Nuclear Strike

6_1Since Desert Strike first appeared on Sega’s Genesis console back in the early 1990s, the chopper-based action series has evolved, but there was little of it on the PC. Desert Strike and its sequel Jungle Strike were both ported over from the Sega originals, but then the series went AWOL on the PC for two games. There seems to be no rhyme or reason behind EA’s pattern of porting some Strike titles and not others, but let’s just be grateful that the series has now returned to the PC in style with the PlayStation port of Nuclear Strike.

A lot has changed in the Strike universe since PC players last saw it, although those changes are mainly technological and aesthetic — the gameplay remains much the same. Primarily, Nuclear Strike is now much better looking than any Strike game you’ve previously seen — or any other arcade-style game on the PC, for that matter. There’s an extremely tasty new graphical engine at work under the hood, which means the landscape you fly over rotates as well as your vehicle, and the terrain itself is much more richly detailed with undulating hills, valleys, gorges, rivers and villages, considerably deepening the all-important illusion of “being there.”

So it looks great, particularly with the help of a 3Dfx accelerator or emulator. The only problem with this new visual approach, which shows your vehicle much larger and the terrain in closer detail, is that your range of vision has been greatly cut down as a result. You can’t see for very far into the distance in any direction, so it’s possible to come under fire from targets right on the edge (or a little beyond the edge) of the screen, causing moments of panic of confusion. The best way to avoid this is to keep a constant eye on the radar display, now more critical to Strike success than ever.

7_1Nuclear Strike’s gameplay is mission-based, and each mission is fairly methodical in itself, comprised of sub-objectives. Take out these targets, then go pick up this cargo, then rescue this hostage, etc. It’s fairly straightforward, but I can’t help but think that the developers ramped up the difficulty curve a little high. Even on the easiest level, I struggled on the first mission alone — just when you think you’ve done enough to advance to the next level and save your game, HQ throws yet another objective at you — usually the one that finally kills you.

For those good enough to progress through the game, there’s plenty of incentive — varied environments, richer missions and 15 vehicles to control, including various helicopters, a hovercraft, jet fighter, A-10 Thunderbolt, and more. The different vehicles don’t make a huge change to the gameplay as a whole, but do provide some additional challenge in having to learn each new vehicle’s strengths and weakness immediately after you climb aboard. Nuclear Strike, then, is a good entry into a genre that we see precious little of on PC — good, old-fashioned, sprite-based arcade gaming.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DOS

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