vering it for the most effective position. Study the terrain. The aerial view of the mission arena is colorful and scrolls smoothly, revealing the details of the arena where your mission will take place.
The mission area is rectangular and surrounded by land labeled unsafe terrain. You can't leave the mission area. While you're flying over it, take the time to notice its major features. Rough-looking land represents a mine field. Ravines crisscross the landscape. Machine-gun nests and bunkers are easily recognized. Your objective and recovery zone can be found at the top of the mission area; your drop zone is at the bottom.
During your approach, you may drop up to three supply pods containing medicine and ordnance. Try to land them in strategic locations. Their contents can resupply you in the middle of a mission.
As you near the lower perimeter of the mission area, a buzzer sounds. You jump and then pilot your parafoil to ward ground where you can land without being noticed. Once you reach the ground, you're on your own.
Groundside, the main play screen shows the immediate terrain surrounding you. An X floats before you to assist you in aiming your rifle. The X also aims other weapons, locates the landing point of your grenades, and the path of your rockets.
A keystroke gets an alternate map screen, revealing the entire mission area. Use this screen to get your bearings, locate your supply pods, and plan your route through the bunkers and the machine gun emplacements that lie between you and your objective. You can earn additional points by destroying these emplacements, but such derringdo is not recommended. Although it's satisfying to see a high score, it's worth less if you don't survive.
On the play screen, you can move your ranger either on foot-walking or running-or prone. Secrecy is vital, yet crawling takes time. And no matter how careful you are, sooner or later you will be faced with enemy troops. At that point, you have a decision to make-do you avoid the enemy, hide from them, or fight them?
Fortunately, you know when soldiers are coming, even when they are offscreen. It seems the enemy has thoughtfully equipped all troops with tap shoes. Your own progress, on the other hand, is absolutely silent.
In operations with a low difficulty level, you might be able to avoid detection simply by lying still in a ravine or behind a wall. In other scenarios, enemy soldiers approach from every direction.
When moving forward, I like to stick to the ravines. These are the largest identifiable details on the landscape. They often cross each other, and they are usually laid out on the map at regular intervals. So, in addition to offering a measure of cover, the ravines serve as excellent guideposts as you proceed to your objective.
It's tough to maintain absolute secrecy. Sometimes you have to fight. A knife is helpful at close range, but more often you'll use your carbine. Sound effects let you know when you've hit the enemy. When enemy soldiers die, they change color and shortly disappear. For larger emplacements, you may be forced to use grenades or rockets. Don't get too close. When objects are destroyed by rockets or grenades, they scatter shrapnel that could wound you as well as destroy any nearby soldiers.
Weapons selection is controlled from the keyboard, as is first aid, and standing/crawling. Key assignment is sensible and minimal, but the game nonetheless comes equipped with one of those reprehensible cutouts to fit over the computer keyboard.
Airborne Rangers is an excellent game from beginning to end. My only hesitation in recommending it wholeheartedly has to do with the attributes some game players will find most attractive: the realism and the violence.
The authors of this game have done some thinking in this regard, and they have included a disclaimer of sorts (along with a brief history of the Rangers) in the manual. I suppose no one picking up a game called Airborne Rangers expects to find sugar plums and daffodils inside. Be aware, however, that the violence and action are graphic and highly realistic.
- Robert Bixby
180 Lakefront Dr.
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
The game will also be available in 1988 for IBM PC and PC compatibles.