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Digital Image Design really did something right when they converted Euro fighter to Windows 95. They figured out how to program efficiently. What do I mean by this? Let's take a look at some recent simulators I've reviewed and use them for comparison. Activision's A-10 had excellent motion, but sacrificed graphics quality to get it. Polygonal scenery and low ground detail didn't detract from A-10's realism as a simulator. Flying Corps had bitmap scenery, but needed nothing short of a high-end Pentium to make use of the graphics. The stop motion look was reminiscent of W.W.I film footage. It kind of puts you there but you end up looking wistfully at more powerful machines and wondering when your home computer will ever be good enough to play these bitmap style games. My first encounter with this style of simulator was Looking Glass Technology's Flight Unlimited 95. This was supposed to be a simulator showing you how to fly aerobatics over a particular terrain. They attempted this with an aerial photograph mirror-split and copied into four sections overlaid on a wire-frame topographical relief. The grid would stretch and distort the terrain image based on the height fed into it. The problem was if you wanted realistic topography, you ended up with a program that behaved more like a slide show than a simulator. A most disappointing purchase. Flying corps was much better and managed to put in good detail on houses and targets, but the frame rate was still lagging and the scenery a bit mushy.
DID has managed to combine photo-realistic images, soaring topography with silky smooth motion and they did it without having to constantly read a CD-ROM. Digital Image Design is restoring my faith in programmers. The scenery does not magically bend and distort as you fly closer to it. Cliffs soar above you and flying through canyons is part of the job in this simulator. The smallest details have been well executed; diamond shock-waves from the afterburners as well as visual distortion from the heat. From the external views, they even included the glow from the cockpit through the canopy. From the pilot's seat, you can zoom out and get a wide angle look at the instrument panel, HUD and landscape (Not to mention foes). There are reflections in the canopy. Even your flight suit has knee patches! The environment is striking and real. Combat can take place at night, day, storm or clear. Cloud tops are true to life and reveal a cobalt blue sky that darkens with altitude. Missiles or planes that strike the water make plumes of white mist, not repetitive orange explosions. It's the little things that count, even in simulators. The runway environment is accurate as are the runway lights.
To enhance the realism, audio communication between your wingmen, air refueler, ground, and hostiles are possible. You have a quick choice of commands for combat, formation flying, tactical and recovery. Oh, did I mention in flight refueling? You can do that too, but only after you get permission to join formation at the designated hose. Jet sounds have been muffled to imitate wearing a helmet and external views give a more prominent exhaust note. Missile releases, wind noises, and chatty wingmen will keep your senses occupied. By the way, your parachute will rattle and snap like a sail in the wind.
Training missions have been well laid out and they are recommended. The in flight refueling is not as daunting as it first looks, but be careful because, just like real life, nobody in the tanker is going to scurry out with a gas can to help you until you can make contact. In some campaigns and missions, refueling will be mandatory but plan well ahead as the tankers are not as common as your neighborhood service station. The airports seem to few and far between as well. The HUD projects a nice corridor to hone land skills and is a real comfort on night and poor weather missions. All weapons release techniques are covered in the weapons training section which is more of a practice session rather than a step by step instruction. However, the pre-flight briefing is pretty clear. They don't mention about bailing out too low over the water, but I really don't recommend it (neither will your dry cleaner). There are no glitzy preview videos or men standing up in front of you to pre-flight you, just no nonsense flying. You are expected to start up your engines and taxi in a reasonable manner to the runway.
The EF-2000 is a delta winged fighter with a canard. The fly by wire system is constantly changing the angle of attack of the canard wing and you can see this in the external view. Take off speed is about 150 kias (knots, indicated air speed). Acceleration is crisp with the afterburner however, you must really think ahead especially during in flight refueling. The only flaw that has really caught my attention is the slow keyboard response to throttle input. It takes some time to spool the engines up and down so you will be using plenty of air brake at first. It appears that the keyboard commands get stored in a buffer until the program has a chance to deal with them. This is not so noticeable on views and most functions, but it is quite noticeable on radio communications. You may have responded to a request but you will not hear your response for a couple of seconds. The physics model on this simulation has been as well as any other simulator I have tried. Taxiing too quickly will get you leaning in the turns and stomping the breaks will dive the nose. The ceiling for the EF-2000 is about 50,000 feet. It seems to glide relatively well for a fighter and you will be able to dead stick land if you found you were indulging in the afterburners a little too frequently. Landing is not difficult, but the flare can be a challenge as you can lose control at that time since your airspeed is reduced. The EF-2000 is fast but don't get in too close with a MIG as you will find yourself out turned in short order.
Air to Air combat is nothing short of outstanding. Long range fighting takes place only on radar and there is scant space between the sound of your computer warning "missile launch" to that muffled explosion telling you it's time to pick up a new hobby. The EF-2000 will fly damaged, but it's no tank and the best thing to do is eject since systems tend to shut down anyway. The sounds are so lively in there that you can really lose yourself in the action. There are wingmen spoiling for a fight nearly begging you to let them engage. Enemy fighters will let you know that you are invading their airspace. Helpful ground stations will suggest vectors to battles and all the while, your fighter is letting you know of every button you press. She (EF-2000 appears to be female) will also let you know when it's time to pull up, when your gear is down, when your engines are on or off, radar locks, and much indispensable information. It is no wonder that pilots in the F-4s over Vietnam would start turning down radios and warning systems so they could concentrate on a target. When you do engage with an enemy, be prepared to have to work. In the guns training, you go one on one with a MIG and it takes everything you have to come out alive. In other campaigns, your wingmen will be quite a help so figure out how best to use them. Tactics appear to make a difference in this game as you have the choice to influence the outcome of the campaigns based on your performance.
Written by Jeffrey Waters
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