While I dearly loved getting a computer of my very own in high school, looking back I’m pretty sure I got ripped off by the sales guy who pushed a 386 on me when the 486s were hitting the market. I loved that computer and had a lot of fun gaming memories on it, but it never was able to handle some of the more graphically intensive games — especially flight sims, which were super-hot in the early 1990s.
Fortunately, I had a friend across the street who had a much beefier machine and pretty much any military sim that came out. They weren’t exactly the kinds of games I’d buy on my own, but I was happy to have fun with them for the sheer eye candy if nothing else.
F-15 Strike Eagle II was one of the more popular titles at the time, and for good reason. It struck a balance between the fiddly (but more accurate) pure flight simulators and straight-up arcade shooting. It was what we called “arcade sims,” where the focus was more on having fun than being accurate — but it had just enough flavor to it to believe that you were piloting one of these great birds of war.
The gameplay was pretty straight-forward: You picked a theater of war and took off to eliminate threats in the air and on sea and land. The F-15 had several different weapons, each with their own purpose, and a smart pilot would use the right tool for the right job.
Getting to shut off my brain and just go to town taking out targets and feeling like I was the master of this screaming fighter plane was a hoot. You’d get notices about enemy planes taking off or come into the radar range of enemy ground-based missiles, and suddenly everything got a whole lot more chaotic.
And you have to remember that this was 1992 or 1993 — fully 3-D gaming wasn’t quite realized, and anything that even approximated it was so novel and exciting. I think that’s one reason why flight sims (and soon, first-person shooters) ruled this period, because they offered that freedom of movement that other games didn’t. They looked like the future.
Anyway, it was another excellent Microprose product and a reason why this was one of my favorite studios back in the ’90s.