Megafortress Megapack

Digital Integration/Action Sixteen, CD ROM, £144.99

ANOTHER IN THE growing library of CD ROMs from sims publishers — this time from Action Sixteen. Again this format has provided an opportunity to repackage an old favourite, in this case the Megafortress bomber simulation. I particularly like this one because, apart from anything else, you have to play a number of roles within the one simulation. A total of five different crew members have jobs critical to the successful mission and they all need to be played out by you.

I’m going to take you through the second program on the CD — the Mission Editor.

The concept here is close to that of the various scenery and aircraft design add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator and others. If you get to the point of finishing all the missions in the simulation, or if developing intelligence reports prove the original scenarios to be incorrect, then the simulation will cease to be valid. This useful addition has given Action Sixteen’s simulation a new lease of life.

All the missions contained in the original sim are available to you, and in the same format. Upon loading the Editor you are presented with a copy of the mission briefing screen familiar from the full simulation. The instruction ‘Select Theatre’ is the same, but the second menu is very different. Here you can change almost anything about the mission, or create your own, provided you stick to the four theatres already available: The Red Flag training missions around Nellis AFB, the Persian Gulf scenario, and the Iranian and Libyan theatres. I understand that other world areas are also available from Action Sixteen.

Whether you load an existing mission or design your own you have the option of creating (or editing) the mission’s name, description, the waypoints, tanker position for in-flight refuelling, and on a separate screen, the default ordnance loading. Once changes have been made and saved, they will appear as missions within that theatre.

This is an excellent idea, with just two provisos. Firstly, as with all add-ons, especially those where you are making changes to an existing program, some technical help is welcome, and there was none provided. Secondly, as a result of ignorance about the required naming protocol tor saving missions to disc, I managed to comprehensively crash the program, closing off all access to one whole theatre. Recovery was only possible by some inspired guesswork in the ‘Theatre MSN Manager’ section of the Mission Editor menu, which allowed me to remove my mistaken attempt.

Now, if you are going to release a CD version of software, it seems to be fairly critical that the program is as foolproof as you can possibly make it and secondly that suitable documentation should be included for the support of the enthusiasts who want to make use of the package. I did, and there were some bits — adding targets, for example — that were more than a little obscure. I managed most of them in the end and no doubt the things I couldn’t do are extremely obvious, but I wanted to design missions, not go through a hunt for the correct key combination game.

Its a great idea, but it felt just a bit wobbly at times.

Of course, there are other flight sims where the concept of editing missions, certainly to the extent of setting up waypoints for yourself as a solution to the task given, is already in use, but it is a good move to open up some of the workings of the sim, to give control over the mission themselves and to allow users to extend the life of a favourite program.

Next time I’d like to see a Theatre Editor add-on please.

BobBurstow

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