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Written by: Christopher Harding
Published: November 20, 1999
For those of you who played the original SU-27, Flanker 2.0 will come as a very welcome and needed treat. Hardcore combat flight simulations are getting less and less attention from publishers. They require inordinate amounts of research, have high development costs and are arguably marketed to a dedicated but small niche in the gaming segment. Flying Legends, the developers, have evaluated tons of feedback regarding the first offering, SU-27 Flanker and have implemented many new tempting options that fix old problems and complaints. Flanker 2.0, like Falcon 4.0 earlier this year, therefore manages to revitalize a sim hungry audience despite a few leaks in the fuel cell. This title has been much anticipated and thought by many to be the next king of hardcore simulations, and minus a few spots of turbulence, it could have been.
One of the biggest complaints of flight sim jockeys is that the system requirements are too steep. To play them, you need to have the latest, fastest and usually most expensive computer available. Many of Flanker 2.0′s problems revolve around its hefty demands on processors and memory. The basic system requirements listed on the box, a P200 with 32 MB RAM and a 3D accelerator, simply don’t allow you to play it properly. Playing at 1024×768 on a PIII 550 with 128MB RAM and a 32MB Ultra TNT2, the game still experienced a lot of slow down, especially at the onset of missions. In fact, this problem is listed in the readme file as one of the known issues. Frame rate increases to an acceptable level after a minute or so into the mission, but can still get a little hairy when a lot is happening on screen. You can also adjust the level of detail, textures and the graphics resolution to fit your machine’s capabilities as it relates to game performance.
I didn’t play a whole lot of the original SU-27, but know enough about the title that it wasn’t the most user friendly game made, and that it lacked some of the more refined features such as a detailed training mode. For the sequel, SSI has made Flanker 2.0 much more readily accessible to the uninitiated sim-jockey. For example, they have added an intensive training system with detailed spoken instructions. The training begins with your instructor explaining the details of the plane itself. Before you ever throttle up or pull back on that yoke, you learn some of its history. The instructor will guide you through every move and even fly the mission so you can see how everything is supposed to work. You’ll learn take off and landing both on a carrier and a typical runway, but that is just the start. The instructor in detail will tell you how to perform specific combat maneuvers and weapon implementation and give you the opportunity to practice them. In conjunction to the in-flight instructor, you have access to a detailed manual– over 260 pages and a sixteen page pilot’s checklist and reference card.
Playing a flight simulator such as Flanker 2.0 is more of an experience than it is a game. Having never flown an actual plane,I can only put my faith in what it’s like from those who’ve actually done it. The importance of the flight model in simulations has been stressed and re-stressed over the years. Does the plane actually behave as it does in real life? Do you feel like you are traveling at Mach 2? These are the questions the developers agonize over. Without knowing for certain the answers, I am forced to rely on my experience with other simulations as well as my learned knowledge of how the plane operates in order to judge how realistically this plane behaves. I am happy to report that Flanker 2.0′s realism factor and flight model have easily eclipsed any combat flight simulator I’ve played this year except Falcon 4.0.
The list of options in Flanker 2.0 are not quite as in-depth as they are in Falcon 4.0, and neither are they quite as polished. The semi-dynamic single-player campaign is very well done and offers a nice storyline and a multitude of interesting missions. It is however, not quite the all-encompassing experience Falcon 4.0 is. Some may argue that to fully appreciate Falcon’s campaign, you need seven patches, and that Flanker 2.0 is quite clean out of the box–and they would be right. Much to SSI’s credit, Flanker 2.0 is a very solid release, despite the optimization issues with load times and frame rates. The options that exist in Flanker 2.0 are more in-depth than those in Falcon 4.0, but there aren’t nearly as many. While in flight, you have a multitude of views to choose from, over 20 if you count the views and their modifiers. One of the newest additions is Natural Head Movement View, which causes your head to bob and move as the plane does. An interesting note is that the HUD can either show the Russian or English designations, which is another example of the realism factors available to you in this product. Your reference card shows them side by side, so if you want to go all out Russian, you may. Combat within the game is all encompassing. You can either fly the SU-27 or the SU-33. Both planes carry out dual roles as fighter and bombers. The damage model is pretty accurate as planes like the B-52 can take quite a beating and continue evasive maneuvers. Other planes go down with the first missile hit. In taking out ground targets, it was neat to see them breaking up before being destroyed. Of course, some units were tougher than others and continued to function.
There is also a well designed multiplayer component that ships with Flanker 2.0, and while I didn’t have issues per se with how it played over the Internet, the lack of an online service such as Jane’s Combat.Net really hampers the multiplayer mode value. In the end, though, this product easily escapes the problems that grounded its predecessor, and while it’s not the ultimate in hardcore flight simulations, it’s the best one released this holiday season.
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