AV-8B Harrier Assault

Released: 1992, 1993
Published by: Domark
Developed by: Simis
Author(s): Jonathan Newth, David Payne, Chris Tubbs, Alan Tomkins, Tony West, James Tripp, Martin Walker, David Whittaker


Original VGA graphics


SVGA Re-release in 1993

 

Introduction

1992 was a big year for the Harrier, with two flight simulations released. MicroProse came out with Harrier Jump Jet, and competing with it was AV-8B Harrier Assault, written by Simis and published by Domark Ltd.

The year before, Simis and Domark had introduced their first flight sim - MiG-29 Fulcrum. This was also developed by Simis co-founder Jonathan Newth and developer David Payne. Competing with it was Spectrum Holobyte's Falcon 3.

As the game manual declares, AV-8B Harrier Assault is really two games in one. There is the flight simulator where you control your Harrier through a variety of campaigns as you would any other combat flight sim. And secondly, there is the strategic game where as Commander you take control of an entire amphibious landing operation on a hostile shore. The beauty of this is that you can pick and choose which of these games you wish to play, completing ignoring the other if that is your preference. Having said that, other reviews online suggest that in order to beat the game (win the war) you will need to use aspects of the strategic game to reposition units. No two games play out exactly the same as there is an element of randomness built in.

Andy's Recommended Setup
"If you are playing the original 320x200 game, AV-8B Harrier Assault is best run on a 486DX machine. If you are playing the re-released 'Super-VGA Harrier' version, this provides 640 x 480 resolution, and will be slower - 486DX2-66 as a minimum. 4 MB of RAM ensures you will get the best experience in both games. Maybe it was my setup, but my experience is that the sound is appallingly lacking in this game. As with most flight simulators you will need a good analogue joystick."

 

In 1993, Simis updated the game to support Super VGA graphics where the resolution was upgraded to 640 x 480 from the original's 320 x 200. This was apparently the very first flight simulator to support SVGA. Most of the static screens are just stretched versions of the original, but this update, while not ground-breaking, does make the game slightly better.

 

System Requirements

System Requirements Intel 80386 CPU, 2 MB RAM
Graphics support for VGA (1992 original release), SVGA (1993 re-release called "Super-VGA Harrier").
Audio support for PC speaker, Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, and Roland MT-32.
Keyboard, joystick and mouse supported. Specific support for Thrustmaster joysticks.
Original Media Two 5.25" 1.2 MB (DS/HD) floppy disks or two 3.5" 1.44 MB (DS/HD) floppy disks.
Installed Size (MB) 4.56 MB


From where can it be run?

The game must be installed to your hard disk. The INSTALL.EXE utility will only allow installation from drive A: or B:. If you are trying to install using DOSBOX or a PC with no floppy drive, you can use the DOS command 'SUBST' to mimic an A: drive to point to your subdirectory where your installation files are located. Just type SUBST A: C:\<subdirectory where install files are>, then go to A: and run INSTALL from there.

The install disks use ProPack from Rob Northen Computing as the file compression technology. The .RNC files on the floppy disks are compressed files that get 'unpacked' via the INSTALL utility.

 

Copy Protection

AV-8B Harrier Assault has no copy protection.


How to Setup

To install the game, insert disk 1 and run INSTALL.EXE. Note that these screenshots are from game version 2.0:

1) Main menu for the installation and config utility:

2) Confirm your choices:

3) Installation of files begins...

4) If any issues arise reading or writing the files to your hard disk you will see this:

5) Once installation is complete, the readme.txt file is shown:

Note the sound card info here - you will need to re-run the installation in full if you change your sound card - there is no separate 'config' utility, as only the sound files for the audio option you selected are copied to your hard disk.

Once installation is complete, you can run the game with AV8B (runs the game with full introduction) or AV8BFLY (runs the game, skipping the intro).

 

Keys

The menus and the strategic game all require a pointing device (either a mouse or joystick), while in-flight you also have the option of using keys only. You start the game in the Command Center. If you are wanting to get airborne, click on the white telephone to go to the Pilot's Briefing Room. Listed on the whiteboard are the missions available to fly. The "Combat Air Patrol" is always available whenever a Harrier is available on the deck.

To quickly get into the air, press 'W' to release the wheelbrake followed by '0' (zero) to bring thrust up to 100%. Then pull back on the stick to get into the air. As soon as you've cleared the deck, press 'G' to raise your landing gear.

