Version tested: Retro
The box blurb claimed Fighter Pilot was the most realistic F15 Eagle air-to-air combat simulation possible, qualified only by a dismissive statement to the effect of "within the limitations of the Spectrum". Still, as evasive as this caveat may have been, it was probably accurate.
Yeah, like there were any other F15 Eagle's flying around the inside of a Speccy. But, taking into account that those small "limitations" allowed for just four control buttons (I'm no pilot, but I suspect there are more than that in an F15's cockpit), paper cut-out graphics and no missions, Fighter Pilot still managed to wow the critics of the day. To be fair, this was one of those titles intended to fish in the parental pool, hooking gawp-mouthed dad's and dragging them cheek first into the gaming world.
Since the controls needed to even vaguely simulate jet fighter control were still 22 years away, the intricacy and delicacy of such a task had to be simulated itself - for the most part by introducing well timed button presses and irksome journeys that required the kind of patience not yet programmed into a Speccy obsessed youth.
Fighter Pilot has not aged well, but it shouldn't be robbed of its success; the older spectrum of Spectrum players, what there was of them outside of magazine reviewers, applauded in unison; living out their previously un-simulated boyhood fantasies of taking off and landing military aircraft, dog fighting with Communists and performing dangerous aerobatics at supersonic speeds. The fact that those speeds were known only by a pixelated line on a virtual dial, and the horizon was naught but green and blue rectangles was a matter of supreme indifference.
The value of a leisure computer was realised in Fighter Pilot, and while its victory was short lived, it deserves to bask in a few minutes of high altitude glory.
7 / 10