When the original Su-27 Flanker came out a few years ago (eons in computer gaming time), it was herladed as having one of the best flight models around. It had enough detail to convert even the most jaded Falcon 3.0 fan (which was, up until then, the heralded as the most realistic flight sim ever). What kept Su-27 from reaching a more mainstream audience were the dated, polygonal graphics, a very harsh flight model, and lack of a training mode.
Since Su-27's original release, Falcon 4.0 was released, and it set the new bechmark for realism and graphics. Flanker 2.0, Su-27's sequel, how to challenge the king by addressing all the deficiencies of the original product and adding some new features of its own. How does it succeed as a hard-core flight sim, and will it remove Falcon 4.0 from the throne of realism? Let's find out...
Flanker 2.0 starts out innocently enough with a cut-scene depicting some Flanker's taking out some of our beloved American F/A-18 Hornets. Once this cut-scene is complete, you're taken to the spartan main menu. Remember the word spartan, folks, it'll be used a lot in this review.
Flanker 2.0 has all the requisite options any good flight sim would have. We have our Instant Action option, which simply puts you up in the air with the objective to shoot and kill anything that isn't you. This is pretty standard, really.
We next come to the training section, which involves a plethora of training options. We have options such as take-offs, landings, carrier landings, air-to-air combat, air-to-ground combat, and so on. This simulation, thanks to these training missions and the HUGE manual will, is much more accessible than its previous installment.
This game features a few dozen single player missions and one single player campaign. These missions and campaigns, while fun, are presented in a very dry style. Mission or campaign selection involves choosing from a windows-style dialog screen. There's no virtual squadrons or personas, just pick a mission and go. Multiplayer is pretty much the same thing, but works rather well over slower connections.
People buying this sim, however, won't be buying it for a great campaign or atmosphere, they're buying it for the detailed flight, weapon, and damage modeling. It's here that Flanker 2.0 delivers in spades. Only Falcon 4.0 or Mig Alley come close to the detail evident in the modeling in this sim. Flanker 2.0 allows you to fly two variants, the Su-27 Air Force variant, and the Su-33 Naval variant.
The detail in the flight model is evident from the second you're airborne. The Flanker is a very powerful and agile aircraft, and can easily take on almost any complementry NATO aircraft. This is easily evident from the spins and stunts you can perform in the plane within the sim. This really comes into play, however, during combat.
While the Flanker can engage in BVR (Beyond Visual Range) combat, it's real strength is its "Look-Down, Shoot-Down" ability. This means that, with the right air-to-air missle selected, the Flanker can shoot a missle at an enemy aircraft from forty degrees off the center using the Helmet Mounted display. This gives the Flanker an unprecedented ability to easily shoot down an aircraft at short range. This, coupled with the Flanker's high maneuverability, makes it a formadible air-to-air weapon.
In air-to-ground strike operations, the Flanker also does quite well. The Flanker can be an airborne arsenal thanks to its multitude of pylons. It doesn't seem to be able to hold as much in the way of munitions as the Super Hornet, but it can hold enough to get almost any type of mission done with weapons to spare.
The presentation of this detail is also quite well done. The graphics, unlike the original Flanker, are astounding, with a high level of ground and object detail. The terrain itself looks fabulous, and it's some of the best I've seen in a fixed-wing combat sim. The ground is also littered with tons of beautifully detailed objects, such as cities, railways, vehicles, and so on. These graphics even run well on low-end machines, such as my old PII 266.
The sounds, unfortunately, aren't as glorious as the graphics. While what audio effects there are do sound pretty good, but there just aren't enough of them. Those used to the chatty flights in Falcon 4.0 or Mig Alley are in for a REALLY quiet ride. There isn't much battlefield chatter going on, and usually the only speech you'll hear is that of your plane telling you you're too low to the ground.
Overall, while this game has a lot going for it, it's dry presentation and lack of atmosphere might turn others off. If you're just going for technical excellence, Flanker 2.0 won't dissapoint. If, however, you're going for the overall FEEL of a flight sim experience, you might be better off going with Falcon or Mig Alley. One way or another, flying this sim will remind you why you like simulations in the first place.
Graphics: Spectacular Graphics
Sound: Sparse, if good, sound effects.
Enjoyment: Very enjoyable...if you're good enough to fly it...
Replay Value: The Mission/Campaign editors will ensure a long life...
People who downloaded Flanker 2.0 have also downloaded:
Flanker 2.5, Lock On: Modern Air Combat, F-22 Lightning 3, F-15 Strike Eagle III, F/A-18E Super Hornet, Su-27 Flanker, F/A-18 Operation Desert Storm, Eurofighter Typhoon
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