Flight Controls

1 thru 0 = Throttle in 10% increments (1 = 0%, 0 = 100%)
Shift 1 thru 0 = Nozzle position (1 = 0 deg., 0 = 100 deg.)
Shift, Shift + = Raise nozzles, Lower nozzles
E = Engine on/off
W = Wheelbrake
G = Landing Gear up/down
A = Autopilot on/off
Z = Calibrate joystick
B = Airbrakes
Left, Right = Roll left/right
Up, Down = Pitch down/up
<, > = Rudder left/right
Keypad +,- = Pitch trim +, pitch trim -
Keypad * = Remove pitch trim
Ctrl-E = Eject

Cockpit Instruments

[ = Cycle through Left MFD display options
] = Cycles through Right MFD display options
/ = MFD Scale (EHSI range)
; = Next waypoint (T = the Tarawa carrier)

Weapons and Defenses

Backspace = Next weapon
F = Flare Release                     C = Chaff Release  
R = Radar altimeter on/off          N = Weapons in salvo
I = FLIR on/off                  Ctrl-R = Jettison all weapons
Space = Fire Weapon/off  ' = Change Bomb Aiming Mode
Enter = Mark ground target

Views

F1 = Cockpit up/down            F2 = Forward       
F3 = Left 60 deg.                   F4 = Right 60 deg.
F5 = Left 120 deg.                 F6 = Right 120 deg.
PgUp, PgDn = Zoom in/out (if NUMLOCK is off)

M = Missile view               J = Enemy view
V = Outside view              O = Camera view
F7 = Rotate Left              F8 = Rotate Right
F9 = Rotate Up               F10 = Rotate Down

Simulation Controls

X = Fast Time                             P = Pause
S = Single step (when paused)   
Q = Engine noise on/off         Ctrl-Q = All sounds on/off
Ctrl-D = Ask for a debrief (do this once landed)


Ctrl-M = Mouse               Ctrl-J = Joystick
Ctrl-K = Keyboard       
Ctrl-S = Simple model      Ctrl-A = Advanced Model

ESC = Menus
ALT-X = Return to Command Center

 

Problems

Symptom: In-flight, the game runs too fast!
Cause: Sadly, AV-8B Harrier Assault is very speed-sensitive, so running it on a CPU that is faster than what is recommended will create a poor gaming experience. Even running under DOSBox 0.74, it is way too quick.
Resolution: On real hardware, a 486 CPU with 4 MB of RAM is ideal. For DOSBox, edit your .conf file and set cputype=386 and then use Ctrl-F11 and Ctrl-12 to adjust the instruction cycles to get it just right.

Symptom: After a mission is over, the game hangs on a black screen. This can also happen when pressing Joystick button 1.
Cause: This can also occur due to running on too fast a machine.
Resolution: Try running Goslow or other utility, or disable your L1 or L2 cache and try again.


To Quit the Game

Return to the Command Centre screen (the one with the screens and telephones), and hit ESC. When prompted 'EXIT TO DOS (Y/N)?' just hit 'Y'.

 

Supporting Documents

 

 

Save Games

You can save or load your progress in the game by going to the Command Center and clicking on the black box on the table to bring up the SAVE/LOAD screen. There are 10 available save game slots to choose from, and are named automatically to reflect the plan name and the current date (starts off as Day 0 and progresses from there) and the time of day.

 

Versions of the game known to exist

Version Date Comments
1.0 November 1992 Initial public release.
1.1 January 1993 Updated INSTALL utility. Just as with the earlier INSTALL.EXE, you can use subst to make a hard disk directory mimic drive A: then run INSTALL from A: in situations where you have all the game files from floppy disks already in a directory.
Screenshots: 1 2 3 4 5 6
2.1 July 1993 Still the standard VGA release. Newer INSTALL utility, the same as with v1.1.
The only file size difference appears to be FLY32.EXE which is 376,113 bytes (slightly smaller than before).
2.0 August 1993 "Super-VGA Harrier" released. Essentially the same game, but now with 640 x 480 graphics resolution when in-flight.


Original Floppy Disk Contents

The floppy disks have no specific volume label. Here are each disk's contents:

    Version 1.0 of the Game
    Disk 1 of 2 (3.5" 1.44 MB DS/HD) volume label "AV8B1":

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    INSTALL  EXE             31,290 15-11-1992 15:46
    INTRO PAK 948,352 18-11-1992 13:40
    PPEX EXE 35,716 17-09-1992 15:08
    3 File(s) 1,015,358 Bytes.

