Hall of Fame – Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

Desert Strike Title Screen

What were you doing in 1992? Well, being 11 at the time I was probably mostly going to school, watching cartoons, not eating my greens and piloting a helicopter across the Persian Gulf to take down a ruthless dictator. Luckily this was done through the medium of video games and not actual warfare. Specifically Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf on the Sega Mega Drive. As one of my favourite Mega Drives games this deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.

Loosely based on the 1982 game Choplifter, you were tasked with piloting an Apache helicopter to destroy enemies their weapons and buildings, rescue POWs and capture hostile personnel. All the while having to balance your ammo and fuel supplies and ensure your armour is topped up enough for upcoming battles. Developed by Electronic Arts the game went on to receive 90%+ review scores and become EA’s highest selling game at the time.

Mission Briefing
Mission Briefing

Not a bad result considering the Lead Designer, Mike Posehn, had no prior experience of developing a video game! Viewed from an isometric perspective part of what made the game so appealing was the camera system which Mike developed that used momentum to help give the impression of helicopter movement. Anyone who has played the game will appreciate the effect this has. Armed with machine guns and two increasingly more powerful missile types part of the strategy was making sure you picked the right tool for the right job.

Knock out the Radar
Knock out the Radar

Along with the main missions you also had numerous side missions that you could choose to take on. This added more tension and strategy as you had to manage all your resources to allow you to finish all missions without running out of fuel, armour or ammo. Some of the side missions involved rescuing prisoners, some of which would be a different co-pilot who would improve your accuracy or winch power allowing you to collect pick ups faster in the heat of battle.

Rescue a TV-team in trouble
Rescue a TV-team in trouble

Along with being ported to SNES and Amiga Desert Strike also spawned several sequels (Jungle Strike, Urban Strike, Soviet Strike, and Nuclear Strike). These kept the basic gameplay elements as the original but added new vehicles to control and new environments. A further sequel was planned and in development but later lost the Strike name and was reworked in to a mech-based shooter.

Game Over
Game Over

If there was any to complaint to be made about the game it would be the slightly dubious subject matter. Released only a matter of months after the end of the Gulf War it did little to try disguise the inspiration for its story. Iffy subject matter aside Desert Strike is still a great game to this day and a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame.

Screenshots borrowed from here, thank you.

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