THE SIM OUT OF THE BOX:
Impressed by the box art and the "word-of-mouth" this sim received, I grabbed it before anyone in the field. I raced home to jump onto ICQ and brag about my "bounty".
After discussing some of my rather quick findings, I found that I might not be so happy with this $40.00 investment.
The manual is an rather meager 80 page booklet that encompasses the gameplay, vehicle listings and the KEYCARD. Yup! .. the keycard is in the manual. Not just on one page either. You'll have to flip this booklet to get to the Wingman-Command-Options.
The manual is also very limited in it's provided information. Some "newbies" may find this a problem since the interface for the sim and many of the games options are not described in detail.
The Flight model in KA52 is the discussion of many debates. No-one, I know, really knows how the Alligator flies, so that adds to the fight. But one thing is for sure ... this one flies like a roller-coaster car and making a turn only makes the "on-rails" feeling more apparent.
Some flight-model changes are available thanx to Zero-G from SimHQ.Com . It helps quite a bit, though not totally curing the "bug". You can get it in the patches section here at HeloSim.Com .
Though, not perfect, the "patched" flight model is decent. Even patched, though, the ground-effect and vortex-ring-state is not very believable. The blade-stall seems decent and has "bit" me more than once.
Since the flight model ... or lack of flight model ... makes KA52 less than a contender in this genre, I'd say the "selling-point" of this sim is the team management options and the entertaining "cut-scenes" between missions.
This is where KA52 is unique ... well ... let's just say other helo-sims don't go where KA52 goes, cause they don't have to. KA52 resembles Team Apaches structure, but improves on it slightly. You have the opportunity to fly the KA52 as well as act as the Commander of a Russian aviation squadron of 5 other helos, not counting your own.
Training is an important and necessary part of this sim. The training missions are easy enough and recommended for the newbie to the helo-genre. Though the established simmer may find that the instructor of this sim is a bit "controlling". You have to be very patient with him as he will only give you the controls when he is done giving instructions and is ready for you to try your hand at his commands. Don't be surprised when he retakes control if you wait too long or don't follow his orders.
The Single-missions are tough and quite action packed. Flying around the Belarus or Tajikistan terrain is a rotor-heads pleasure. A quick rundown of the mission-brief, one keystroke to start the engines and your airborne ... ready to fight. The cockpit shakes as if your really there. This gives a whole new feeling to the realism factor, unseen in many sims. The graphics in this sim are well done and the enemy AI is very cunning, thought they don't move much.
One of the toughest things to contend with is the "Russian Only" equipment for friendly and enemy units. Since the basis of KA52 is all internal conflicts, the equipment you fight against is all too familiar and had me double checking contacts VERY often. Luckily the targeting system, though "clunky", is rather reliable and easy to learn to use. The MFD views aren't much help and are very restricting. You can't tell where your flying when you shift to the single MFD views, and trying to view the MFDs while in the "pilot" view mode is near impossible. Thank heavens that the co-pilot is quite well versed in identifing contacts. He does it in a timely and helpful manner that can only make your job easier.
The internal views of the cockpit are rather well done. Some of the sensors are modeled very well while others lack functionality. The radar-modes lack an ability to switch between active and inactive, while the warning panel functions quite well, telling you of major problems.
The Campaign section of this sim is where it really shines. The intricate balance of team management in the areas of mechanics, supply and morale are all a welcome site to this "micro-manager".
After each mission in the campaign, you need to monitor your crews morale. They each have their own unique personalities that are rewarded amongst them differently. Their fatigue and skills fluctuate, making them tougher to manage from mission to mission. Your helicopters are not much different. Damage varies, one helo may have transmission problems, while another has a hard-point damaged. You may find yourself sending damaged helos in the air while the mechanics start repairs on the other helos.
Multiplayer was a problem to test for me. I couldn't find more than one other person to test it with at a time. Seems that bad publicity really killed this sim early. Though, unfair as I believe that is, there are some MultiPlayer issues that scarred my outlook. Lag seemed to be "nil" between myself and the client. However, "jumping" of the other players helo was noticed when we were nearby. This did not seem to be lag related though ... rather a strange oddity. Another "bug" was the inability to jump to another flight once I was killed or ejected. Whichever person died first, had to wait for the other to finish the mission. One other "bug" ... the client would lock-up in the game when the host backed-out of the mission after completion. This became very frustrating
All in all, the wingman commands were adequate, the campaigns where exciting enough and the team management made this worth the effort to play, at least in single play.
Perhaps one of the best features of KA52, is the graphics. There isn't a bad screen-shot on the internet of this sim. The 3D models are all top-notch. The explosions are fantastic, the terrain is very well done ( the trees and buildings us rotor-heads hope for are all there in stunning detail ) and the weather effects are to die for.
KA52 is a great single-player sim. I can't tell you how many hours this sim has had me busy managing my teams and helos. I would recommend this sim to any rotor-head who really wants to get into the meat and potatoes of being in charge of a helo-squad.
I wouldn't, however, recommend this for a MultiPlayer flights with your buddies. This will only lead you to frustration that could only lead to destruction of either this Sims' CD or worse.
It's a shame sometimes, how a "soap-opera" during game development can take down a sim in such a remorseful way. My hat is off to the beta-team for their efforts, though not mentioned in the manual. And to ORIGINAL team who started the sim, though they didn't stick around to finish it because of the "suits" who pushed it out the door.
HeloSim.Com Rating - 4 out of 10