Stealth ATF (NES) review
"Stealth ATF certainly seemed to be on the cutting edge of world events. Dropped on the public shortly before the first American conflict with Iraq, the gameís opening level occurs over the parched landscape of the Middle East. Quickly, though, youíre asked to expand your efforts to encompass a global theater. Who are you fighting, and more important, why? Itís not your job to ask questions, soldier! Your one and only duty as a highly trained combat pilot involves shooting down all ..."
Stealth ATF certainly seemed to be on the cutting edge of world events. Dropped on the public shortly before the first American conflict with Iraq, the gameís opening level occurs over the parched landscape of the Middle East. Quickly, though, youíre asked to expand your efforts to encompass a global theater. Who are you fighting, and more important, why? Itís not your job to ask questions, soldier! Your one and only duty as a highly trained combat pilot involves shooting down all the uninspired cretins who dare oppose the interests of the United States. Unfortunately, this stodgy flying simulation fails to capture the glory and entertainment of wanton killing, and therefore has a life-expectancy shorter than a kamikaze fighter.
Before you can gaze out from inside the cockpit and upon the vast earth below, you first have to lift your fighter jet off the ground. Not that taking off is a difficult task, but it gives you the most detailed look at the surrounding landscape, which is to say itís the only view with any detail at all. Settings like the lush greenery of the English countryside, the harsh whiteout of snowy Alaska, and the short deck of a Pacific carrier all underwhelm your expectations for the given location of combat. Once in the air, the environment forms one homogenous horizon, so bland that itís entirely possible that one could own this game for upwards of fifteen years and never notice that banking the craft has any visible effect on its heading.
Of course, itís not as though the magnificent bomber has to worry about piddling issues like direction, as Stealth ATFís combat consists only of a juvenile game of chicken. No matter what your craftís current orientation, all enemy bogeys, which appear only in pairs, will inexplicably approach from the front. If anyone manages to lock onto a target, itís missiles away! Otherwise, the incessant machine gun fire must slowly chip at the adversaryís armor. If that exchange sounds too intense, though, it can be entirely avoided by flying up or down at the first sign of trouble. The enemy, completely confident in their ability to rip through the fabric of space and time, will simply cruise by and then suddenly shift from the bottom to the top of your radar in less than a minute.
However, you can swiftly repay their arrogance by looping your plane over and getting the drop on those fools. With afterburners now in your view and the targeting system locked on, you can fire one of your eight heatseekers at the defenseless foe. Sadly though, the projectile will harmlessly careen towards the ground; obeying an unseen phenomenon that dictates missiles can only make a head-on collision. To make up for this, however, your accommodating enemies will lazily float right into your sights without any pretense of evasion, more than content to be blown into an understated explosion of orange.
Also, donít forget that youíre piloting an impressive stealth fighter, and as such your aircraft comes equipped with an intriguing stealth mode. This accessory supposedly conceals your plane from all radar and makes it impossible for opposing missiles to connect. However, given the already laughable ease of the dogfighting, this gimmick doesnít affect the gameplay at all. In fact, the only noticeable difference is a change in volume; the normally mildly grating engine, which sounds very similar to a Dustbuster, will elevate to the roar of a full-blown industrial-strength vacuum.
Continuing with even more intolerable levels of suction, the games requires you to land your billion-dollar vehicle after successfully completing a mission. Youíre transported outside of the plane for this exercise, guiding the touchdown from a sidelong view. The only problem: neither the game nor the instruction booklet give explicit directions on how to complete this delicate maneuver. Since the exact formula must be found though trial-and-error, it's inevitable that the first few attempts will end with your perfect killing machine claiming you as its final victim. The temperamental contraption will burst into a contained fireball, leaving no option but to restart the level from scratch.
Not that advancing matters that much. Remember this is a simulation game, one that prides itself on realistically sending you to shoot down an ever increasing squadron of mindless drones. These idiots never become more clever, as the games chooses to push your tolerance for tedium rather than the use of your wits. Each nonspecific mission simply dubs you with a new Top Gun-style call sign and drops you into a new setting. Once all the locations are exhausted, the tour begins anew. Does it ever end? I guarantee you wonít want to find out.
Community review by woodhouse (October 07, 2004)
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