Title JetPilot (Second Review) Game Type Flight Simulator Publisher Vulcan Players 1 Compatibility All (1 Meg Required) HD Installable Yes Submission Nathan Wain (firstname.lastname@example.org) Review BRIEF INTRODUCION JetPilot is a REAL Flight Simulator, not one of those namby-pamby push the throttle to full, point the nose at the targets and fire, kind of things. This one has a decent bit of realism to it. And enough of the fiddly details to keep you happy till the cows come home. It features the Lockheed F-104 and the English Electric Lightning. AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION Programming, Concept and Design: Michael Bauer Cockpit Graphics: Andrew Whittall Additional Design: Paul Carrington Publisher: Vulcan Software Limited SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS HARDWARE An Amiga with 1 Meg of ram (minimum) 68000 and 68020 processors are supported, but the minimum recommended is a speedy 030 with fast RAM for reasonable use of the game. (I would also recommend an analogue joystick.) SOFTWARE Nothing additional required. The game may be run from floppy- disks. Of course hard-drive installation is recommended. COPY PROTECTION None. Vulcan do not believe in penalising genuine purchasers of their products. (And good on them for that too.) MACHINES USED FOR TESTING A4000, 2Meg Chip, 16Meg Fast, Kickstart 3.1, 1.2 Gig Quantum HDD, Toshiba 16x CD-Rom, additional floppy-drive, Supra 14.4k Modem, 1942 Multisync monitor. (Standard 25MHz 68030 CPU) A1200, 2Meg Chip, 32Meg Fast, Kickstart 3.0, 340 Meg Seagate 2.5" HDD, GVP Cobra accellerator-board (68030 and 68882 at 50MHz, without SCSI), additional floppy-drive, Supra 14.4k Modem, 1942 MultiSync monitor. INSTALLATION There are two possible ways of doing this. 1) If you prefer not to be at the mercy of the wishes of HD-install scripts, you can insert each of the disks, and drag the game icons to the drawer of your choice on the hard drive. In fact, I'm doing this as I type this review. (Because the a1200 hard-drive died. Back to the old 40Meg, *sniff*) :-( 2) Otherwise you can boot the game off floppy-disk, and click on the install-button on the control-panel. You are given a choice of installing to hd0: hd1: hd2: dh0: dh1: or dh2: Not hugely-flexible, but it does allow the game to be installed in the root-directory of a suitable partition on your drive. So when I tried it, all I had to do was click on the hd1: button, and when the install was finished I rebooted the machine and moved the drawer into the place I wanted. Unless you've given your HD-partitions really strange names, this should prove satisfactory. These two methods of installation should be workable for even the most unorthadox of Miggy setups. COMPATIBILITY PROBLEMS Handled OCS, ECS and AGA screenmodes without incident. Even my DblPAL and Multiscan workbenches. The mouse-pointer went funny when booting from a DoublePAL Workbench back when I was using many system patches, including MCP. Now, while I'm still using Visual Prefs, Power Windows, and many other little hacks (I've gone off MCP) it all works perfectly. I assume it was a clash with one of my MCP settings - but a simple change in JETPilots screenmode would fix it up, so this problem could be worked around. On the a1200 I also had a problem with the screen-position of JP's DblPAL screenmode. No such problem on the a4000. I'm impressed with it's DblPAL support though; as far as I was aware, the author had no DblPAL capable monitor. DOCUMENTATION Very little hard documentation. But this is because there is a most comprehensive online manual to help you through the game. (The manual can be printed if you particularly wish to unnecessarily kill trees.) The online manual has a nice feature where you can bring up the cockpit instrument-panel and click on the various dials/switches to take you straight to it in the manual. This is nice, since each of the Jets have quite different instrument-panels. Otherwise you may simply browse through it, or use it's hyperlinks to navigate - very Amiga-guide, but better tied into the game. Overall, good utilisation of the manuals online nature. When the manual references a documented thing, you can click on it to go there. When you select a mission, a click on the "notes" button will take you straight to its place in the manual. FIRST IMPRESSIONS Oh, it's kinda slow. (Goes back to the control-panel... changes the settings to more reasonable levels for a humble 030 processor.) Hey, that's pretty good! ...this game can give a lot of detail, but you will need a decent processor to be able to use it. And I'm talking 040 or 060 here... unfortunately I haven't seen it run on one of these yet, so I can't say how fast these go... (I hear they work very nicely though.) And it actually runs not-too bad on the A4000's 030 too. Now these planes have a real good realistic feel to them. You don't just slam the (analogue) stick in the direction you