Available: Q4, 2003.

Fair Strike © Buka / G5 Software
Preview By: Kurt Knudsen

Fair Strike is a helicopter arcade/simulation game from the makers of Red Shark. While Red Shark wasn’t inventive, it certainly was fun and had great controls and effects. Fair Strike takes that to another level; it is definitely inventive and has some of the best graphics ever seen in a helicopter game.

Right when you load the game you get a feeling of what’s to come, the music is simply amazing. The quality of the music that is done by the composer is remarkable, better than some movies at times. The intro music starts you off slow while you play around with the menus, then immediately drops into a war-scene type beat. When I jumped into the cockpit ready for some action I couldn’t help but gawk at the graphics. I was blown away at first with the quality and then how well it ran with 4x FSAA on. The helicopters are highly detailed in almost every aspect. The missile trails look great as they follow their target. The explosions, as in Red Shark, are amazing. When an explosion occurs over the water you see the explosion reflection in the water, as well as a large splash of water go into the air.

Most of the time various flight sims are very hard to control with a keyboard; this one on the other hand, is very easy. You can redefine the controls to your liking, but right off the bat the learning curve is not hard. Flying in the game is very smooth and easier than it looks with all the controls. The HUD displays everything you need to know. It shows you a minimap with nav points as well as various other displays. When you target an enemy you see a little arrow pointing to its general direction so you know where to fly. Also nav points are marked on the main compass, as well as their distance from you. This helps greatly with getting to objectives; you can look at the minimap and see your current position and direction and fly your way to the nav point that way.

Camera angles are another thing that sets this game apart from others. You get cinematic camera angles of almost anything. You can skip around and see enemies moving around, your helicopter floating in air and your wingmen patrolling around you. Although you can’t really fly in these angles, it does give it a great feeling of watching a war movie.

The levels themselves are pretty large, and it takes a bit to fly from point A to point B, mainly because of all the enemy fire you run into on the way. You can have your wingmen follow you and attack the units, or stay and protect the base or other objectives. The targeting system in the game is pretty good, you can target enemies from afar and use long range missiles to take them out, as you fly the enemies also appear on the radar as well.

The objectives in the game are fairly simple to understand, but can get pretty intense. Most of the time it’s ‘blow up this’, ‘protect that’, ‘escort this’, etc. There are a few objectives to each mission, and if you fail any of them the game is over; this can be frustrating at times when you are trying to concentrate on a firefight and also do the objective at the same time.

In this preview copy I got to play, the sound effects were minimal, and also very quiet. The music overpowered everything and some things didn’t have sound effects at all. Since this definitely isn’t a finished product I'm sure it will be fixed in the final version. The sounds that are audible are mainly your helicopter, missiles and guns. Those in themselves are semi-realistic, the helicopter being the most. Considering how well the music was done, one can only expect great things from the sound effects in the future.

The AI in the game is fairly simplistic when it comes down to it. Although they can move flanks to attempt to surround you they just fire at you when they see you; only bad part is it’s hard to see them if you don’t have them directly targeted, as they blend very well with terrain. Your wingmen have outstanding AI and can accomplish things on their own; they will attack the biggest threat first and then worry about the little guys.

There is a multiplayer aspect to the game; it has several modes for your needs. You can play the game co-op, awesome feature, or a Deathmatch and Team Assault. I think most of the modes are self explanatory, Deathmatch is free for all battle, Team Assault is kind of like Deathmatch, but you have people on your side, and there are objectives to complete.

Overall the experience I got from this game has surpassed any expectation I had of any helicopter game. The graphics and music alone set this game apart from others, but the game play is fun and addictive and has sort of a story that goes along with it. You have a lot of choices for weapons and helicopters, so that can keep you busy for quite some time. If this copy is only a taste of the final product to come, I can’t wait. We can definitely expect great things from Buka if they keep going at their current pace.