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Set in 2011, the world has taken a turn for the worse. Global oil crises in combination with the rise of terrorism and the fall of the Soviet Union spark a series of nationalistic uprisings in some of the larger union countries (including Great Britain and the United States!). The abundance of warring nations have prompted the creation of mercenary military groups who conduct large-scale military operations on behalf of anyone who can afford them. Turkey in particular has created a "tax umbrella" for mercenary activity, and Istanbul is now considered the base-of-operations for many such groups.
The player takes the role of a Commander in one of the smaller but most elite mercenary groups, the "Wildcats", who specialize in aerial operations - especially F-16 fighter jets. After conducting several combat missions for various small organizations at the start of the game, the Wildcats receive a lucrative offer to fight for a South American dictator against his "troublesome" neighbours, and they reluctantly accept. However, after completing their mission, the Wildcats' old and wise leader is shot down along with the payment he was carrying back to base, and it is now up to you to lead the leaderless and penniless Wildcats forward, trying to survive both physically and financially in a complicated world.
As mentioned earlier, much like its Wing Commander predecessors the game has a strong emphasis on the plot. Between missions you can spend some time walking around your base and having conversations with other (well-characterized) members of your group - most of whom are also your wingmen and display various personalities in their flying styles as well. In the CD-ROM version of the game, each character is also fully-voiced, and in total there is more than an hour of conversations and cutscenes to be enjoyed. As the leader of the group, you also have to make sure that the armament inventory is fully-stocked with the missiles and bombs necessary for your next mission. Finally, in Istanbul you can drive down to the local Mercenary cafe to seek "fixers" - representatives of governments or other organizations who offer contracts for your employment. Once a deal with one of the fixers is made, the Wildcats fly off to whatever zone of conflict across the world, and then preform a series of missions for their employer.
During the course of the game, the player learns more about the geo-political situation, about the rival mercenary groups that compete against you for work, and about the truth behind the death of Commander Stern (the previous leader of the Wildcats). The plot culminates in combat against the most powerful rival group, the Jackals, with whom the Wildcats have a long grudge as well as ideological differences: One group will do everything for money, while the other at least tries to work only for those who deserve it.
As a flight simulator, Strike Commander is more arcade-like than realistic, and can be compared to what Wing Commander would be like in atmospheric conditions. However, at the time it offered a ground-breaking 3D flight engine coupled with stunning VGA visuals (for 1993), which included advanced gouraud shading coupled with polygon textures. It was compatible with several different kinds of advanced joysticks as well, and was commonly included with Sound-Blaster/Joystick packages sold around that period (when the Sound-Blaster 16 had its own Joystick port).
The game was less successful than the Wing Commander series, despite its clear superiority in terms of technical innovations. However, it did produce an expansion pack called Tactical Operations, whose plot focuses on attempts by the American IRS (now the de-facto government of what remains of the United States after several states have called quits) to shut down Turkey's tax umbrella and resume
profiting from exploiting mercenary groups. The major innovation in the expansion was the inclusion of the F-22 Lightning II jet-fighter and the F-23, both of which can be flown instead of the F-16 whenever required.
The game also opened the way to another flight simulator from Origin, called Pacific Strike, which took the same game engine into the Pacific Theatre of World War II.
This work features examples of the following tropes:
- The Ace: Basically all names pilots in this game are flight aces, including yourself, Stern, Janet, and the evil Prideaux. The only real non-aces in your group are Miguel (the pilot/mechanic) and Virgil Beetlebaum (the accountant). The game also keeps track of how many planes you shot down during the game, as well as planes shot down by your wingmen.
- Ace Pilot
- Balkanize Me
- Black and Gray Morality: Even the Wildcats work for the "wrong" people sometimes. In fact it seems like no one has truly pure intentions. The player is supposed to try and follow the White Morality path, but then again, you're a mercenary...
- Divided States of America
- Face Heel Revolving Door: Janet pulls off a Face Heel Turn after being reprimanded by Stern for shooting down a civilian aircraft (which was carrying baddies, but was still unarmed, and not the target of the mission). Within a week, she's working with your sworn rivals, the Jackals. She's back with the Wildcats by the end of the game of course, having realized her mistake.
- High-Speed Missile Dodge: Possible, but it's safer with flares.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: As expected from what is basically Wing Commander dressed as Top Gun. High G-Forces can blind you, though.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: Played painfully straight - they are now the de-facto government of the United States, and have the power to exercise military force to collect debts!
- Loads and Loads of Loading: To be expected when a game runs off a CD at 1x speed, common at the time of its release.
- Loading Screen: Thankfully, the loading screen had a mini-game where you played pong against yourself with a CD instead of a ball. There was also incentive to play well: If you let the CD fall off the bottom edge of the screen, the mini-game ended and you had no choice but to wait patiently for the mission to finish loading... and that could take a while.
- Mega Corp
- Private Military Contractors: The Wildcats and Jackals are both this, specializing in fighter jets. In fact, the premise of the game is that PMCs have become numerous and powerful due to the sheer number of wars going on all across the Earth at the same time. Most PMCs operate out of Turkey thanks to a tax umbrella the country offers.
- Wing Man
- You All Meet At Selim's: The Bar in Istanbul is where you get most of the jobs.