want the nose to go while maintaining full afterburner. You _will_ exceed the structural limits of the machine. A nice touch is that it informs you of this, with a black-screen and an error-message "Structural limits exceeded" whereupon you can actually choose to continue anyway. This is a sim which will let you get away with some things if you tell it to. (Of course, if you were trying to qualify for something here, you haven't a hope in hell of succeeding now.) And the views of around the cockpit are awesome! Not so much in just the graphic detail, but they are full panoramic views, which are different for each plane. So you can actually look all the way around to the left, and see the headrest, look up and have radically different visibility depending on what type of aircraft you're in - through what huge chunky grey bits of metal are in the way of the plane you are trying to track, etc. Oh, and some of the aircraft, like the Migs, though nice to fly, have this nasty tendency to go into a flat-spin if you throw them around too much. They teach you very quickly to respect them. The engines can also flame-out if you subject them to particlarly oxygen-depriving maneuvers too. The flight modelling is said to be within ten percent of the real thing, and I believe it. GAMEPLAY The feel of really being there is just awesome. The feel of the controls is better than anything else I've used. (While some have been close, none of those have supported an Analogue Joystick - which gives far superior control to a digital stick.) The keyboard controls, while complex, are made easy to learn. Only the basic controls necessary for take-off, landing, and flight are listed in the hard-manual. Everything else is introduced in the first exersise in which they are required, through the online manual. A nice way to avoid the frantic search for a key in an encyclopaedia of a control-sheet. The ability to click directly on a switch on the cockpit's control panel is a nice alternative too. SO MANY THINGS TO DO Like most good flight simulations, it takes a while before a new user progresses beyond the level of a novice. There is much to be learned of the controls, and of course the numerous keys we Amiga users are stuck with, due to lack of a decent multi-button, multi-throttle analogue-joystick. JETPilot is no exception here. In fact, it goes into even more complexity than any Amiga flight sim I've used before. Now, fortunately you can skip much of it initially and start in mid- air. But that's no fun. In this one, you can start on the runway, ready to take off, or even better, you can start by the hangar, connected to the external supply-lines! Thus you will have to start the engine (or two, depending on the plane), throttle-up until they are driving the internal generators, ask for disconnection of the supply-lines, request taxi-clearance, release the brakes, taxi to the runway, lock the brakes again. Then comes the fun bit... takeoff! Here it gets tricky because some planes _need_ take-off flaps to be down, and you need to have the throttle right before you release the brakes, (or you'll end up travelling too fast while still grounded), have the elevators at the right angle as the plane rotates, (or the tail will hit the ground before you take off.) Those hit-full- afterburner-and-take-off games seem so primitive now... Oh, don't forget to retract the flaps before you jam them. :-) One of the greatest things in this game is night-time flying. Now it just has to be tried to be believed. As the sky dims, and the colour fades from the landscape, the amber lights of the instrument-panel begins to show. When it finally reaches blackness, (and you really need to have the lights switched of in your room, trust me), and there's the faint horizon-line, the bright lights of the runway, the navigation-lights of another plane in the distance. Oh, then go to external view, admire your own nav-lights for a second. Then push the throttle to full re-heat (afterburner), and watch the screen light up. (A big bassy stereo is recommended for maximum effect.) Next fun trick to try... fly past a control-tower at supersonic speeds, (switch to the control-tower view first), and hear the sonic boom as you fly past. Cool! Or if you can't be bothered, just go to external view, and check how you can't hear your Jet when viewing from in front, then rotate the view to the rear, and hear the kick of sound as you get behind it again. :-) Landing is fun, expecially with these planes where you actually have a landing-chute to deploy. Trying to brake before the end of the runway is a scary prospect without it. And then you have to learn to take off with another plane, (side by side), and land together... and there are so many various qualifying tasks to complete. You have to prove your competence as a pilot before you are allowed to engage in combat. Actually I haven't even come _close_ to qualifying for combat... just trying out