crap! "Active members of a subversive group have acquired several
captured Luftwaffe aircraft, brought back by the Allies from the German
front! They are threatening to destroy the tourist site at the Grand
Canyon." What are you going to do in this, Americas most dire
hour? Well, you could easily shoot them down with a USAAF Spitfire Mk V,
but that wouldnt even start to explore the possibilities at your
disposal. What Im talking about here is the chance to do some real
damage in a Cessna 206 Stationair--thats right.
First in Belgium-based Wilco Publishings planned series of "Reality Flights," Reality Flights: Grand Canyon is an add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator and Combat Flight Simulator. The forgoing scenario, believe it or not, is featured in CFS thanks to this add-on. I know what you're thinking, "Reality Flights?" However, theres a lot more to Grand Canyon than bizarre combat scenarios, which it is capable of supplying in abundance. It features a huge amount of new terrain, several small and medium-sized airports, and a handful of new aircraft, if you're getting tired of what is currently available. It also provides a few planned VFR flights--for those into realistic civilian flying--that do not disappoint. A combined Las Vegas/Phoenix sectional aeronautical chart is included with the add-on.
The scenery is not much of an improvement on FS or CFS. The press release boasts a "combination of authentic aerial photographs, precise topographical data, and state-of-the-art 3D modeled digitized scenery." What that often translates into is, unfortunately, some kind of calico cut and paste job. In much of the add-on it looks like Wilco took bits and pieces of other Microsoft Flight Sim-related scenery and threw it all together without bothering to match or blend the edges. In some places the textures are so disparate that it messes with your perspective. Given that there are over12,000 square miles of flyable terrain, from Las Vegas to Lake Mead, from Hoover Dam up the Colorado River, you can usually move on and ignore the bad bits. There are also eight airports for you to visit, practice a few touch-and-gos, or bomb if you feel like it. Oh, that reminds me, Ive been meaning to bomb the Hoover Dam, but Im still too preoccupied with that butt-kicking 206.
Speaking of planes, with Grand Canyon you get the aforementioned Cessna 206 Stationair, the De Havilland Twin Otter Vistaliner, Bell 430 chopper, and USAAF Spitfire Mk V. The latter looks to be merely a new exterior skin on an existing CFS model. Though the cockpit art has been swapped for a more rustic look, thats not to say I dont like it, I actually almost prefer it now to the CFS original. The Twin Otter was also a welcome surprise, this workhorse flies like a barge, but Ive go a soft-spot for STOL aircraft, especially big ones. As for the Bell 430, it flies like a chopper should--barely. It took me a while to beat the air into submission with this one. I managed to eke the most fun out of Grand Canyon by attempting to shoot down F109's with the 206, and oddly enough I was fairly successful--just watch the stall in those turns. That brings up another little beef, the 206 seemed quite squirrely for an airplane with a reputation for flying like a truck. The exterior views of all of the planes looked great, and there are plenty of opportunities for some nice screenshots.
At the suggested price of $34.95, Reality Flights: Grand Canyon gives the MFS and CFS player a respectable amount of new replay value for their original games. It was easy to install within the parent products, worked within them well, and presented rather unique opportunities. What you dont get, though, is the impeccably polished quality of the original products as they came from Microsoft. The quality of the graphics are just not quite up to par with what is available elsewhere, and it is unfortunate that the spectacular Grand Canyon doesnt come across as very spectacular. If you can get around these problems, and have the cash burning a hole in your pocket, then you could do worse than Reality Flights.