Reviewed: June 26, 2003
Released: June 13, 2003
Air Raid: This Is Not A Drill is the latest budget title to come from Strategy First spin-off publisher, Big City Games. While Strategy First has always been known for excellent strategy games their varied selection of discount titles have been hit-and-miss - an interesting adjective considering the nature of this game.
Air Raid puts you on the deck of a World War II battleship for 99 missions where you must defend against enemies in the air, on the water, and even under the water. You are in control of a massive 40mm Bofor Anti-Aircraft fixed deck gun that fires both shells and missiles. On some missions you even have depth charges at your disposal.
Air Raid Features:
Even for a budget game I really had a problem with the lack of compelling gameplay in Air Raid. Each mission starts you on the same deck of the same ship behind the same gun. The sky may change, you may out to sea or docked in the harbor, and you may fight any number or combination of planes and ships, but each mission becomes painfully much like the last.
I can best describe the gameplay as any of those turret missions you may have encountered in games like Indiana Jones, Red Faction II, Vietcong, etc. and while that type of gameplay is great in short doses interspersed between “real” gameplay, when you chain 99 identical missions together the game just wears thin.
Controls are as simple as the gameplay with the left button firing the cannon, the right button firing missiles, and the spacebar dropping depth charges. You can also roll the wheel to zoom in on your targets – a feature they can only wish they had back in the 40’s.
Spinning around in your turret you will notice you are flanked by other gunners just like yourself, but these are only window dressing. They do not fire, move, or even react when hit. Likewise, planes will blow up or catch on fire and crash, but if they crash into your ship or even into your turret you will not take damage. It would have been much more exciting and authentic to actually have to “plan” your attack so damaged planes would not crash into you.
Each level lasts 5-10 minutes and you simply spin around shooting anything in the air or any of the hostile ships circling your location. If you are given depth charges at the start of the mission then you know torpedo bombers will be making their appearance. You strategically, use the depth charges as countermeasures against their incoming torpedoes.
In all fairness, the game does get quite challenging in the later levels, but it never deviates from the same formulaic gameplay that greeted you in the very first level. If you don’t mind repetitious games of the “Pac Man” or “Space Invaders” mentality then you’ll probably have a good time.
While the game is moderately violent I think the Teen rating was totally uncalled for. There is no blood and no depiction of human casualties unless you use your imagination to picture people in the cockpits. The only men you even see are your shipmates who are impervious to any attack. The Teen rating may just place this game out of reach of the very age group it is most appropriate for.
The graphics are a mixed affair. There is a nice sepia tone style to the opening movie that makes it look like authentic war footage. Air Raid supports all resolutions and there isn’t a huge demand on CPU or video card so you can run this game at 1600x1200 on good systems and 1280x1024 on modest ones.
The skies are gorgeous which is good because you are looking at them a lot in this game. From time to time you’ll see an island or the harbor where you are docked. These are either digitized or modeled but none of them are interactive or change when taking damage. Nothing really explodes or bursts into flames except the enemy.
The models of the planes and ships are average and they move nicely in a straight line but it’s odd to see them make sharp right-angle turns with no banking. They blow-up quite nicely, either all at once in a huge fireball or into pieces. It’s not uncommon to see the wings blow off and the fuselage come flying right into your ship.
The music in Air Raid is quite stirring. You start off with some classic 40’s tunes that sound like they are playing on an authentic 40’s radio then the air raid sirens sound and the music turns into this military theme that really gets your adrenaline flowing.
There is very little speech other than the call of “Air Raid…this is not a drill”. The rest of the sound effects are thunderous from the booming cannons to the exploding planes. As loud and authentic as this may be it does wear on your nerves after an hour or so. The THUMP, THUMP, THUMP interspersed with the KABOOM of planes and ships is deafening, even at normal speaker volumes. Now I know why these guys wore earplugs.
100 missions x 8 minutes (on average) and you have 800 minutes or about 13-15 hours of gameplay. That’s not bad for a $19 game assuming you don’t mind the repetitious nature of the game itself. Air Raid also supports up to six players working as a team on the same ship. It’s a valiant attempt at some cooperative multiplayer, especially for a budget title, but I doubt many will explore this feature.
Air Raid: This Is Not A Drill isn’t a terrible game, but with a narrow vision of gameplay, total lack of any story or compelling drama to carry you through 99 missions it is a pure arcade experience that most PC gamers have evolved out of a long time ago.
If you still enjoy those classic arcade shooters of yesteryear and don’t mind spinning in circles shooting down hundreds, perhaps thousands of planes, then check this title out. There’s some fun to be had as long as you take it in small helpings.