Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf is a shoot 'em up video game released by Electronic Arts (EA) in February 1992 for the Sega Genesis. The game was released on several other formats such as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, including a much upgraded version for the Amiga home computer. The game was inspired by the Gulf War and depicts a conflict between an insane Middle Eastern dictator, General Kilbaba, and the United States. The player controls an Apache helicopter and attempts to destroy enemy weapons and installations, rescue hostages and capture enemy personnel, while managing supplies of fuel and ammunition.
Lead designer Mike Posehn had no video game experience prior to developing Desert Strike. Inspired by Choplifter, he aimed to create a nonlinear game with smoothly animated vehicles. Posehn developed a camera system with momentum to mimic realistic helicopter movements. Three-dimensional (3D) modeling was used to generate the vehicle sprites, which were later touched up on the pixel level with color.
Desert Strike was a commercial success: it was a chart-topping best seller and at the time Electronics Arts' highest selling game. The game also received a favourable critical response, with several magazines awarding scores of over 90%. Reviewers praised the game's enjoyability, mix of action and strategy, graphics and sound. There was some controversy regarding the game's subject matter, with commentators criticising it as in poor taste due the proximity of its release to the recently ended Gulf War.
Desert Strike is a shoot 'em up game in which the player pilots an AH-64 Apache helicopter. The game is less frantic than typical shoot 'em ups, with the addition of greater strategic elements. The action takes place on open, multi-directional scrolling levels viewed from an isometric perspective. The player views the action from outside the helicopter, rather than from within the cockpit. The player is also assisted by their copilot, who they can pick at the start of the mission; each copilot plays differently with different skill levels. The best copilot, Lt. Carlos 'Jake' Valdez, is missing in action at the start of the game, and can be found and rescued during one of the missions.
Levels consist of several missions, which are based around the destruction of enemy weapons and installations, as well as rescuing hostages or prisoners of war, or capturing enemy personnel. The Apache is armed with a machine gun, more powerful Hydra rockets and yet more deadly Hellfire missiles. The more powerful the weapon, the fewer can be carried: the player must choose an appropriate weapon for each situation. Enemy weapons range from soldiers with small arms, to anti-aircraft missiles to tanks and armoured cars.
The player's craft has a limited amount of armour, which is depleted as the helicopter is hit by enemy fire. Should the armour reach zero, the craft will be destroyed, costing the player a life. The player must outmanoeuvre enemies to avoid damage, but can replenish armour by means of power-ups or by airlifting rescued friendlies or captives to a landing zone. The helicopter has a finite amount of fuel which is steadily depleted over time. Should the fuel run out the Apache will crash, again costing the player a life. The craft can refuel by collecting fuel barrels: the player must therefore plan mission routes carefully in order to maximise efficiency. The helicopter also carries limited ammunition, which must be replenished by means of ammo crates.
The game opens with a self-proclaimed general named Kilbaba (Mubaba in the Super NES version) seizing control of an unnamed, fictional Gulf state. Installing himself as dictator, Kilbaba quickly begins fortifying his position with military weapons and installations, including facilities for building nuclear bombs. The United States decides to send in a single helicopter, piloted by the player's unnamed character and aided by a co-pilot, to infiltrate and destroy Kilbaba's forces in a series of swift strikes.
Altogether, four missions need to be resolved:
The game's plot was felt by commentators to be a thinly disguised reference to the Gulf War, while comparisons were drawn between Kilbaba and Saddam Hussein, and between the game's unnamed desert setting and Iraq.
- In the first level (Air Superiority), the player must destroy several enemy airstrips and their support facilities, as well as liberate an exposed pro-American spy who holds important information about Kilbaba's next plans.
- The next mission (Scud Buster) entails locating and destroying a chemical weapons plant and a number of scud launchers wielding chemically charged missiles, and evacuate local and American non-combatants and P.O.W.s.
- The third mission (Embassy City) revolves around rescuing a U.N. inspection team, destroying a biological weapons plant and those bio-warhead missiles ready for deployment, as well as rescuing a large number of hostages, including the personnel from a local American embassy.
- In the final stage (Nuclear Storm), the player must - among other things - prevent the destruction of a major oil production facility, disable a nuclear power plant and several finished parts for nuclear weapons, and finally take down Kilbaba himself. Kilbaba attempts to escape in a bomber plane armed with nuclear bombs, so the player must destroy him and his plane before it leaves the runway.
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3 different online emulators are available for Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf. These emulators differ not only in the technology they use to emulate old games, but also in support of various game controllers, multiplayer mode, mobile phone touchscreen, emulation speed, absence or presence of embedded ads and in many other parameters. For
maximum gaming enjoyment, it's important to choose the right emulator, because on each PC and in different Internet browsers, the individual emulators behave differently. The basic
features of each emulator available for this game Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf are summarized in the following table: