Rage Software's Eurofighter Typhoon takes to the bogey-filled skies of a tumultuous near-future in this high tech combat flight sim. The title is based on the next-generation fighter plane developed jointly by Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK and it has been endorsed by the test pilots that were among the first to fly the jet in real life. The game's scenario hints at a major power shift in the near future which leaves a small base in Iceland as the main link between the European nations and the rest of the friendly countries in the world. In charge of a squad of six pilots, the player must defend the remote base and the vital supply lines it represents at all costs.
Six years ago, Digital Image Design released EF2000. Apart from simulating the still upcoming Eurofighter, EF2000 introduced the world to WarGen, a dynamic campaign generator. Six years later the Eurofighter, now officially called the Eurofighter Typhoon, still hasn't gone into production and Digital Image Design has been bought by Rage has been bought by Infogrames that lived in the house the Jacques built. To tide the rest of us over until we can actually get some stick time in a real Typhoon, Rage developed a new sim to showcase the awesome power and technology of Europe's most ambitious military jet project.
The slogan of the Typhoon is "Any aircraft, any mission." Switching easily between air-to-air and air-to-ground roles, the Typhoon is a one-size-fits-all air solution. Or at least it will be as soon as it goes into regular production within the next few years. The game itself is set in 2015 when, presumably, the Typhoon will be in standard service across several nations in Europe. In this particular case, you'll be defending Iceland from a Russian invasion.
The new systems in the Typhoon make it somewhat forgiving. The game takes things a few steps further by streamlining the flight model and removing some of the "superfluous" controls. A list of the keyboard shortcuts could be written on your Golden Corral receipt. The lack of rudder control is most distressing, even if you aren't a hardcore sim junkie. The Typhoon does use a rudder, but it's up to the plane's own AI to determine when and how to apply it. This makes lining up your shots a little trickier but you do eventually get used to it.
There also doesn't seem to be any weight or stress modeling at all. The difference in flight characteristics between a fully loaded and an empty Typhoon are negligible, and when you're pulling 7.5 Gs in a hard turn with every hardpoint loaded, you'll wonder why the canards aren't flying off. Still, the game does a great job of damage modeling once the shooting starts. Visual signs and performance penalties are the consequence of getting too close to the bullets. The game succeeds very well at making an arcade-style flight model seem realistic however. The balance between what works and shouldn't and what doesn't work and should is right on the money. While some, including me, would've liked more control over some aspects of flight, Typhoon was never really positioned as the next F-22 anyway.
But the real strength of the game is the campaign mode... Like the upcoming Lock-On, Typhoon generates an entire battle off your own actions. It begins with several missions surrounding an attempt by the Russians to secure a beachhead. At this stage, you'll need to strike enemy ships and intercept incoming cruise missiles. Once the Russians do gain a footing you'll need to fly missions involving bomber interception and ground support. As you succeed or fail, the shape of the entire campaign will shift in response. For the most part, the missions are fairly short and times-to-target are low.
The game focuses on your pilots' time at the airbase as well. A handy interface lets you switch between all of your pilots no matter where they are or what they're doing. If you'd rather plan a bomber intercept than fly along on a CAP mission, you can do that. All the while you're given updated information on the status of all your pilots. So, if you see that the CAP guys are getting tangled up in a furball, you can drop your planning and jump right into the cockpit of any of the active planes. This versatility really pays off as you're able to jump from mission to mission (and even back again) with little trouble. The game itself runs on a real clock so you'll follow your pilots around the airbase all day unless you're out on a mission. While you can speed up the time 2X, I would've loved a button that would have simply advanced to the next "significant" event. Otherwise there's a lot of down time while you're waiting for something to happen.
The AI provides a good challenge with lots of cooperation between the various enemies in the air. Your own wingmen provide adequate cover but need to be directed to specific targets in order to provide any real offensive help. Once the mission is over, you can go back to the airbase to receive a debriefing and any awards you might have earned. You can also take a chance to view some of the news clips that illustrate the progress of the game.
Pilot management is another key factor in the game. No longer are you just a faceless fighter jock. Typhoon asks you to choose six pilots for your starting line-up. Each has strengths, weaknesses and distinct personalities. Some are better at air-to-ground attacks, some are better at surviving enemy interrogation, some are better at following your orders. These differences make the pilots seem pretty real, but the fact that you won't ever get to choose which pilots go on particular missions is rather stupid. I mean, why select an excellent dogfighter for your roster if the computer only sends him on anti-shipping strikes?
But there's a much worse problem -- the game has no mission editor and no instant action mode. It does have a multiplayer option that you can play as a single player, but the variability and customability of these multiplayer missions are low. While I'd normally forgive a weak multiplayer mode in the face of the awesome single player campaign, I can't get past the lack of a skirmish component. I'd have loved to have set up some dogfights or bomber intercepts against particular planes, but instead, I just have to wait and see what the campaign engine serves up. This is an unforgivable slight for those players whom don't want to sit down and wait for thirty minutes to see if the mission they want shows up.
Lots of details cover every inch of the Typhoon. It seems like every new sim pushes the standard for graphics higher and higher and Typhoon definitely leads the pack. Most of the detail is on the plane itself. While it's not as precise as CFS2 every surface is covered with something interesting to look at. The cockpit is very realistic and the spectacular lighting effects make it seem more real than any other cockpit I've ever seen -- outside of the cockpits of real planes, of course. Smoke and flame effects are credible and, while the terrain isn't covered in buildings and trees, it does have significant hills and gulleys. The game doesn't seem to have any weather effects but, presumably, neither does Iceland. I've never been myself.
Typhoon's not quite as simple as Top Gun and not nearly as complicated as F-22. Most games that adopt this fence straddling approach land squarely in the Tinkle Pit. Luckily, the Typhoon is the Baby Bear's porridge of the jet sim world (let's see them put that on the box). The lack of rudder controls galls me almost as much as the lack of any simple mission creator or instant action mode, but I'll gladly continue playing the game in spite of those defects -- at least until I can get Peer to sign off a real Typhoon for the office.
People who downloaded Eurofighter Typhoon have also downloaded:
Super EF 2000 (a.k.a. Super EuroFighter 2000), F/A-18 Operation Desert Storm, Flanker 2.5, F-22 Lightning 3, Combat Flight Simulator 3: Battle for Europe, F-22 Total Air War, Comanche 4, F-16 Aggressor
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