Airborne Ranger

Title		Airborne Ranger
Game Type	Combat simulation
Company         Microprose, 1989
Players		1
Compatibility	All (With Patch)
HD INstallable  Yes (With Patch)
HD Installable	No
Submission      Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Airborne Ranger was initially released for the Commodore 64, and by
Micropose standards (the simulation kings) it was virtually an arcade
game. By any other standards though, the game was indeed a simulation and,
despite appearances, felt very different from a soldier based romp, like
Commando for example. Microprose was, at this point, fairly quick in
converting its 8-bit games to the Amiga, I recall Silent Service appearing
fairly early on, but apparently Airborne Ranger didn't appear until 1989.
Visually however Microprose had done little to make use of the Amiga's
features with either game, or indeed with Gunship come to that.

Anyway, Airborne Ranger casts you in the role of a US Ranger (Rangers, lead
the way!) with 12 missions set in 3 different environements. These are
Temperate, like Europe, Arctic like erm..... the Arctic, and Desert, like
Kuwait ....or even Afghanistan.

You can use a "Practice" Ranger or a Veteran Ranger, the latter giving you
access to the saved games disk and experienced Rangers. You can also
select a difficulty level before choosing your mission.

After deciding the type of game, things get a bit more tactical with the
kitbag packing screen. You select what you need from the various weapons
and equipment and fill up to 3 kitbags, which are to be air-dropped into
your combat zone. Thoughtfully, Microprose have included a "copy to all
bags" option so that if you're happy not to customise the contents of each
bag you can copy the contents of the first to the second and third with
the click of a mouse button.

When you have finished with your equipment you are taken directly to the
mission itself. First of all you watch a vertically scrolling landscape
(which later doubles as your map) scroll slowly up the screen as your
osprey aircraft flies over the combat zone. By moving the plane from left
to right and clicking the fire button you can jettison your 3 kitbags
seperately, pretty much pinpointing their location. The fourth click,
which is only available at the bottom of the combat zone, launches you out
of the aircraft with limited control of your rapidly descending parafoil.

Once you have landed, your soldier stands midscreen within the four way
scrolling landscape. It is a forced perspective affair, with a "rooftop"
viewpoint of the action, much like that in The Chaos Engine, for example.
There are ditches, rocks, walls and various other cover strewn around the
place, but don't spend too long admiring them, because also present are a
good deal of enemy soldiers who are very keen to add another notch to
their rifles, courtesy of yourself. Stealthily then, you make your way to
the nearest cover, and by bringing up the map, which conveniently pauses
the game, you can confirm your position and choose your route to the
objective. You will probably wish to avoid as much of the enemy as
possible because you are not here to try and win the war singlehandedly.
Instead, your priority is to succeed in your mission which will provide as
much challenge as you are likely to ever want. The map also shows the
whereabouts of your kitbags, so unless you were dropping them as unguided
bombs, you'll probably wish to make your way via them.

As stated, there are 12 missions, with objectives like destroying
buildings, freeing hostages, cutting a pipeline, and even photographing an
experimental aircraft. Even with the variable difficulty settings, the
missions are not easy, and wading in and blasting everything is likely to
cause frustration very quickly. The more cunning and stealthy player,
though, will gradually succeed, but its no pushover.

When Airborne Ranger was released it was an unusual game concept and it
still is. Its almost as if Wild Bill Stealey of Microprose said to his
assitant one Monday morning, "Hey, played a game in the arcades this
weekend, name of Commando, and hot damn, that game kicks butt!!! I want a
Microprose version, stat!"

"But Mr Stealey" said the assitant respectfully, "Microprose are committed
to producing only the finest simulation software."

Pulling out his pearl handled Colt .45 governement service pistol in one
single, easy action, and levelling it at the now trembling advisor,  Bill
fixed his steely glare on his subordinate. Very quietly and yet perfectly
distinctly, he said, "So build in the simulation stuff, just make the
goddam game. Are we clear?"

"C-c-c-c-crystal clear" came the reply, and the rest is history.

Fantasy aside though, Airborne Ranger is an unusual beast. The action side
of it can be rather random, with you occasionally having to turn and blast
away in seemingly every direction as another enemy wanders on to the
scene. This seems somewhat at odds with the idea of an infantryman
simulation, as does the go-it-alone Rambo nature of the game.
I assume Rangers would usually work in teams.

This isn't a criticism of merging two game types into a single game, I'm
all in favour of that, its just that I think the action side needs to be a
bit stronger and better implemented if isn't to detract from the game's
credibility as a tactical shoot-em-up.

All in all though, the game is quite fun and different enough to make it
worth investigating, if any of what I've described above appeals to you.

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