Back in 1993, Electronic Arts scored themselves a hit with Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf. With gameplay that was a mix of straight forward blasting action, hostage rescuing, and a healthy dose of inspiration from the first Gulf War that had (basically) ended by that time, the game struck a chord with players. One year later in 1994, Gremlin Interactive ported the game to DOS PCs. How did the port turn out? Read on.
The game many Genesis players enjoyed is still here. You have three main weapons consisting of machine guns, Hellfire missiles, and Hydra rockets, all of which have a certain amount of ammo. Fuel and armor are also not infinite, so you'll need to replenish them all whenever you run low. This lends the game a level of strategy, as it means you can't just zip around doing whatever you wish. You'll need to get the job done, before you're either shot down, or run out of fuel/ammo refills. Other features of the game include an assortment of copilots with varying abilities for you to choose from before you take flight (with the ability to rescue more copilots), controls for the helicopter that are pretty simple (arrow keys for movement, with separate keys for the weapons and “jinking”), and four missions to fight through. I know four missions doesn't sound like a lot at first, but each mission has multiple objectives to be completed, so you'll be playing for at least a few hours. You'll be taking out radar dishes and SAM sites (among other targets), capturing generals and enemy soldiers, and picking up agents and downed pilots. Oh, and don't bother looking for save points, as you'll be getting a password at the end of each mission instead. In short, all the things that made the Genesis original what it was are here. However, Gremlin Interactive chose to make a few changes.
The first thing you'll notice is the music. Rather than go with a straight port of the original Genesis tunes, the music was redone in a “remix” fashion. You'll recognize the music at times, but it has a distinctly different feel. You'll also notice that the cinemas got a considerable color boost over the Genesis ones, and in some cases, were redrawn entirely. Another adjustment comes with the sound effects, resulting in guns, missiles and explosions that possess a higher level of realism. However, not every alteration went well.
The sound effect for your chopper is downright annoying, and rather loud (considerably louder than it was on the Genesis). It quite literally sounds like a squeaky wheel, and it gets on your nerves... fast. There are odd sound cut offs at times, which result in missile sounds not playing, your helicopter's engine noise vanishing (only to return some time later just as abruptly), and things of that nature. Also, while much of the in-game graphics look very similar to how they were in the Genesis version, and some were even redrawn to look better, some of the explosions were redrawn for the worse. They're not horrid looking or anything, they just seem out of place... especially when compared to the original ones on the Genesis. Also, for some odd reason, you can't rapidly hit the keys to fire faster like you could on the Genesis controller. I don't know why this was crippled, but it does add an unnatural speed bump to the pacing of the game.
Overall, this port of Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf isn't a bad game. The music sounds good, the graphics are done well, and it's not a cakewalk. Sure, there are some issues here and there, but the game made the jump from 16-bit console to PC without too many hick-ups. Nothing was horrifically broken, and it still plays much the same. If you want to fly around and blow stuff up in a chopper, without having to be bogged down with a lot of simulation traits, you'll likely enjoy this game. So hop in the cockpit, and take it to the desert madman.