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Flight Commander

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Charles Moylan

GAME DEVELOPER:Big Time Software

GAME PUBLISHER:Big Time Software

Copyright 1993, Big Time Software

Released in 1993 only for the Macintosh, Flight Commander is a great beginning to what would become Big Time Software’s highly underrated and unique line of air combat tactical simulations on PC that began with Flight Commander 2 and ended with Achtung Spitfire!. My review of the game’s sequel FC2 applies equally here: this game just has fewer planes, a more clunky interface, and fewer missions than its sequel. So, some variations of the FC2 review:

Unlike a flight simulator, FC uses a turn-based “board game” format, so you control lots of planes at once from an overhead map view. Each “counter” represents one aircraft, ship, ground target, SAM site, or missile. All the aircraft included in the game are jets, but there is a HUGE assortment available, from the early 1950′s to the present and beyond. There are many attributes that are set for each plane beyond the usual thrust-to-weight, top speed, and wing loading numbers, and taken as a whole they give each plane a unique character. All the attributes of each aircraft and missile type are documented in the online data library, along with pictures and brief historical writeups. Plenty of interesting reading here.

So what’s it like to play, you ask? At first, it’s humbling. The A.I. is quite good. Eventually I realized I couldn’t just move the pieces around and blow stuff up; I had to use real tactics. Some scenarios really hit home the advantages of speed and T/W over maneuverability that novice flight sim fans never seem to grasp. Flying a turning machine doesn’t buy you much as you watch helplessly while faster but less maneuverable bandits retreat out of reach then come back at you fast from opposite directions, forcing you to show your tail to one or the other. And going one-on-one, the advantages for the high T/W fighter of using the vertical, doing high yo-yos and such is very plain to see, while in a normal flight sim this is difficult for many people to visualize.” If you enjoy tactical flight sims or aerial wargames in general, Flight Commander is well worth the few minutes it takes to set up a Macintosh emulator on Windows if you don’t have a Mac. Two thumbs up, and be sure to check out the superior sequel and our Hall of Belated Fame inductee, Flight Commander 2.

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