Operation MUSKETEER stands out for me as one of the most fascinating military actions in the modern age. For Britain, it was one of the last gasps of their waning Empire, with their previous holdings experiencing this new fad called “independence”, now spreading faster than hula hoops. For the French it was simply a continuation of something they’d already been doing to the Middle East since the end of World War II.
It’s not a conflict that can have said of it, “simply put”. Gamel Abdel Nasser, the father of pan-Arabism wanted a united front against their former imperial masters, to tell their former conquerors to — in not so many words — “get bent”, and now that oil was found underneath the sand they’d been living on all their lives, they had the means to do it.
Nasser’s Egypt was sitting astride the Suez Canal, built with Egyptian labor and not just a little European funding. It marked the easiest transit line for ships bearing course for the Indian Ocean and points beyond without having to make the laborious (and expensive) route around the southern half of Africa. After the USA and UK pulled their support for Nasser’s dream of the Aswan Dam, he nationalized it, transferring the authority of the canal to his own government with the intention of using its revenue to fund the dam himself.
That was a lot of money down the toilet for the British and French governments, staring expensive shipping costs directly in the face.
Enter Operation MUSKETEER, a joint Anglo-French-Israeli military action that was essentially convened in secrecy. Sort of. Well, they kept telling Nasser they were coming…
The only gameplay aspect that is “new” is a rendition of OPERATION KADESH, there aren’t any new single missions. You can take part in the campaign in a select, small number of squadrons flying the new aircraft. There are no French or English aircraft to fly, so this is more of a fictional take on what the Suez Crisis was all about. While fun, it’s not much more than a fictional campaign in a very early time frame.
As you would expect with the newer Third Wire SF2 titles that are based on DirectX10, the lighting effects especially the reflections and shadowing are much improved over the original series.
Three French hens… Well, not really. One is British and the other is American.
A couple of weeks ago Third Wire Productions released Expansion Pack 1, which gives you some of the players in this little Suez Canal drama. We’ve been teased with screenshots for nearly a year, so everyone was pretty excited. There’s one big hiccup in the stock install of the expansion pack. You can only play as the Israelis. No British aircraft, no French aircraft. This comes as a bit of disappointment, yes, it’s Operation KADESH, the Israeli side of MUSKETEER, but it’s not a true-to-life accurate representation of the Suez Crisis as a whole. It’s kinda like going to the Super Bowl and the Cowboys show up with only members of the team that have never been arraigned for a felony…
You can have the whole thing for free if you want to go third-party, and as a matter of fact, I reviewed Johan217’s Suez Crisis mod for the first-generation games and it still stands out as a masterpiece of modding games. However, these were intended for the first-generation Third Wire games, so provided you have a lot of time to download everything and even more to edit files to get them to work, getting a period-accurate representation is a pain in the ass for the uninitiated. We’ll get more into that in a minute.
|Mystere from Expansion Pack 1|
|The Mystere Pit|
There are three new flyables to try: The Dassault-Breguet Mystere IVA, the Gloster Meteor F.Mk8, and the North American F-51D Mustang. Third Wire is carrying on their grand tradition of bringing some of the most obscure aircraft in military flight simulations to the forefront.
The external models, the skins, and the high-resolution cockpits are stunning and raising the bar yet again for any work to come along later. When run at the High or Unlimited graphics settings, these are gorgeous sights to behold, as good as what you’d find in the IL-2 Series, and the cockpits themselves are approaching LOMAC in the looks department.
The Meteor cockpit is excellent, making you feel like you’re taking the first tentative steps into the world of jet aircraft combat, blending World War II technology with jet propulsion.
|Meteor from Expansion Pack 1|
|The Meteor Pit|
Gameplay is unchanged from previous iterations of the Strike Fighters 2 series. Nothing new has been added, but one thing that is markedly different is that now you can play in an electronics-free environment. No SAMs, no ECM, no BVR jousting, no IR-guided missiles, just guns and guns only. All targeting is done by the Mark 1, Mod 0 Eyeball. If you can’t see it… well, it’s still there and probably going to kill you.
I was most interested in the F-51D for some odd reason (probably because we’d seen more work-in-progress screenshots of it than anything else) and was thoroughly prepared to dislike the other two offerings in the package when I was surprised. The Mystere IVA is a hot rod that corners like it’s on rails. Sure, you get below a certain speed and it’s a dog, but the Mystere is a blast to fly. I take back every nasty thing I’ve ever said about the French…and I’m a Texan.