     

    Version 1.0 of the Game
    Disk 2 of 2 (3.5" 1.44 MB DS/HD) volume label "AV8B2":

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    AUTOEXEC BAT 50 11-11-1992 16:08
    AV8B BAT 49 10-11-1992 17:50
    AV8BFLY BAT 34 10-11-1992 17:50
    CONFIG SYS 30 11-11-1992 16:08
    DATA RNC 755,400 15-11-1992 16:10
    FLY32 RNC 182,798 18-11-1992 13:38
    README TXT 993 11-11-1992 17:28
    SOUND RNC 24,151 15-11-1992 16:13
    8 File(s) 963,505 Bytes.

    Version 1.1 of the Game
    Disk 1 of 2 (5.25" 1.2 MB DS/HD) with no volume label:

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    DISK     ID                  19 07-01-1993 11:46
    INSTALL DAT 5,459 22-01-1993 20:40
    INSTALL EXE 75,686 04-02-1992 3:19
    INTRO PAK 948,352 18-11-1992 13:40
    PPEX EXE 35,716 17-09-1992 15:08
    5 File(s) 1,065,232 Bytes.
    DISK.ID contains this text: AV8B
    1.1
    Disk 1

     

    Version 1.1 of the Game
    Disk 2 of 2 (5.25" 1.2 MB DS/HD) with no volume label:

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    ANIM     BAT                 29 22-01-1993 17:00
    AUTOEXEC BAT 50 11-11-1992 16:08
    AV8B BAT 49 10-11-1992 17:50
    AV8BFLY BAT 34 10-11-1992 17:50
    CONFIG SYS 30 11-11-1992 16:08
    DATA RNC 755,447 22-01-1993 16:05
    DISK ID 19 07-01-1993 12:45
    FLY32 RNC 181,666 22-01-1993 16:08
    INSTALL DAT 5,459 22-01-1993 20:40
    README TXT 993 11-11-1992 17:28
    SOUND RNC 24,145 22-01-1993 16:08
    11 File(s) 967,921 Bytes. DISK.ID contains this text: AV8B
    1.1
    Disk 2

    Version 2.0 (SVGA version)
    Disk 1 of 2 (3.5" 1.44 MB DS/HD):

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    DISK     ID                  22 27-08-1993 14:13
    INSTALL DAT 8,041 27-08-1993 11:31
    INSTALL EXE 75,686 04-02-1992 3:19
    INTRO PAK 948,352 18-11-1992 13:40
    PPEX EXE 35,716 17-09-1992 15:08
    5 File(s) 1,067,817 Bytes. DISK.ID contains this text: HARRIER
    2.0
    Disk 1

    Version 2.0 (SVGA version)
    Disk 2 of 2 (3.5" 1.44 MB DS/HD):

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    ANIM     BAT                 29 22-01-1993 17:00
    AUTOEXEC BAT 46 20-06-1993 16:14
    AV8B BAT 52 18-06-1993 18:11
    AV8BFLY BAT 37 18-06-1993 18:11
    CONFIG SYS 30 11-11-1992 16:08
    DATA RNC 893,670 26-08-1993 18:08
    DISK ID 22 27-08-1993 14:15
    FLY BAT 11 18-06-1993 18:11
    FLY32 RNC 180,997 26-08-1993 12:40
    FLYA BAT 12 18-06-1993 18:13
    FLYS BAT 12 18-06-1993 18:12
    FLYV BAT 12 18-06-1993 18:13
    FLYX RNC 185,135 26-08-1993 12:43
    HIRES BAT 23 18-06-1993 18:18
    INSTALL DAT 8,041 27-08-1993 14:20
    LOWRES BAT 23 18-06-1993 18:19
    NEWCOMM PCX 39,848 17-08-1993 19:39
    README TXT 1,296 20-06-1993 16:04
    SOUND RNC 24,150 18-06-1993 14:46
    VESAINFO EXE 19,702 18-06-1993 17:14
    20 File(s) 1,353,148 Bytes. DISK.ID contains this text: HARRIER
    2.0
    Disk 2

    Version 2.1 (VGA only version)
    Disk 1 of ? (3.5" 1.44 MB DS/HD):

     
                    
