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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by SSI

Excellent flight physics, great graphics; Su-33 carrier-based Flanker

Downs: Rather steep learning curve; looks best on high-end

System Reqs:
P200, 32MB RAM, 8XCD, 400MB HD, DirectX compatible 3D card

Fans of Falcon 4.0, dust off your joysticks, Flanker 2.0 has stepped in to fill the momentarily empty void in the hard-core military flight-sim scene that has seen little development in the last year. Another installment in SSI's Digital Combat Series, Flanker 2.0 was designed by an all-Russian team of programmers intent on bringing some well-needed realism onto the scene. What they have produced is a sim that fans of aviation would be remiss to miss out on. Flanker 2.0 has it all: excellent flight physics, great graphics, a high replay value, and the welcome addition of the Su-33 Naval Flanker.

The Sukhoi Flanker is arguably the most agile interceptor fighter jet in production today, capable of some maneuvers Falcon pilots can only dream of. Pugachev's Cobra, a high-angle-of-attack dynamic braking maneuver, has shown the amazing abilities of the Flanker at air shows around the world. Though during one of its first public demonstrations at the Paris Air show a few years back, an engine malfunction sent a Flanker tumbling into the tarmac, the then-superior Soviet ejection-seat design saved the pilot's life despite him ejecting a few meters above the ground. I had the chance to see a pair of Flankers at Boeing Field in Seattle upon their first foray into the lower forty-eight in 1990. Though they didn't do any of the trademark stunts I was lucky enough to see them complete a couple of low passes with F-18's following-up on their wingtips. Only later did I find out that the Flankers, which seemingly dwarfed the smaller U.S. jets, could easily out-maneuver anything we could put up against it. At the same show one of the Flankers made a low formation pass with a Mig-15, an amazing sight that put the historical development of Soviet fighter jets on display.

Flying the Flanker in 2.0 comes in a couple different varieties. I would strongly suggest completing some of the Training Mode sorties before attempting Instant Combat, Missions or the Campaign. The training scenarios are split into ten groups consisting of take-offs, landings, aerobatics, stalls & spins, and so on, each of these are further broken into more specific introductions like heavy take-offs, carrier landings, tailslides, and so forth. An in-game instructor will then verbally guide you through each training scenario, and allow you to familiarize yourself with the Russian language labeled displays and controls. Instant Combat's flight model is a little easier than that in the Missions, and the radar is fundamental in form and function so the pilot can concentrate on the immediate threats at hand. The choices of those threats are far too numerous to list; you can take on everything from F-15's and Mig-25's to a handful of different SAM systems, ground artillery and shipboard weaponry. Scrolling through all of your choices is nearly as fun as playing the game, and an encyclopedia is included to explain all of the military technology at hand.

Flanker 2.0 features some of the most realistic flight physics yet seen in the military aviation sim scene. Getting the Flanker into a flat spin is a joy because unlike other sims, you can, with some practice, recover using the same principles found in real life. I'm not naming any game's names here, but it sure would be nice if all flight-sims would follow this example. Along with the Su-27, the Su-33 carrier-based Flanker is a new addition to the SSI's Flanker series. It is capable of all the trademark abilities of the line, though is focused on the carrier and ground-attack roles as well as being an interceptor. Henceforth carrier landings must now be part of your Flanker flying repertoire. Don't get disappointed if you don't nail it the first few tries, just remember to follow the checklist and throw the throttle once you hit the deck, just in case your tailhook doesn't catch.

The graphics this game presents are exceptional, even if you're running a lower-end machine. And if you follow the install screen's advice selecting the configuration appropriate to your machine, you will not in the least bit suffer from the curse of slow frame rates. This game looked better, and ran better, than any other flight-sim I've flown this year, including Flight Unlimited III. I spent some serious time switching to the adjustable exterior camera and forcing spins just to watch the incredible graphics put the Flanker through the motions.

A laminated and ring mounted sixteen-page checklist is included with the game; this addition is indispensable if you want to get some serious flying done. The manual is well written as well and covers everything you'll need to become a proficient Flanker pilot. SSI took great pains to document their product and all of the superfluous details only complement an excellent game.

There's no reason to compare Flanker 2.0 to F-22 Lightning III or any other games of such ilk; the Flanker will fly circles around almost anything else out there--in life, and in the game. If you are in to the whole hard-core military flight-sim scene you will be missing something special if you do not pick up Flanker 2.0--everyone else can go without, but a few of us must experience the thrill of flying one of the world's greatest tactical aircraft.

--Thomas Hoff