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One of the most underrated Elite-inspired space combat games ever made, Warhead is a cult classic Atari ST game published by Activision in 1989. The plot: Earth is being attacked by Sirius-5, and your job - naturally - is to defend it against enemy forces. The game has over 40 missions that unravel in a strictly linear fashion: you finish one to move on to the next. Armed with laser and some basic missiles, over the course of the game you will gain more powerful types of missiles.
What makes Warhead special is the amazing accuracy of its Newtonian flight model and attention to detail. Don't expect to be able to make sharp turns at high speeds without any effects, or easily dodge missiles. Enemy ships are much tougher than the ones in most other space combat games including Wing Commander: they know when to lure you into an ambush, hightail it away from your crosshairs when badly damaged, dodge your missiles, and call for reinforcements. If you like challenging combat, Warhead gives you plenty.
If you prefer realism in space combat games to arcade-style combat of Wing Commander, Warhead is one of the few pioneers in the genre that are able to stand the test of time, even stacked up against new crops of 3D-accelerated games. An interesting historical anecdote is that the one-man design team of this game, Glyn Williams, went on to create the excellent Independent War (a.k.a. I-War) series. I-War's realistic space combat and Newtonian flight model have roots in this wonderful classic that unfortunately was never ported to the PC.
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Warhead (from Activision) screenshot
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