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Review by: Adam Swiderski
Published: August 25, 1999
The civilian flight simulation is a bit of an odd beast. Just about every other game you’ll find on the shelves has its basis in some form of conflict or another, tasking the player to overcome an adversary in pursuit of a goal. In first-person shooters, it’s generally a horde of rampant aliens, demons or robots serving as cannon fodder as one progresses through a series of levels. In adventure games, there’s usually a grand mystery to be solved, while CRPGs pit you against some kind of Foozle intent on doing some really bad thing. And, of course, nothing needs to be said for the myriad combat flight and science fiction simulations out there. But the civilian flight sim eschews antagonism in favor of something a bit more, well, civilian. Your only real adversary here is Sir Isaac Newton and the laws of gravity, not to mention the learning curve that comes with any truly decent stab at realism. What’s more, there’s usually no pre-defined mission structure or anything of that sort. Instead, the civilian flight sim entreats the user to take to the skies and experience the joy of unhindered aviation.
Or, in the case of Terminal Reality’s latest offering, orders it. With the publishing help of Gathering of Developers, TRI has released a flight simulation that demands your attention before it even leaves the box. This isn’t Fly…, or even Fly?, but FLY!. Now, I’m not used to being bossed around by a computer game, so I have to admit to being a bit taken aback by the mandate made by FLY!. After awhile, however, I was able to convince myself that the exclamation point was a sign of enthusiasm rather than an indication of discourteous insistence, and could then accept it into my home and hard drive. Once I did, I found a title that appeared capable of taking on the true big boys of the genre. But it’s got a tough row to hoe. The reigning king of open-ended civilian flight simulations is none other than Microsoft, whose Flight Simulator is considered by many to be the definitive example of world-spanning aviation. Not only that, but there’s also well-known design house Looking Glass to contend with, creators of the Flight Unlimited series, firmly established as one of the most realistic simulations available. There wouldn’t appear to be much room in that group for a newcomer from a developer known mostly for its more arcade-oriented action titles.
And yet, FLY! appears to come to the table with more than enough detail to live up to its lofty ambitions. From the very start, it comes off as a slick, sophisticated, well-designed package that belies TRI’s lack of experience in the genre. One look at the hefty manual, with its in-depth discussion of aerodynamics and the mechanics of flight, was enough to convince me that I was dealing with a serious simulation. And that’s exactly what FLY! is. This is by no means meant as a joystick-crunching, physics-be-damned flyer, but a thoroughly comprehensive representation of what it’s actually like to pilot one of the five included planes. As such, it attempts to model those aircraft and their performance as accurately as possible on a PC.
Like Microsoft’s title, FLY! offers a worldwide flight area and an interesting range of planes to fly. It’s also extremely open-ended, meaning that — with the included flight planner — you can pretty much create your own routes and fly to and from wherever you see fit. There are no obstacle courses, acrobatic performance tests or missions per se, leaving the virtual aviator free to choose his or her own path. There are a variety of options that can be adjusted to determine the level of realism, but the name of the game in FLY! is authenticity. Does it achieve this goal well enough to unseat the Redmond-based empire? Well, my answer isn’t, “Yes!” or even “Yes?” but “Yes…” The truth is FLY! is one of the most detailed, realistic simulations I have ever seen, and considering the fact that it’s got almost a year on its competitors, has a definite technological edge. There are just a couple of points, however, that get in the way enough to keep FLY! from being all that it could be.
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