The F-14 Tomcat first came into service in the 1970s, but the fighter jet was most popularized in the movie Top Gun (1986). In fact, the movie was so popular that people that signed up for the US Navy rose by 500 percent in the years following that movie’s release. Many PC games that plastered the plane on their front covers followed suit, one of them being Fleet Defender.
Compared to the more advanced F-16 and F/A-18, the F-14 is still somewhat of a throwback. For example, you don’t have important information like airspeed and altitude displayed on your HUD. This info is only available on your HSI and analog gauges (remember those?) on the instrument panel. This alone means you’ll be spending a bit of time staring on the bottom half of the screen, and won’t always be able to focus completely on what’s in front of you.
Fleet Defender offers three mode of play – a Campaign, Scramble (quick fights) or a mission editor. Scramble has some variables you can tinker with, such as time of day and the type of enemies you will face, while the mission editor offers a more complex set of tools which you can use to place waypoints, objectives and such. The campaign contains three theater of operations with inter-connected scenarios.
You won’t be playing Fleet Defender alone, as an AI-controlled wingman will accompany you. You can control him using 11 key commands, with standard attack and retreat commands. There are four levels of difficulty, and all flight systems have three modes of realism – standard, moderate and authentic. Difficulty also affects how well your radar Information Officer does his job. He’s perfect in the lowest difficulty, not so much on the highest.
Visually the game is top of the pack (no surprise, we’re talking about a high level flight sim). But besides having realistic textures outside and in (the planes in particular look fantastic), Fleet Defender has a nice range of animations and subtle details that make it stand out. Accurate tail markings on each plane, the stabilator that really does move, and a very sharply rendered interior cockpit make the game a graphical treat as far as 1994 is concerned.
System Requirements: 80386/33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, 12 MB HDD, DOS 5.0
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