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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Sierra

You are Haggert, loudmouth ace A-10 pilot. You are about to take your A-10 Thunderbolt II, more affectionately known as the “warthog”, and shove some very hot ordinance down some very bad men's throats.

The A-10 “Warthog” is the Air Force’s close ground support aircraft. Built around a 7-barrel, 30mm Avenger “gatling” gun, the A-10 is able to carry an incredible arsenal of Maverick missiles, Rockeye cluster bombs, MK82 and MK84 iron bombs, napalm, and fuel-air bombs among others. A virtual flying tank, the Warthog can fly low and slow over the battlefield lingering long enough to support ground troops and wreak havoc on the enemy.

The Review:
I never got a chance to play A-10 Tank Killer I, so I really cannot compare the two. However, I liked II very much. As a young, hotshot pilot, you begin your combat experience in the jungles of Columbia fighting drug  lords. After that you are transferred to the Persian Gulf where you go up against a tyrant general known for his ruthlessness and “ethnic cleansing”. Finally, you are transferred to Korea where you take part in a tense situation involving the renegade son of one of North Korea’s premiere generals. Like the last game I reviewed, Silent Hunter, Silent Thunder is a little frustrating at first but grows on you. It has some interesting differences from most combat simulator games. The most noticeable and sometimes frustrating is the time scale. Once you are airborne, you have to take out your targets pronto because the clock is ticking. Take any detours along the way or get tied up dogfighting a Mig and your target escapes, or friendlies die because you were not there to give  them support. Another interesting difference is the nature of the targets. You take off with a primary target, but new information is sent to you during the mission with new targets. What begins as a simple air strike can end up with enough secondary targets to keep you hopping all over the map. Often, you have to change course and hit a new target that takes priority before you can go back to your original target. While this is aggravating at first, I got to like it. It caused each mission to take on a life of its own, and caused the same mission to be different each time it is played because of how you handle your targets.

Silent Thunder is a game with great graphics and excellent music. You find yourself swooping past the snow capped peaks of mountains and diving into green ravines while jamming to kickin’ tunes. Also, you can start and develop a career, completing each mission in order, or you can select any mission and play it. This is nice when you get stuck on a mission. Rather than banging your head against it forever, you can select a different mission and play it. Your A-10 is rugged, being able to take multiple hits and still fly. You get to choose from a wide selection of weapons to blast your enemies back into the stone age. Your commander constantly radios in new data with new troop movements and targets for you during your mission. So just when you thought you were done ... you’re not. In addtition, I liked the way the A-10 dropped bombs. In several simulators I have played, the process of dropping bombs is a real pain in the butt. In Silent Thunder, you get the target in front of you, select it as your target, and wait untill the onboard computer tells you to release.

Although I like Silent Thunder quite a bit, it did have its share of problems. You can only run it in Windows, which means it is not running as fast as it could if it were in DOS. I hate when computer companies put this kind of restrictions on games, especially graphic and sound intensive games like flight simulators. EarthSiege 2 suffered the same problem and was (surprise, surprise) released by Sierra too. Also, Silent Thunder seemed to want to crash with annoying frequency. I am not sure if this is the game or if it Windows getting bogged down, but in any case it sucks. In addition, when you are in certain windows (like the weapons loadout screen!) your cursor wants to disappear when it is moved over that window. Again ... very annoying.

Finally, when you are in combat and get a target in front of you, your HUD puts a white box around it, like many simulators games do. The problem is, however, that there is no way to lock it. If you have to pull off of it for an instant, you lose it and then have to re-acquire it by putting the nose on a direct line with it again. This can be hard when you are trying not to plow into the ground at 300 mph but have to keep diving at it to hold your target. And if there are other targets near it, your computer jumps to whichever is nearest to the center of your HUD. A simple key that would lock a target into your computer even when you pull the nose off it would be nice here I think ... perhaps that is they way the real A-10 is, but it makes it frustrating for those of us without years of flight and combat experience. Finally, when they get a chance to launch fighters or helicopters to intercept you, you are as good as dead unless you see them first and are quicker with your Sidewinders. The A-10 carries only 2 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for defense and handles like a tub when it comes to dogfighting. Again, perhaps this is realistic, but in the game, fighters taking off practically sign your death warrant.

--Brent Hegarty