    Directory of A:\
    AUTOEXEC BAT                 50 11-11-1992 17:08
    AV8B BAT 37 18-06-1993 18:11
    CONFIG SYS 30 11-11-1992 17:08
    DATA RNC 755,447 22-01-1993 17:05
    DISK ID 19 20-07-1993 18:31
    FLY BAT 11 18-06-1993 18:11
    FLY32 RNC 181,839 16-02-1993 21:41
    INSTALL DAT 4,043 20-07-1993 18:43
    INSTALL EXE 75,686 04-02-1992 4:19
    PPEX EXE 35,716 17-09-1992 15:08
    SOUND RNC 24,150 17-02-1993 13:06
    11 File(s) 1,077,028 Bytes. DISK.ID contains this text: AV8B
    2.1
    Disk 1 There is no INTRO.PAK, so perhaps this was a re-release
    with no intro and cut down to a single install disk? It installs

 

Installed Directory Contents

Once installed, the following directory structure exists in the game directory:

    Install chosen with Roland sound option:

     
                    
    Directory of C:\GAMES\AV8B
    .              <DIR>            25-07-2022 10:57
    .. <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:52
    D <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:52
    D1 <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:52
    D2 <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:53
    DC <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:53
    DG <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:53
    ANIM BAT 30 25-07-2022 10:56
    AV8B BAT 49 25-07-2022 10:52
    AV8BFLY BAT 34 25-07-2022 10:52
    FLY32 EXE 378,729 25-07-2022 10:56
    INTRO ANM 2,813,648 25-07-2022 10:56
    INTRO EXE 31,744 25-07-2022 10:56
    README TXT 993 25-07-2022 10:52
    ROLAND BIN 8,918 25-07-2022 10:56
    ROLAND MUS 8,697 25-07-2022 10:56
    SNDTSR EXE 4,358 25-07-2022 10:53
    10 File(s) 3,247,200 Bytes. Directory of C:\AV-8B\D\.
    . <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:52
    .. <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:57
    COCKPIT LBM 21,136 25-07-2022 10:52
    DAYCOLS 3,296 25-07-2022 10:52
    FONT55 486 25-07-2022 10:52
    FONT57 678 25-07-2022 10:52
    FONT58 774 25-07-2022 10:52
    FONT713 1,255 25-07-2022 10:52
    FRONTLEF LBM 14,296 25-07-2022 10:52
    FRONTRIT LBM 13,800 25-07-2022 10:52
    HEADUP LBM 11,546 25-07-2022 10:52
    REARIGHT LBM 9,730 25-07-2022 10:52
    REARLEFT LBM 9,742 25-07-2022 10:52
    UPLEFT LBM 10,424 25-07-2022 10:52
    UPRIGHT LBM 10,422 25-07-2022 10:52
    13 File(s) 107,585 Bytes. Directory of C:\AV-8B\D1\.
    . <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:52
    .. <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:57
    ARMBITS1 LBM 20,050 25-07-2022 10:52
    ARMBITS2 LBM 21,002 25-07-2022 10:52
    ARMBITS3 LBM 22,728 25-07-2022 10:52
    ARMBITS4 LBM 23,882 25-07-2022 10:52
    ARMBITS5 LBM 9,368 25-07-2022 10:52
    ARMSCREN LBM 31,152 25-07-2022 10:52
    6 File(s) 128,182 Bytes. Directory of C:\AV-8B\D2\.
    . <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:53
    .. <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:57
    ACCLIM LBM 38,728 25-07-2022 10:52
    AMTRACK LBM 16,150 25-07-2022 10:53
    AMTRACKS LBM 31,100 25-07-2022 10:53
    BRIDGE1 LBM 13,910 25-07-2022 10:53
    BRIDGE2 LBM 12,824 25-07-2022 10:52
    BRIDGE3 LBM 18,044 25-07-2022 10:53
    BRIDGE4 LBM 13,870 25-07-2022 10:53
    BRIEFING LBM 35,436 25-07-2022 10:52
    CARGO LBM 42,512 25-07-2022 10:52
    CARGO02 LBM 27,436 25-07-2022 10:52
    CARGO03 LBM 39,844 25-07-2022 10:52
    CARGO04 LBM 36,382 25-07-2022 10:53
