PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Before getting into the thick of things, I just want to briefly mention that apart from the very attractive shiny scenario maps you get with the Tornado package (so glossy you could probably ice-skate on them), you also get a massive 330 page manual: and the point here is that youre going to have to read it. Every single page, every single word, every single letter. But heres the good news: it doesnt matter, because its one of the best manuals around. Well laid out and brilliantly written, its both informative, interesting and, at times, amusing. So dont panic when you first open the box.
Down to business
Okay, onto the game itself. There are loads of options screens and lots of switches to muck about with, so what Ill do is talk you through the opening moments of Tornado ownership; things you might conceivably do once youve installed it on your hard drive, dimmed the lights and made a cup of tea/coffee (or whatever).
Show off to a chum
Clicking on review takes you to the screen where you can show off all the 3D shapes in the game to whoever youve invited round. And jolly nice shapes they are too. Rotate them and pitch them up and down; aircraft, tanks, radar, sam launchers and so on. But now for the twist. Just as your chum thinks hes seen all there is to see, tap a button and shazam: up pops a digitised photo of whatever polygon vehicle is currently being displayed. Look, you can say, switching between the two images, see how accurate the model is. Yes, but it hasnt got any guru shading your chum will reply. And so on.
Tornado has a fully functioning pilots log, with room for 20 different pilots names. Once youve signed on (youre initially given the rank of Flight Officer), your flying hours and mission scores are automatically notched up. There is, by the way, a default pilot in the log already. Not only is he totally indestructible and undeletable, but he already has the highest rank possible -namely that of Group Captain. So what? you say. Youll find out later.
For the terminally impatient there are two quickstart missions, one for the ids (Interdictor Strike Variant) Tornado and one for the adv (Air Defence , Variant) Tornado. Both of these missions are further subdivided into hard and easy. However, if youre brand new to Tornado (and especially if you havent bothered to read the manual) then substitute the word impossible Hr for the word hard, the word confusing for the word easy and the word quickdie for the word quickstart. It looks like Digital Integration felt that as Falcon 3 had a quickstart, Tornado should have one as well. But it isnt that sort of game. Its nightmarishly complex.
Now youll start getting somewhere, because the simulator, over a series of 20 lessons, takes you through all the basic tactics, manoeuvres and emergency procedures youll be needing later on in both the adv and the ids Tornadoes; from weapons training to spin recovery to landing with your engines out. And you can tailor things, too: you can muck about with the time of day, the weather conditions, the weapons load, the fuel load, the aircraft weight and whether youll bounce rather than explode on collisions. The most important toggle, however, and the one youll have to be most wary of flicking on to begin with, is the Enemy Activity on/off switch. Unlike (for instance) Falcon 3, the enemy forces in Tornado are simply active or inactive. You cant say: Oh, well, well have average aaa gunners, good pilots but crap sam operatives. Like I said, the enemy is either on or off, and if hes on - and if you stray too near him without knowing exactly what youre doing - then youre jiggered.
Like the Simulator, there are different exercises with which to hone your skills on both Tornadoes (the ids and the adv), only this time you cant toggle any of the reality factors. In other words your pilot, who was totally safe in the simulator, can now get killed.
Eventually itll be time to click on the Combat icon, which opens up a brand new screen containing the four following options: Two Player, Mission, Campaign and Command. Two Player is self explanatory: via direct link or modem you can fly head to head with another human being. Mission is also pretty self explanatory: a series of missions, all real (i.e., no toggling things to your requirements) and with the enemy most definitely turned on!!! Oh, and by the way, there are three different War Zones in Tornado... three different landscapes. At 20 missions per zone that means 60 missions overall. Still not enough for you? Good, because were only at the tip of the Tornado iceberg. Next comes the Campaign option, which is split into two types (easy and hard) and then multiplied by three (given the different War Zones) meaning youve got six campaigns overall: three easy and three hard. In the easy type of campaign youre told which target(s) to attack and are only in charge of one plane - your own. The trouble is that every single thing your Tornado actually does is down to you, which means youll be using the Mission Planner to define your own flightplan - and believe me when I say that defining a workable flightplan can be nightmarishly complicated, even just for one aircraft. (If you used the Mission Planning section in Falcon 3 and thought yourself rather clever Id better point out that in comparison with Tornado's its merely a toy: a childs plaything). Dont panic though, because planning a mission in Tornado, once youve understood the basic ground rules, is probably even more enjoyable than actually flying the mission -and it certainly takes longer. Much longer. An average mission, to fly, will take about 20 minutes. Planning it, however, could easily take two hours... but planning is one of those activities where you dont notice time passing: youre too involved doing 1001 things that I wont even begin to go into because (a) theres no room and (b) the manual does a far better job than Im capable of. All you need know for now is that the Mission Planning section of Tornado will impress you so deeply your socks will be blown off. In fact I cannot emphasise this enough: its absolutely incredible.
