Throughout the 1990s, EA released five games in their Strike series. Beginning with ‘92’s Desert Strike and ending with ‘97’s Nuclear Strike, the franchise took players all over the world, let us pilot various high-powered vehicles, and mixed shooting with strategy in an awesomely-unique blend.
In 2013, there were rumours that EA was set to revive the series, but … we’re still waiting. It’s a shame no new games have surfaced, given how much potential there is, but to tide ourselves over, we’ve decided to take a timely look back at the glorious Strike games …
It’s hard to believe that, as of February this year, this classic game’s 25 years old.
Hot on the heels of the Gulf War, which ended in 1991, Desert Strike gave gamers the chance to pilot a sleek, heavily-armed Apache and liberate a nameless Gulf state from a maniacal general.
While it attracted its fair share of obvious controversy, Desert Strike was a huge success with players, thanks to its combination of intelligent action, strategy, and then-striking (pun intended) graphics.
Desert Strike’s mission-structure was unusual for the time, letting you choose in which order you completed objectives. You had to think carefully about this – leaving one until last could make your work harder.
Levels generally revolved around taking out enemy bases, vehicles, and troops, while rescuing prisoners or hostages. Their open design helped to make Desert Strike feel fresh and distinctive, as did the isometric perspective: it couldn’t be easily mistaken for many other games of the era.
Desert Strike wasn’t an easy game, and you’d have to make multiple attempts at some missions before you got a feel for the layout and key dangers. As the pick-ups in the game were kept realistic (just ammo, fuel, armour) there were no quick-fixes, and you needed to proceed with caution if you wanted to survive to your next collection. As you probably remember, completing a tough objective but crashing in flames because you ran out of fuel was a real pain.
Having to actually handle your chopper properly in certain situations added to the challenge, too. For example, picking up freed hostages with your winch required you to hover directly over them – not always easy when trying to dodge enemy fire!
While Desert Strike wasn’t perfect, it paved the way for an improved sequel, which shifted the action from sandy vistas to more diverse locations.
Jungle Strike hit stores in 1993, and let you unleash hell on the armies of a South American drug king (working with the son of Desert Strike’s head-honcho) in numerous vehicles.
The game was a little more satisfying on a visual level, thanks to more varied settings and colours, while the new modes of transport gave the experience a fresh shot in the arm. The first level, in which you fight off groups of enemies attacking Washington D.C., was a great opener, and a far cry from the first game’s endless desert.
From there, you got to explore jungles, another sandy spot, snow-capped landscapes, and even embarked on a night-time mission, before returning to Washington to save the White House. It was tricky as the first, with armour, ammo, and fuel in short supply, but you always felt compelled to keep trying until you succeeded (unless you had cheat codes, of course).
It was a top sequel, introducing enough new aspects whilst retaining what worked about the first game.
‘94’s Urban Strike was a big, explosive sequel that featured yet more new additions. The most memorable was the on-foot missions, in which you got to sprint around levels with a machine gun, wasting enemies as you would in most other ground-based shooters.
Still, the isometric angle remained, and while they weren’t particularly fast or ferocious, these sections were still awesome (though not everyone was a fan).
It’s impressive how well Urban Strike’s visuals stand up today. Though they obviously pale in comparison to the latest consoles’ graphics, they’re nicely done, with decent animations and detailed environments. The New York mission in particular was well-designed, and the urban setting was refreshingly different.
Released on the PS1 in ‘96 and the Sega Saturn in ‘97, Soviet Strike was a major step for the series.
With 32-bit hardware to play with, EA went to town, creating a full-motion intro that was way beyond the static openings of the previous three games. There was also recorded dialogue for the first time, giving Soviet Strike a more cinematic feel.
Another major change was the shift in perspective, from an isometric view to a more overhead full-3D one, making for more realistic environments. There were two camera modes available, allowing you to choose between a fixed view and a player-controlled one.
It’s amazing how far the experience jumped between generations, and makes us wonder just how different a new Strike game might be today. The potential for seamless movement between vehicular-based- and on-foot action is huge!
In terms of gameplay, this was much the same as its predecessors, and there were no vehicles outside of the chopper available (the on-foot sections had also been jettisoned, to many fans’ joy).
The (so-far) final instalment in the Strike series, Nuclear Strike was met with a mixed response back in ‘97 / 98. Though it wasn’t really regarded as being bad, and had plenty of fans, it was generally felt Nuclear Strike veered too closely to its predecessor, with too-little innovation.
Still, there was a lot to enjoy, not least the inclusion of 15 vehicles, across land and air; this was a major departure from the stripped-back Soviet Strike, and helped to mix the action up a little. There was also an improved framerate, leading to a smoother experience all-round, and environments themselves showed signs of warfare long after damage was caused. An RTS-lite element, in which you controlled ground troops, added yet more diversity.
As well as being released on the PS1 and PC, Nuclear Strike received an N64 version, which was viewed as slightly inferior despite being a more powerful console.
This, though, was the end of the line for the franchise.
While Future Strike was in development (showcase in a trailer at the end of Nuclear Strike), this evolved into the mighty Future Cop: LAPD. That was similar in style, and did a great job of creating an exciting futuristic world with mech- and car-based action aplenty.
Maybe it’s best that the series stopped when it did, but we’d love to see EA revisit it somehow.
What was your favourite game in EA’s Strike series? Let us know!