    COMMAND LBM 54,410 25-07-2022 10:53
    COMMAND2 LBM 16,080 25-07-2022 10:53
    CORIDOR1 LBM 48,538 25-07-2022 10:52
    CORIDOR2 LBM 48,272 25-07-2022 10:52
    FAIL1 LBM 38,572 25-07-2022 10:53
    FAIL2 LBM 37,878 25-07-2022 10:53
    FILES LBM 30,880 25-07-2022 10:53
    LIFT01 LBM 36,050 25-07-2022 10:53
    LIFT02 LBM 28,898 25-07-2022 10:52
    LIFT03 LBM 24,062 25-07-2022 10:53
    LIFT04 LBM 24,278 25-07-2022 10:53
    LIFTDOOR LBM 42,718 25-07-2022 10:52
    SUCCESS LBM 38,884 25-07-2022 10:53
    TITLE LBM 38,390 25-07-2022 10:53
    VDECK LBM 33,872 25-07-2022 10:53
    27 File(s) 868,018 Bytes.
    Directory of C:\AV-8B\DC\.
    . <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:53
    .. <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:58
    BASES 836 25-07-2022 10:53
    C0 845 25-07-2022 10:53
    C1 12,727 25-07-2022 10:53
    ICONS LBM 6,520 25-07-2022 10:53
    INDEX 21 25-07-2022 10:53
    MAPCOLS 3,288 25-07-2022 10:53
    NETWORK 7,926 25-07-2022 10:53
    PREFS 18 25-07-2022 10:53
    8 File(s) 32,181 Bytes. Directory of C:\AV-8B\DG\. . <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:53 .. <DIR> 25-07-2022 10:58 122MM 2,507 25-07-2022 10:53 A4 4,330 25-07-2022 10:53 AAV7 4,719 25-07-2022 10:53 AIRBLDG 1,348 25-07-2022 10:53 AIRHANG 1,828 25-07-2022 10:53 AUSTIN 6,712 25-07-2022 10:53 AV8B 5,996 25-07-2022 10:53 AV8BU 7,526 25-07-2022 10:53 BARGE 3,822 25-07-2022 10:53 BLDG1 994 25-07-2022 10:53 BOMB 598 25-07-2022 10:53 C130 4,393 25-07-2022 10:53 CH-53 4,604 25-07-2022 10:53 CHIM 1,112 25-07-2022 10:53 COBRA 2,224 25-07-2022 10:53 CURVHANG 1,747 25-07-2022 10:53 D30 2,563 25-07-2022 10:53 DAIRBLDG 287 25-07-2022 10:53 DAIRHANG 287 25-07-2022 10:53 DAV8B 1,843 25-07-2022 10:53 DBLDG1 657 25-07-2022 10:53 DCHIM 324 25-07-2022 10:53 DCURVHAN 654 25-07-2022 10:53 DDEPOT 657 25-07-2022 10:53 DEPOT 956 25-07-2022 10:53 DEWAYNE 6,137 25-07-2022 10:53 DHANGER 783 25-07-2022 10:53 DHQ 918 25-07-2022 10:53 DHUT1 661 25-07-2022 10:53 DHUT2 466 25-07-2022 10:53 DHUT3 563 25-07-2022 10:53 DSHED 405 25-07-2022 10:53 DSILO 673 25-07-2022 10:53 DTOWER 1,437 25-07-2022 10:53 F-5E 3,550 25-07-2022 10:53 F16 2,275 25-07-2022 10:53 F5 2,275 25-07-2022 10:53 FRIG 5,018 25-07-2022 10:53 HANGER 1,076 25-07-2022 10:53 HQ 1,522 25-07-2022 10:53 HUMVEE 5,269 25-07-2022 10:53 HUT1 3,462 25-07-2022 10:53 HUT2 2,719 25-07-2022 10:53 HUT3 3,760 25-07-2022 10:53 KALAMAZO 6,662 25-07-2022 10:53 KIDD 5,566 25-07-2022 10:53 L1 2,130 25-07-2022 10:53 LAV 2,703 25-07-2022 10:53 LCAC 3,822 25-07-2022 10:53 LCT8 1,567 25-07-2022 10:53 M-1 4,663 25-07-2022 10:53 M-977 7,563 25-07-2022 10:53 MISSILE 470 25-07-2022 10:53 PARABOX 1,309 25-07-2022 10:53 PARASEAT 1,941 25-07-2022 10:53 RADAR 1,675 25-07-2022 10:53 ROCKET 106 25-07-2022 10:53 ROTOR 145 25-07-2022 10:53 SA-3 3,252 25-07-2022 10:53 SA-6 7,541 25-07-2022 10:53 SA3 2,507 25-07-2022 10:53 SA6 2,507 25-07-2022 10:53 SEAT 385 25-07-2022 10:53 SHED 1,080 25-07-2022 10:53 SILO 1,833 25-07-2022 10:53 T-54 6,239 25-07-2022 10:53 T-59 6,223 25-07-2022 10:53 T-813 7,812 25-07-2022 10:53 TARAWA 6,799 25-07-2022 10:53 TARAWA2 7,918 25-07-2022 10:53 TARGET 145 25-07-2022 10:53 TEMP 492 25-07-2022 10:53 TIMOR 176,422 25-07-2022 10:53 TOWER 3,576 25-07-2022 10:53 TRUCK 976 25-07-2022 10:53 UH-1 6,010 25-07-2022 10:53 WRECK 453 25-07-2022 10:53 ZSU-23 2,826 25-07-2022 10:53 ZSU-57 5,368 25-07-2022 10:53 79 File(s) 396,343 Bytes.

