Ah, the Gulf War. They were fun times. Margaret Thatcher resigning as Prime Minister, the poll tax introduction causing mass protests, Cliff Richard as the Christmas No. 1 with ‘Saviour’s Day’, truly great childhood memories. They certainly struck a chord with Electronic Arts as something about this Gulf War prompted them to do something special. It set off a spark in their collaborative mindset. It brought with it… the Strike series.
Desert Strike felt like both a critique and parody of the Gulf War. It’s SO serious! You’re preventing the threat of nuclear war, whilst saving POWs from losing their lives, and you need to consider your resources such as ammo and fuel so as not to go empty and fail the mission. On the flip-side, the game is so bloody darn fun that you can’t help but feel mischievously naughty when you’re gaining satisfaction from ramming a hellfire missile down an enemy soldier’s throat. You only needed to use your guns, not a bloody rocket! It wouldn’t have been as fun though.
The game is graphically lovely, with the perfect amount of detail for all situations involved. The helicopter and enemy vehicles all have a wonderful faux 3D feel about them, and the people milling around various locations of the map all have a little charm about them. It’s clear what the buildings are and why they’re there, and yep, it looks like a desert for sure. Lots of sand.
Audio makes the game feel a little lonely, as there’s no in-game music and only the constant drone of the chopper’s blade to accompany you on your bloody missions. When you get to let rip with your weapons though, you’ll feel like a real man. The roar of the missiles, the chinking of the guns, it all feels very rugged. I especially appreciate the little jingle that plays every now and then when you’re completing missions in-game, very cute.
It’s a very difficult game for newcomers but persevere with a few failed attempts and you’ll find a rewarding game with a great story attached. Once it’s completed though, there’s very little to replay for. No secrets missions, cheat codes, hidden endings, nowt. I guess you could come back 10 years later once you’ve forgotten what happened? By that point however, you’d also have Jungle Strike, Urban, Soviet, and Nuclear to take along with you too. And Future Cop L.A.P.D. if you really want to get deep into it.
EA were at the height of their development prowess here and it’s sad to see just how far down their reputation has fallen over the years. Forgot what you know today; EA used to make INCREDIBLE games, and Desert Strike is one of them. Sure the sequels had way more content, but it just never felt as fun as it did the first time round. Besides which, deserts are cooler than the jungle and the city. Or should that be hotter?
Catch me air-lifting POWs @auto2112