The final part in the Strike trilogy on the Mega Drive is Urban Strike. Set in the future of 2001, the nameless helicopter pilot is again tasked with saving the world.
Leaving the (more or less) grounded in reality plots of Desert and Jungle Strike, Urban Strike pits you against another madman who this time plans to take down the United States government using a super laser weapon. Initially presented as American millionaire H.R. Malone, it is soon revealed that Malone is actually Carlos Ortega, one of the villains from Jungle Strike who has undergone massive plastic surgery to become Malone. And so, the pilot is sent on a series of missions mostly set in well known American cities to find and destroy the superweapon and save the day.
As it’s set in the future at this point, the recognisable military hardware of its predecessors is now replaced with fictional vehicles. The player vehicle this time is the Mohican helicopter which, as far as the cover art is concerned anyway, is some kind of cross between the Comanche chopper and a stealth fighter. Not that this makes any difference to gameplay, as it has the same fuel, ammo and armour as its predecessors. Alternate vehicles make a return, although in a much reduced fashion. You’re able to control both a heavy cargo chopper, for rescuing large numbers of people at once, and a heavily armed super-tank.. thing. Both are only really used for a single mission though, so playtime in them is very limited.
The new gimmick for this entry is that you now get to leave your helicopter and play some missions on foot. I’m not really sure why this was a selling point, as I know if I have a choice I’d much rather play as a heavily armed helicopter than a weaker less armed soldier. The on foot sequences control much the same as the helicopter bits, just without the need for fuel and you carry a gun capable of firing bullets and missiles, which is admittedly pretty awesome. As it’s on foot though, it lacks the movement momentum of the helicopter which makes it feel a lot more clunky control wise.
The level design is by far one of the weakest elements of the game. The San Francisco level is for some reason mostly covered in fog, meaning most of the map is just featureless white, while New York has the same four or five buildings copied and pasted over and over. The worst offender though is the final level, which takes place in an underground bunker with an massive open plan – there is literally nothing in the level apart from a bland grey floor, enemy vehicles and a half a dozen structures that are used for the mission objectives. Even the Las Vegas mission, which should have been a bright and colourful level disappoints; set at night and almost entirely made up of parking lots it bears little resemblance to the real Las Vegas aside from a couple of landmarks. The levels also seem much smaller than in Jungle Strike, taking a lot less time to travel across.
This is the most visually interesting corner of the final level due to the stairs and hazard lines
It isn’t just the level design that is a let down, audio wise the game is also pretty poor. All of the various weapon and explosion sound effects from the last game have been released with muffled and weaker sounding effects, making the Mohican sound like it’s not actually doing any damage to enemies.
Another noteworthy difference is the difficulty level. Unlike its predecessors, I didn’t have any problems with any levels at all, breezing through each in a single playthrough. Enemies generally don’t seem as damaging, even in a Danger Zone, and the smaller levels leading you to need less fuel coupled with more generous amounts of armour and extra life pickups reduce the difficulty further.
All in all, Urban Strike is a bit of a disappointment in every way. While by no means the worst game I’ve played, it really suffers in comparison to its two (much better) predecessors and makes a somewhat sad ending to the Mega Drive releases in the series.