On with the campalgn(s)
So where were we? Ah yes, youre told what to hit, you define your flightplanf!), you load your weapons and fuel, you take off, and you hopefully then return to base. Now its time for the debriefing session, which is always very accurate and tells you exactly what you didnt want to know; for instance that your attack on enemy airfield number three was 100% unsuccessful because you accidentally toss-bombed your entire load onto a petrol station two miles beyond. And then youre given a war update ready for the next phase. Yes, like Falcon 3, Birds of Prey and Harrier AV8B, the war in Tornado is ongoing: the front line isnt static, and the missions continue until one side wins. So those are the basics; youre given the directive and you deal with one aircraft. But thats the easy campaign type. Remember I said there were two? Well, the hard campaigns (Impossible more like. Ed.) are much the same but for one important difference. Not only are you responsible for just your own Tornado, youre also expected to create flightplans for a whole formation. Aaaaargh! I remember once reading James Joyces description of what Hell would be like: he got it wrong. But these harder Campaign sections are where you pick up the really juicy promotions for your pilot - and to enter the Command section of the game hell need to either be a Wing Commander or Group Captain. (Unless youre using the default pilot I mentioned earlier of course, because he already is a Group Captain.)
If you think things have sounded tough thus far, then I ought to mention the words excrement and air conditioning, because this really is where the shit hits the fan. You know in the campaigns there were these sort of invisible blokes above you, telling you which targets to go for? Well, they were the Group Captain and the Wing Commander. But now you re the Group Captain (or Wing Commander), so you still have to do everything you did before - flightplans for all the lads and so on - but now you first have to decide what targets youre going to actually attack in the first place. And when. Which means youd better have a pretty firm grasp on the reason why, so its lucky youre now party to a great deal of intelligence denied to you at lower ranks. Be warned that as Wing Commander or Group Captain youll be spending unfeasibly long periods of time in the Mission Planner, and that, when you finally-do go to bed, the Mission Planner will appear in at least one of your dreams. (I had one in which it was a tablecloth that Id spilt some sort of weird egg stuff on, but you wont be interested so I wont elaborate).
A word on air combat
The adv of the Tornado flies much the same as its sister the ids. In other words its no fi6, and so not much cop as a close range fighter. This is compounded in-game by the fact that (a) theres no padlock view and (b) the Took up view from the cockpit is crap (you look up too far, you cant see your hud). With perseverance things do get better - and you do learn a few nifty tricks. The very brilliant thing (for reality buffs, anyway) is the scaling of the other aircraft, by which I mean real. So, to actually stick on an enemys tail and take him out with your cannons is no easy task. Which is good. Obviously.
Weapons (not Including cannons)
For your air-to-air encounters youve got a choice of two: the American AIM9-L all aspect infra-red (which youll no doubt be familiar with) and the Sky Flash all aspect radar (the British version of the amraam). For those air to ground moments there are the following, all of which are British: (1) The BL-755 medium weight cluster bomb, which contains 147 anti-tank/fragmentation bomblets (wahay). (2) The 1000 lb general purpose freefall bomb (yawn). (3) The retarded 1000 lb bomb... i.e., with a parachute to slow it down. (4) The jp-233, a totally brilliant heavyweight airfield attack and area denial submunition dispenser which makes Durandel look like a pile of old cack. (5) The BAe/Marconi alarm, an anti radiation missile which you may be familiar with in its direct mode (i.e., aiming straight at radar emitting target), but not in its indirect mode, in which you fire blind at suspected radar sites miles and miles ahead (which youll have tagged during Mission Planning). The alarm cruises towards the suspected target and then soars up to 10000 feet where it deploys a parachute, hangs nose down and scans the ground beneath. As soon as an enemy radar is turned on (i.e., as soon as they spot your Tornado) the alarm detects it, cuts away from its chute, and drops as if it were a guided bomb. Wow! (6) Finally we have the 1000 lb laser guided bomb which is used in conjunction with the Tornados tiald system, and this is easy to explain. Remember the gulf war show on tv? Remember the item where the in-plane camera showed us the target? Remember the laser beam crosshair that was then placed? And the laser guided bombs that pounded in with phenomenal accuracy, even though they were dropped from a zillion feet? Well, you can do all of this in Tornado, and its unbelievably brilliant.
All In all...
In summing up (even though Ive only skimmed the surface of the game so far) Ill mention Tornado's only real faults, which are: (a) theres no shadow under your plane in the external view, which is the most annoying thing in the world as far as I'm concerned; (b) theres only one crash sequence which is fine for belly landings, but looks silly for anything more severe; (c) the frame updates a bit squiffy on lower end machines, although I reckon you should be able to live with it; (d) theres no replay facility, and (e) Digital Integration make absolutely no concessions to the fact that you have to play the part of both pilot and navigator; sometimes youll find yourself needing to perform five or more consecutive single and double key presses in the space of ten seconds, while at the same time moving from the front seat to the back seat and simultaneously checking instruments while clicking on the mouse buttons. (In reality the pilot could just say: Arm the alarms... no, give me clusters... no, give me the alarms again). Mind you, I suppose the frantic keyboard action is an exciting alternative to Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. And anyway, even with these gripes, I still have to conclude that Tornado is simply brilliant. The depth. The realism.
The chance to become an armchair expert and bore everyone senseless when the next proper tv war breaks out. A word of warning to you before I go though. In case you hadnt already guessed, Tornado is aimed at propellor heads. In other words its bloody hard work, and what you get out of it depends entirely upon how much you put in. Comprendo?