Wednesday, 1 October 2014

ATAC to St. Cyril's

10 bonus points for getting the film reference in the title. It's what I think of every time I hear the word ATAC. Anyway, I think I'm done with ATAC. I'm afraid I didn't win the war on drugs, but I did blow up a few drug convoys, which has to count for something, right? ATAC is a peculiar beast; it's a mix of two genres thrown together, a flight sim and a strategy game. The flight sim part didn't work brilliantly for me (that may be as much to do with my general rubbishness at flight sims as anything else), so I chose to focus on the strategy aspect. The game is quite happy for you to leave the flying to the computer, and the manual suggests this as an option...but I didn't have that much success. According to the manual, the AI pilots improve as they complete missions - just like a real person playing would - the problem is that there really isn't much room for error in this game. You only have 8 pilots in the whole game, and once they're gone, they're gone. Even from your very first sortie in the game, the drug barons seem hideously over-equipped. You have a maximum of 4 planes or helicopters that you can send out at any one time, and the enemy thinks nothing of retaliating with 6 or so planes of its own along with ground-based anti-aircraft fire. My guess is that dogfighting is a lot easier if you fly the plane yourself, because my AI pilots just got murdered out there. Even one-on-one the enemy would win more often than not. And that's just against planes - against ground targets you have no chance in the strategy view. Your jets have a tendency to just disappear mid-way to the next nav point, and you can only assume that it was hit by a SAM en route. You can gain more intel about the area by dropping helicopter supplies, but to do that you have to fly an unarmed helicopter (you can't carry supplies and weapons) into enemy territory. I did this a couple of times, but it didn't make a discernible difference to my intel. And then, even if your jet does make it through to the target, there's no guarantee that it will hit it. My pilots seemed to be quite adept at missing with a full payload of bombs and air-to-ground missiles. Again, maybe the AI pilots are supposed to improve over time, but they just don't get the chance. I neglected to mention that even if your guys do make it through to the convoy itself they're not safe, there appear to be Columbians armed with surface-to-air missiles sitting on top of each wagon, and your jets will be shot down with alarming regularity. As I said, maybe this is all much easier if you fly the plane manually, but that didn't gel with me, and the manual did say I could play strategy-only. The thing is, I can see that this could have been a really cool game, and maybe it was at the time. If I could get through the first few sorties with any pilots alive, then I could have really got into the strategy side. It's good fun gathering intel and deciding what armaments you're going to need and which planes you're going to send where. You have fine control of the route they take using waypoints (though reacting to events strategically during a mission could have done with a bit of work), and it's great fun to set things up just-so and then hit the launch button to set your hawks aloft. The problem is that they don't come back. The manual states that the drug barons grow in strength as they earn more money and can afford better weapons and this sounds great in theory - there are 4 drug cartels working in the area and it could have been fun to balance that strategy so no cartel grew too strong while slowly trying to destroy them. The problem is, they should have started the cartels off at a lower level from the outset, and then have them grow as the campaign progresses. I get it that it's supposed to be a difficult mission, and the whole point that your military team has been sent in is because the cartel's have grown way too powerful and are getting out of control, but I do think that's losing sight of the fact that this is a game. If I can't even make it through the first mission without at least 2 of my 8 pilots dying, then I don't feel encouraged to continue. It's a shame, because the game definitely has potential, but it's just too unforgiving for me at this point in my life.

Next up on the randometer is...Ms. Pac-PC! Looks like an unofficial remake of Ms. Pac-Man from the early '90s. Should be a quick one. I might blitz through that before Ultima 2.

In other news, I finally finished Mass Effect 3 yesterday. I've written enough here for one day, so I'll try and put up a post about it tomorrow. Next on the PS3 list is going back to PixelJunk Racers 2nd Lap. I didn't really get on with it last time, but I'll give it another shot and see - don't think I'll stay with it long, though.

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