all of the other silly little things that can be done has been distracting me too much. But I'm having too much fun to care. SOUND TOO DAUNTING? Hell, just click on free-flight, and you'll be up in the air with whatever Jet you choose. Or, if violence is your thing, click on the combat-practice missions. You'll be up in the air and ready to shoot down a passive Mig in seconds. The better you are, the fewer seconds. :-) Treat the aircraft with just a little respect, and you can still throw the thing around in the air, buzz the tower, attempt to collide with your wingman, etc. It's options do allow you to avoid much of its underlying complexity if you wish. If you just want a quick 30-second blast in the air, you can. GENERAL OPINION This is the ultimate flight simulator on the Amiga today. (IMHO) The flight is just so damn real, and the numerous ways the outside environment can be changed: the ability to have low-cloud, different times of day and seasons, both of which affect the lighting conditions, (the sky is just darkening in the evening in summer, but if you try the same time of day in winter, it's totally dark.) The wind-speed, temperature and pressure can all be changed too. Planes that actually have completely different cockpits! This is something that is hardly ever done in sims for this machine. I have no idea when I might ever qualify for combat, because I haven't even become remotely bored with the stuff there is to do in free-flight. (Ever tried doing all those aerobatic moves you're not supposed to do with a jet.) :-) Besides, there's always the combat practice. The way you can get a pilot to visually track a plane is just awesome. And keys to press to look over your shoulder etc. At last, a simulator where you don't simply have: front view, side view, rear view. And the icing on the cake, a switch on the control panel to turn the wing-tip lights on and off. :-) LIKES Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge complexity. Infinite lastability. DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS A bassier sound to the sonic-boom would've made me happier. A CD-ROM version with all the (not entirely necessary) voices on the audio tracks would've been nice. Unnecessary, but nice. :-) COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS The only game I ever played that had the similar feel and inertia to it was F18 interceptor. Great feel, good dogfighting, but not much sophistication to it at all. (A damn fun wee blast.) F18 hooks you instantly, but this one keeps you hooked. None of the Microprose flight sims. on the Amiga had _any_ feel to them. The jets would go where you pointed them. Missiles take out if they're in their (very) general vicinity of them. They weren't simulations by my definition. (They had a nagging kind of enjoy- ablility though.) Gunship 2000 seemed nice. Actually it seemed very nice - almost like it could make up for all of Microprose's previous Amiga flight sims. (almost) But I never saw enough of it to be able to make a fair comparison. And almost everything else I've seen is rather simplistic in all respects by todays standards, or designed for an A500, and runs far too fast on anything better. Fighter Duel Pro 2 is the only other game I've seen that compares in the quality of simulation it gives you. However it's strictly a World War 2 era dogfighting one. Great flight model, superior frame rate (through simpler scenery), great sound. But these two games have little overlap in what they try to acheive. I think any sim. addict would want both of them. (And the demos are available from Aminet anyway, so the decision needn't be an uninformed one.) Unfortunately FDP2 is quite rare. I don't expect the commercial version would be easy to find. (Um, if anyone does find it, let me know eh?) :-) Tornado is another simulation I own. Unfortunately I've hardly played it, for various reasons. I'll give a comparison when I know a bit more about it. (Although, I did hear much complaining on the newsgroups about the slow frame-rate of JETPilot in comparison to Tornado. Quite frankly, I don't know what the hell they were on about. I thought JETPilot gave better framerate for detail-level.) BUGS Just some quirks with Multiscan screenmodes. I couldn't find any other bugs. VENDOR SUPPORT Now that Vulcan have left the Amiga, it is difficult to say. Support for Multiscan screenmodes, Analogue joysticks, and a fix to make the demo start happily from Multiscan workbench screen modes were all quickly implemented when Amigans requested them. WARRANTY Not sure really. But it never gave me any problems. Vulcan have always been a communicative and supportive company. CONCLUSIONS Now this is what a real flight-simulator is all about. Plenty of stuff to do until you qualify to shot live targets. Shooting drones is tricky enough. (They may not be intelligent, but they still maneuver.) This game is going to have me occupied for a _very_ long time.