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Goose Greenlight: Jet Thunder Gets Publisher

Six of the war-torn wonders I tipped at the start of the year are now available, and a recent announcement on the Aerosoft forum suggests that total will soon be seven. Or 6.333333333 if you want to be pedantic. The German publisher that back in July 09 declared an interest in developing a successor to Microsoft Flight Simulator, has just signed-up Falklands/Malvinas War flight sim Jet Thunder, and plans to release a good third of it before the year is out. Splendid news!/Geniales noticias!

For those that can’t be arsed to peruse Mr Kok’s pronouncement, the first of three interlocking instalments will focus on the helicopter-aping Harriers of the British task force. A mere 20€/110ARS will buy you a bunk on HMS Hermes and the right to participate in a selection of historically-hewn sorties ranging from duels with Argie jets, to low-level mud-moving missions in support of the Paras and Royal Marines.

If ThunderWorks’ attitude to scenarios is similar to its apparent attitude to avionics (“the systems are as they are in the real aircraft”) then these jaunts – especially the ground attack ones – should be pretty hairy affairs. No fewer than five Harriers were lost whilest flying CAS missions over the islands. The slew of surface threats included radar-guided 35mm AAA, Roland SAMs, and – rather ironically – British-made Blowpipe MANPADS.

From the air, what danger there was was primarily Dagger and Skyhawk shaped  (planes we should have a chance to fly sometime in 2011 courtesy of the second instalment). As both these types were operating at the limits of their fuel capacity, and usually tasked with sinking ships, dogfights should be pretty rare. Will Jet Thunder reflect this? It’s one of those classic Fun vs. Realism design dilemmas. If FAA jets linger after delivering their deadly payloads, the illusion for some is damaged, but the pleasure for many(?) is increased.

Whatever behaviour ThunderWorks settle on, this is a sim I’m raring to fly. It’s not just that I can’t remember the last time I climbed aboard a plausibly modelled VTOL aircraft, it’s the conflict itself. Maggie’s South Atlantic gamble is the first war I can remember actively following. Of course, being a snotty-nosed infant at the time (1982), ‘actively following’ meant listening to news reports on the telly and radio, then crossing off sunk ships in my copy of the disturbingly prescient* ‘Spot The Warships’.

I might have been young and totally oblivious to the real meaning of the red biro marks I was scrawling, but I can still vividly recall hearing the news of the sinking of HMS Sheffield and detecting in the adults around me a strange mixture of sadness and unease. In that moment somewhere in my young skull I realised that a British victory wasn’t inevitable. The writers of my cherished Victor and Commando comics had lied.

ThunderWorks’ Anglo-Argentinian staff, appetite for authenticity, and campaign approach (dynamic), should mean Jet Thunder is free of juvenile jingoism and stark certainties. With the issue of Falklands sovereignty still sore, I hope the developers use a load screen, cutscene, or manual page or two, to remind their audience of the reality of the conflict.

*The naval equivalent of a trainspotting pocketbook, this 1977 publication listed the names and numbers of all serving Royal Navy vessels, and sported a cover image that seemed utterly unremarkable until May 4, 1982.

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