Iron Angel is a cancelled sci-fi flight / combat simulator that was in development for about 3 years by Meta Mode Design, to be published in 1994 / 1995 by Ocean Software for PC. This was meant to be Meta Mode’s first game and while it looked promising, unfortunately it was never completed and soon the team vanished without any trace. The only details remaining from this interesting project are from a series of previews published in 1994 in various gaming magazines. It seems Iron Angel was also shown at ECTS 1994 but we did not find any footage yet.
In a preview published in PC Gamer (august 1994) we can read:
“From the people who brought us TFX (that’s Ocean, not Digital Image Design), comes an even more futuristic flight sim, with the action taking place both above and below the Earth’s atmosphere as you battle to save the world from Armageddon (again).
What’s so special? Well, have a look at the screenshots. Although this is Meta Mode’s first game, it’s already clear they’re no donkeys – it moves as impressively as it looks. Strike Commander and the forthcoming Inferno could have some serious competition…
If you’re into flight sim in any way, shape or form it’s going to be difficult to turn a blind eye to a game which promises not only mind-blowing visuals but an innovative campaign structure across over 150 missions.
Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald had known each other for years before, but decided to get together in 1991 to write a PC game because they weren’t impressed with what they were seeing in the software shops. So they had an idea, took it to Ocean, who liked it, and away they went. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Well, three years on, and Muir and MacDonald, alias Meta-Mode Design (as a game design duo, they’re probably the smallest team working on the PC today), are now all set to unveil the fruit of their collective labors, Iron Angel – a futuristic flight combat game that nestles snugly between the simulation and arcade goalposts. But despite comparisons that are already being drawn between the likes of TFX and Strike Commander, Meta-Mode isn’t pushing the issue – the game was conceived long before most of these youngsters arrived on the block, so they can hardly be accused of plagiarism.
Set in the year 2025, Iron Angel has its front a little more into the future than Ocean and Digital Image Design’s impressive TFX. You’re cast as a pilot in the United Nations Space Force, at a time when the Cold War has re-emerged more threatening than ever before.
Four main superpowers compete for control of the globe, with a sophisticated SDI system protecting against nuclear attack. But a new breed of fighters, capable of destroying the SDI satellites, has made nuclear war a threat again, so the UNSF is set up to keep a lid on the things above and below the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Iron Angel, an ultra-sophisticated high-altitude fighter, is the UNSF’s main weapon, flying against opponents ranging from the relatively primitive F-16s and MiGs in service today to the superior ships flown by the largest superpower, an alliance of giant corporations.
Iron Angel’s main hook is its settings – a mix of sci-fi fantasy and reality. “This is a world where you’ll still see conventional planes, but the technology has improved” says Muir.
Meta-Mode vision of the airborne military of 2025 includes aircraft whose cockpits have been replaced by gyroscopic cradles that turn inside the plane to counteract the effect of G-forces, landing claws that enable an aircraft to land down on the site of a mountain, and even fighters that can fly underwater! But there’s more to this than just futuristic fancy. Muir becomes animated when he talks about the game’s structure and design. “I’m not impressed by the mission structure of most conventional flight sims, I get bored of just flying from waypoint to waypoint, hitting a target and coming home again. We’ve tried to make Iron Angel as different to that as possible. The closest thing to it is F/A-18 Interceptor on the Amiga, which really broke new ground when it first appeared. We’ve got about 150 missions and they can take up to two hours to complete, which will give you an idea of how involved they are. the gameplay’s much more strategic, you’ll be using your wingmen a lot – like in X-Wing. And we’ve got plenty of hidden extras, like enemy reinforcements if you hang around too long”
After three years in development, Iron Angel is still only 80% complete, so the Meta-Mode boys will have to pull their fingers out to get the job done in time for Christmas.”
Unfortunately it’s unknown if they ever completed the game before its cancellation and Ocean never gave an official statement about its demise. For sure the Iron Angel looked awesome for its time, and it could have been a revolutionary combat simulator, with players able to use planes, cars and mechs – all of them in the same game.
Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald seem to have worked on just a couple of other games, before to also vanish into nothing. If you are in contact with Robert or Alan and could help to preserve more info, images or footage from Iron Angel, please let us know!
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