     

    Review: AV-8B Harrier Assault

    AV-8B Harrier Assault is really two games in one. There is the flight simulator where you control your Harrier through a variety of campaigns as you would any other combat flight sim. And secondly, there is the strategic game where as a Commander you take control of an entire amphibious landing operation on a hostile shore. The beauty of this is that you can pick and choose which of these games you wish to play, completing ignoring one over the other if that is your preference. Having said that, other reviews online suggest that in order to beat the game (win the war) you will need to use aspects of the strategic game to reposition units. No two games play out exactly the same as there is an element of randomness built in.

    For this review I didn't play the real-time strategy side of the game, aside from entering the map to step the time forward (a way to get the missions started), so this review really only focuses on the flight sim aspects.

    As a flight simulator, it can be quite difficult to control the Harrier AV8B-II. Don't think you will be doing vertical landings on your carrier anytime soon - the manual even suggests that in real life most Harriers conduct a short or conventional take off due to weight, but land vertically after most of the weight (fuel and ordnance) is gone - this is the way it works in this game, though you do have full control to take off vertically if your weight isn't too high. If you find you are struggling with your Harrier, Simis provided a 'Simple Controls' option by hitting ESC, go to 'Simulation' and un-tick both the 'G grey out' and 'Complex model' boxes. I didn't find the Complex model that much different, though my gameplay was limited to just the first few missions.

    When returning to the carrier to land after a mission, set the waypoint to 'T' (the Tarawa, your aircraft carrier) and hit 'A' to have the Autopilot do it all for you, including the landing. For a complete novice like me, this is a very welcome feature. With it, I struggled to visually confirm my plane was hovering directly over the flight deck - there are no shadows cast by the aircraft which add to this difficulty.

    Before I went into a mission I entered the Combat Air Patrol "mission", which is always available as long as you have a Harrier available to jump into. Without any weapons loaded, I played around with the VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing). For me, getting airborne was easy but establishing a stable hover was tricky at best, usually ending up with me ploughing into the sea or the side of the carrier when attempting to re-land. As with most things, I got a lot better with practice!

    The in-flight graphics are pretty sparse when compared to MicroProse flight sims such as F-15 Strike Eagle III (1992) or F-117A Nighthawk: Stealth Fighter 2.0 (1991). The landscape here is mostly just one or two colours, there's not much 'scenery' to see (just the island of East Timor is available to you), aside from some small hills, mountains, and military sites which have a handful of buildings and a SAM site to target. The gradiented sky looks good though, and lends some forgiveness for the sparse landscape.

    I had a few issues with the game as I played through - the first was that you don't get much information on the mission itself after you are in the cockpit. In the Mission Briefing you are given a summary of text, like 'H/4-129 Interdiction. Primary target Military camp at Tutuala', then on the mission description screen it lists the target(s) and the waypoints that have been programmed into your AV-8B. It also tells you what to expect in terms of ground defences and enemy air activity. So far so good, but once you are flying, you really have to remember all of that. I'm a simple flight simmer, so I need it all laid out easily for me! Having the equivalent of a virtual kneeboard with all that info to pull up, or like in MicroProse sims, having it display in your cockpit's MFD (multi-function display) would have been nice.

