FLY! II        reviewed by Neal "Pappy" Stevens


Developer: Terminal Reality

BRIMMING WITH DETAILS, SHORT ON PAPER
Virtually every helosim Iíve played has been combat oriented. When Helosim.com Editor Matt Staring directed me to contact TRI and get a copy of their new offering Fly! II and give it a thorough testing, my first thought was, "But it isnít a combat helosim! What am I gonna do? Fly around looking at the scenery?" Imagine my surprise when I began getting comfortable with the program and I discovered that there is a lot to be said for just flying around and enjoying the view! Fly! II is the sequel to 1999ís acclaimed flight sim of the same name and the lineage shows. What doesnít make the sequel is the second diskóFly! II is missing some key features right out of the box, like the complete manual and tons of location and scenery material. You are expected to download this material from the web.

No, there are no Hellfires or chainguns here. Fly! II provides a few planes, one helo, an astonishingly skimpy manual, and one mother of a hard drive installó1.3 GB to be exact (minimum, the "typical is 1.75 GB!). Oh, and ice-age length load times. I found the average time from clicking on the Fly! II desktop icon to actually getting to the helo around six minutes. Indeed, I started reading Ray Bradburyís "Martian Chronicles" and finished the book during the review phase of Fly! II. Tempting though it was to publish a book review instead, I stayed on course and gave Fly! II a thorough workout.

Bell 407You have your pick of the Bell 407 helicopter, Pilatus PC-12, Kodiak twin engine, Aurora B200, Sahara single engine, and Barracuda B200, Flyhawk 172, and Peregrine 800 TR jet. Naturally, I zeroed in on the Bell. After a lengthy load time (two chapters of Martian Chronicles worth) I was presented a crisp and detailed exterior view of a red/white 407. The first menu choices are the type of game: Quick Flight, Adventures, and Flight Planner. The adventures offer the most fun for me, fictionalize a "mission objective" that is in line with my combat helo experience. You may find yourself gripped by the peril of some random system failure and just finding the airport and getting safely on the ground will rival battling KA52ís any day.

 

BUTTONS AND GAUGES GALORE
detailed flight plannerThe control panels are simply amazing. Every switch, button, and gauge is reproduced in the complete exactitude. In addition, most if not all have a popup window that gives you the state and value. This brings you much closer to controlling your craft and simulating the real thing than most sims. It also demands patience because if youíre not a real pilot you will need time to learn your helicopter or plane. The program offers a few options to help you out, such as auto starting the engine, which is smart. You can pan around the interior of the craft and the artwork is first-rate, near photo-realistic. You can turn on and handle just about everything you see, even raising the seat and adjusting the ventilation shutters. Fly! II really lets you pilot your plane through the use of realistic controls.

 
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With the abundance of switches and gauges, it follows that the interface would be critical to the playability of Fly! II. I can report that the interface is good and mostly user friendly. The view slews with mouse or keyboard commands. One element of Fly! II that is lacking is the manual. You know somethingís wrong when a flightsim manual barely contains 38 pagesóand counts the front cover as page 1! Fly! IIís manual constitutes a mild form of customer abuse! It has some details on installing the sim and managing the interface and a scant word or two about flying. One note of warning for newbies like meóthe manual briefly explains how to press the Ctrl key and produce yellow arrows on the edge of the screen, indicating an additional direction to view. To follow the view direction of one of the arrows, the manual instructs you to "just hit the desired arrow". Well, after 20 minutes of frustration clicking on the yellow arrows while holding down the Ctrl key, it occurred to me to try hitting the arrow KEY on the KEYBOARD. That did it, finally. The manual could have been a little clearer here! If there is a theme to the Fly! II manual, it is the annoyingly repeated phrase "covered in detail in the electronic manual".

 

GAMEPLAY
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Fly! II has some good levels of customization. You can map the command keys to suit you. The Flight Planner is barely described in the paper manual, once again requiring you to go online to complete your purchase of this flight sim. To change airports, you will need to type in the first few letters of the name to get some choices, no drop-down menu to help you find the airport youíre think of. You can select rain and wind weather effects here to enhance the realism of your flight. Itís a nifty tool but could use a few steps toward making the input more intuitive.

The flight model of the Bell helo and several of the other planes I tried seems to favor a slant to accuracy rather than user ease. The helo handles with the same degree of validity as EECH. Flying in this game reminds you itís not a hands-off affair. It gets easier as you build up airtime. Fly! II improves on it predecessor with the ability to acquire damage to various parts of the aircraft. Problems with the landing gear or damage to an engine will put you in crisis mode and offer you the opportunity to belly-land or make a dead stick landing. Nice touch! 

The environment around you is generally good but varies. The ground is consists of featureless green and white mush and the sky, while sufficient, doesnít make a big step forward in atmospheric renderings. The engine sounds are accompanied with beeping warning chimes and alerts from time to time. The helo and planes look excellent.

fly2_2.jpg (348216 bytes)You should expect performance hits if you are running anything less than a top-end machine for this time period, something like a PIII 800 with 256 MB RAM and a high-end graphics card with 32+ MB onboard. The specs call for a minimum PII 300 with 64 MB RAM. I used a PIII 500 with 160 MB RAM and a TNT2 with 32 MB and I got decent frame rates with some of the detail switched off. Clearly, TRI is building for the future, which I condone. Hardware upgrades are a fact of life in gaming.

TRI expects the player to download the full version of the Fly! II manual, a trend Iíd rather not see started. And the game benefits greatly from a two-part patch, available on the web. With these add-on enhancements, itís clear that this is not going to be an out-of-the-box review. If you ever wanted to be a beta tester for a big PC game company, this is your chance.

fly2_8.jpg (392742 bytes)Patches (~3 MBs), manuals (~30 MBs), and scenery packs (~6 MBs) are downloadable via the web, but these suckers are big and if youíre coping with a 28.8 modem, you can forget about collecting all the scenery packs totaling 280 MBs. If God Games would use the registration database to mail CDís with the missing portions of the sim, it would go a long way towards legitimizing their product.

Multiplay and mission scripting capabilities round out the package. You can connect to Fly! II's "persistent, worldwide, environment complete with the latest weather downloadable from NOAA Metar. Use functional multi-player radios to tune into each other, text and voice chat (downloadable from Roger Wilco)."

 

THE LONG AND SHORT
fly2_4.jpg (491165 bytes)People inclined to play Fly! II are a little more mature and patient than, say, the spewmonkeys literally eating Corner Rat Studioís WWII Online alive for start up problems. Does TRI/God Games deserve a slap on the wrist for marketing an incomplete game? Sure, but not a beheading as long as they continue to strive and follow up with support, features, and assistance. Games these days are exceedingly complex and expensive and they endeavor to harness all the power todayís brawny hardware provides. Itís not an easy situation. Fly! II is a prime example of a game rich with detail and features. It covers a lot of substance and brings the player into close association with the helo or plane. With some popular support, corporate support, time, and seasoning it could grow into a wonderful experience. Whatís there is goodóitís just not all there. If youíre a pilot or someone who craves the most detailed cockpit lots of stuff to touch and you donít mind building the sim as you go, Fly! II could be for you. There are a lot of resources online, official and unofficial support websites to add scenery, options, planes, airports, and features to Fly! II. However, if youíre looking to open a box and fly, this sim doesnít live up to its name.


Specs: Win 95/98, Pentium II 333  Mhz CPU or faster, 3D video card with 16MB RAM, 4X or faster CD-ROM drive, 64+ MB RAM, 1300 MB Hard Drive space, supports joystick. Mac compatible.


  
HeloSim's Rating - 5 out of 10

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