Air Command 3.0 is a simulation that is designed to put gamers in the anxious position of an air traffic controller. Using radio communications, visual confirmations, and the sophisticated radar readout high up in the tower, the player becomes responsible for directing all traffic through her airport, managing take-offs and landings and keeping the mammoth commercial vehicles moving smoothly and on schedule. Four difficulty levels and several other options allow players to customize the control tower experience to their liking.
Air Command 3.0 is an air traffic control simulator that puts you in the seat of an air traffic controller at a major international airport. Using your radar screen, you must direct all air traffic to and from your area, as well as grant permission for takeoffs and landings. Air Command 3.0 contains a rich set of features for maximum game play and fun.
So I'm having a conflict. While Air Command 3.0 is a fantastic air traffic control simulation, the simulation of air traffic control isn't everyone's idea of a great time. If you dig the idea of air traffic control, then the game is great. But even with my relative disinterest in the subject (I didn't like Pushing Tin either), I found that the game delivered some pretty tense moments. Still, it's not the type of experience I'm anxious to return to, but it's a really great way to kill ten or twelve minutes at a time.
The setup is simple enough. You're beginning your shift at the air traffic control tower. In front of you is a neat looking radar screen showing the airports and transfer points on the map. Little icons represent the various planes and lines indicate their various flight paths. Planes will enter your airspace and need to be directed to various locations. Green clouds occasionally drift by across the map, obscuring your vision. The trick is to get each plane to its destination at the appropriate altitude in the appropriate orientation without hitting each other. That's the trick, really. While the game penalizes you for missed waypoints and near collisions, it's the full head-on crashes that'll really ruin your day and have you digging out the old resume.
At any given moment you'll be in control of up to two-dozen planes (a little more or less at different difficulty levels) and you'll need to get them all to their destinations safely and on time. Planes will either enter your airspace already in the air or will need to receive clearance to takeoff from airfields within your airspace. The planes that enter your airspace on their own will most likely be heading in the correct direction to begin with. All you have to do with these guys is get them up to 10000 feet and keep them away from all the other planes until they reach their exit point and are handed off to other controllers. Occasionally, these planes will need to land at an airport within your airspace. This gets a little trickier. Most of the time, they're on the wrong approach and will need to be steered around into a good landing orientation and dropped to 1000 feet. Planes that take off from airports within your airspace follow the same rules. They'll either need to make it to an exit point or to another airfield before they're removed from your active flight window.
Sounds simple, right? Not even close. There are so many things to keep track of at any given time that near misses are bound to crop up. Any time a plane gets within 1000 feet of another plane, you receive a warning. Anytime planes pass within 0 feet of each other, you lose your job. I was kind of disappointed in the consequence of mid-air collisions. While I didn't expect to see all kinds of bodies or anything, the only thing you get when you kill two planes full of people is a stupid letter. While it's probably true to life, I expected a little more from the game.
Each plane in your airspace is shown in a window to the right of the screen. You see the source, destination and altitude of each plane. Clicking on a plane allows you to issue orders via a simple control panel. You can set altitudes, direction of travels and, for some planes, even a rough speed. Best of all, each exit point and airfield within your airspace can be set as a destination for your planes. You'll only need to fine-tune the headings if the plane is on the wrong approach to an airfield or is about to hit another plane.
The game offers four levels of difficulty, each of which represents a different shift length and plane density. The highest level will have you controlling 45 aircraft over a period of 40 minutes. The game keeps track of your score, granting points for every successful landing or hand-off. A missed landing (not the same as a crash) or a near collision will subtract points from your total. As I said before, a full on collision will end the game.
I think the ten airspaces that ship with the game are really well chosen. You've got classics like Chicago, SFO and NYC along with Amsterdam, Rome, Paris and London. You can try out the LA airports or those of Atlanta or Boston as well. There's a pretty good range of spaces from really crowded to kind of spread out. If that's not enough for you, there's an airport editor as well.
It's a dull kind of tense, really. I mean you get the nail-biting intensity of real air traffic control because you get so wrapped up in trying to stay on schedule without needlessly risking anyone's life. Still, as with real air traffic control, the actual controller is insulated somewhat from the excitement of the job by the tediousness of the interface. In other words, it's an exciting exercise that's made boring and ordinary on purpose. On that count, the game does a really excellent job.
People who downloaded Air Command 3.0 have also downloaded:
Airport Tycoon 2, Airport Tycoon, Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich, Age of Empires III, American Civil War: Take Command - Second Manassas, Age of Sail 2, Airborne Assault: Red Devils over Arnhem, Age of Empires
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