    The next issue I had was arming the aircraft. There is no way of recognising what weapon is currently loaded until you have gone through all of them to learn what they look like. Simply hovering your cursor over a loaded weapon should ideally have some indicator to let you know what it is. I know, I'm being lazy, but it's better than having to remove the weapon, find the one that looks the same in shape and colour and putting it back on. Fortunately, there are only really about 8 different types of ordnance you can fit, so with some trial-and-error you do get to learn what's what - by why make it that hard for someone just starting out with the game? On the plus side, each mission starts with what the armourers consider to be the right payload for the mission ahead, so you do have the choice to just go with that if you like, and I like the fact that if you need to re-do the same mission, a quick click on 'Last' loads up that set of ordnance you had on the previous sortie.

    Finally, and possibly my biggest issue was the limited external viewing controls. Rotating around your aircraft in external viewing mode is very jerky and has only two levels of zoom, 'in' or 'out'. The "Object view", which is kind of a fly-by doesn't automatically reset after say, 5 seconds, so you have to keep pressing 'O' to start the fly-by again or your aircraft will just disappear into the distance.

    It's these little things that when added together, really detract from the enjoyment of the game.

    Final Thought

    To summarise, I found AV-8B Harrier Assault a frustrating experience. It is apparent Simis developed a good engine for the game - you can see some really nice touches like other Harriers taking off and helicopters patrolling the area around your fleet. The war is always continuing while you sit around on the carrier deciding what to do. Enemy targets get attacked without you being a part of it, and you can jump into the cockpit of any actively-flying Harrier to see what it's doing or even take control - just amazing! - all of this helps with the immersion that you are part of an ever-changing theatre of war, and what you do can make a difference. But the game is let down by a clunkiness and poor user interface I personally struggled to work around, both in the Commander [strategic] map screen and in-flight.

    The operations manual is very thorough (invaluable in some respects), but lacks illustrations.

    I really wanted to like this game - I bought a copy off Ebay years ago because I love flight sims and love this exceptional plane - but feel rather let down with this 1992 title. It has just one theatre of war to play in, though I can understand why, given the fact you have an entire real-time strategy game built-in, which I'm sure will add to this game's depth and replayability.

    Sadly, the audio is almost non-existent, and it seems to expect too much of the player to 'want' to get into the detail with very little assistance. For me personally, this made it a bland, boring experience, despite hours of giving it the benefit of the doubt. Let me know if you think I am being unfair on the game - before I started to write this review I had never played it - and do bear in mind only the "flight sim" aspect of the game was being reviewed here, not the RTS side. That portion will need a further play and review at a later date!

    Scoreboard

    Graphics: Average. The original game which runs in 320x200 is perfectly good to play the game - oddly I didn't really enjoy the 'benefit' of the SVGA 640x480 version mainly because it forced the screen's text elements (altitude, airspeed, the entire HUD, etc) to appear much more squashed vertically and therefore harder to read. It also accentuated the lack of ground detail present in the game. With my original boxed copy, the 'intro' didn't work - running the game with the intro just went straight to the "advert" slide followed by the Command Center screen. The vector models are pretty basic and the colours are bland. They could have added more detail to these models and then offered detail-reducing modes for slower-performing systems, but aside from a couple of performance-tuning choices this is completely missing as a choice. 5/10

    Sound: Pretty terrible - non-existent music and only a few sound effects here and there. A real let-down which is surprising for a game that supports more than just PC speaker - Ad Lib, Sound Blaster and Roland are supported, but where is the sound? The default setting is for the engine noise to be off - why would you do that? 2/10

    Gameplay: As mentioned in my review, I found the overall experience to be frustrating - a game with all the possibility of being pretty good is let own by a poor user interface. Yes you get 2 games in one, but neither are very good. The strategy side has not been thoroughly played here, so I won't criticise without due cause, but you need to use the main map screen to push the game time forward to open up missions for 'flight sim' play, and this screen was annoying to use every time I was forced to. A very simple example is zooming - to zoom in you right-click the mouse, so you would assume a left-click would zoom out, right? Or perhaps Shift and right-click? No - you have to find a totally different button in the corner of the window to zoom back out. I welcome any corrective feedback you can give me as to things I may have done wrong/not understood. Perhaps the AI is so strong you can look past these other 'minor' concerns, but right now this is a big miss. Let me know! 5/10

    Lastability: In 1992 we had a lot of flight simulation titles to choose from and many of them were actually FUN to play. This, to me at least, was not. The war plays out differently each time you play it, which is a good thing, with enough randomness to keep you coming back for more if you like playing the game. But for me, the bland graphics and difficult UI makes this a game I wouldn't choose to pick up again. 4/10

    OVERALL: 4/10