Search and Rescue 3       reviewed by Neal "Pappy" Stevens

Developer: InterActive Vision
Publisher (North America): Global Star Software; Publisher (elsewhere): TBA

As a rule helosims are fashioned after military vehicles. And why not? After all, combat helos are high tech, ultra-modern flying wonders. Armed with rockets, guns, and electronic gear, these are the ultimate machines. However, helicopters serve more tasks that destruction and aggression. The majority of the world's choppers are used for commerce, logistics, transportation, and emergency duties. The newest in a series of helosims from InterActive Vision/Global Star Software, Search and Rescue 3 charges you with responding to emergency calls that come straight from the pages of the daily news.

SAR3 is strong in one area unique to simulations--procedures. All missions are graded for compliance to proper procedure and this is the glue that binds the gameplay. The adversaries are not bunkers, SAMs, and armor but rather high winds, raging seas, and expediency. While that may not sound as glamorous as tackling the Iraqi Republican Guard, once you initiate the first mission you will be drawn into a highly satisfying world of risk and reward.

Three vehicles are profiled: the Sirkorsky SH-3 Sea King, BK-117, and the Dolphin HH-65A. Each is modeled with sufficient fidelity and the external views are good. Graphics are just a notch below big budget flight sims. Landscapes, ocean textures, and buildings look good and the world is littered with forests, cities, parking lots, cars, and roads. One thing I enjoyed in particular was the immersion into a simulated world I could survey without fear of hostile fire. The helos look great and are packed with details--hoist lines, divers, spotlights, and landing gear augment the sense of realism. There are a lot of little details that show how much thought went into this game. One example: when you switch on the spotlight, it doesn't just pop on, it warms up steadily with a glow at first, brightening into a cone of light.


The controls are detailed enough to satisfy many of the enthusiasts while simple enough to encourage casual gamers. The 62 page manual does a great job of explaining how things work; it is packed with well-written tips and instructions. As with all new helosims I try them out with minimal instruction (but then again, who doesn't?). Referring to the keyboard sheet I was able to fly right away. If you want to tackle the flying with full realism, SAR will accommodate you. Ground effects and autorotation are present and the system includes AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System) which is what real pilots rely on to manage flying in demanding situations.

SAR3 includes lots of gameplay options, always plus. There are several options that allow for tailoring helicopter physics and controls. You can fly from the cockpit of from the chase view. It pays to invest a little time familiarizing yourself with the procedures because you are graded on your proper utilization of them in rescue missions. And there are lots of procedures to choose from: swimmer rescue, stretcher and litter deployment, hoisting, and radio inspection are among many. Funny thing is, I found myself thoroughly enjoying performing rescue ops "by the book". SAR3 makes a great Coast Guard recruitment tool.

Gameplay comes as single missions and a campaign-- there are more than a hundred to choose from. The action takes place in amusement parks, nuclear power plants, out to sea, and in the mountains. Some missions can be pretty demanding. A time jump feature allows you to speed things up between landmarks. You may call on a full-time help feature to guide through the missions--this comes in handy when confronting situations that demand precise accordance with rescue procedures. The game even includes a random mission generator for the fun of the unknown.


Searching in the stormy, pitch black night

Located at last!

Get the thermos of hot coffee ready


During the missions you can opt for music. Instead of an adrenaline pumping rock score, SAR3 provides soothing mood music. Very original!

Don't mistake the lack of combat with less challenge. In one mission I was tasked to search and rescue a film crew who were lost in the forests. The area was hilly, festooned with pine trees, it was pitch black (except for the nearby lighting), and a 30 knot wind, driving rain kept blowing me off course! I used the spotlight (which can be directed by the player) to illuminate the woods until I found the rascals. Brother, that's as good as it gets.

Search and Rescue 3 builds on what has become a fun and reliable franchise. It has balanced gameplay that offers a refreshing change of pace from Hellfire-laden combat missions. The more you play it, the more you learn, and the more you get out of it. I found SAR3 to be one heck of a sleeper--it had plenty of the one ingredient any simulation or game needs to hold my interest--challenging fun!

Specs: Win 95/98, Pentium 166  Mhz CPU or faster, 3D video card, 4X or faster CD-ROM drive, 32 MB RAM, 315 MB Hard Drive space, keyboard.
Recommended: Win 95/98, Pentium 500  Mhz CPU or faster, 3D video card with 32MB RAM, 4X or faster CD-ROM drive, 128 MB RAM, 315 MB Hard Drive space, supports joystick, pedals, throttle stick.

HeloSim's Rating - 7 out of 10 Review Index