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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

Flight Unlimited

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by Looking Glass Technologies
"It's early morning, and you're the first one out on the airfield. You can smell the damp grass, feel the wind coming off the mountains. You're ready to hit the air. Flight Unlimited began with our dissatisfaction with the state of the art in PC flight simulators. As far back as 1992, we started looking for new ways to fly on the PC. Seamus Blackley, a physics expert and experienced pilot, had just been hired on at Looking Glass Technologies, and he was well placed to see where the current simulators fell short of what they could be. Both sessions over lunch at the shopping mall turned into serious ideas, which turned into the Flight Unlimited project.

Everything we like about flying, we tried to put into Flight. Pointing a Decathlon straight up into a summer sky, feeling the wings catch the air. Snap rolling, letting the flow of air whip the plane over into inverted flight. Stalling and getting that panicky feeling in your stomach as the ground seems to get closer and wider. Hitting a maneuver so precisely, it seems like the plane is riding on invisible rails. The joy of flying, the beauty of a landscape, and the split-second adrenaline rush of aerobatics. It's all here for you."

The Review:
In reviewing this game, I called upon the experience of my step-father, Ralph Bechtol, who has been a crop-duster pilot for 21 years, a certified flight instructor for over 15 years, and completed a course in aerobatics. He played Flight Unlimited with me and so I can give you a first hand account of the credibility of this game.

First of all, Flight Unlimited is not really a game, it is a very detailed simulator, designed to simulate aerobatics in five different planes. These are the Bellanca Decathlon, the Russian built Sukhoi SU31, the famous Pitts S2B biplane, the German Extra 300S, and the German Grob S-103 glider. And Flight Unlimited seems to simulate accurately the strong and weak points of each plane.

Flight Unlimited lives up to its name in the fact that your options in flight are basically unlimited. There is no defined flight zone, you can head off in any direction and the terrain is always new, the farther you go. You have the option of flying out of several different airports in different parts of the country. Each airport has scanned-in aerial photographs of the actual surrounding landscape, which is given 3-D geographical dimensions.

A program so realistic can seem intimidating to those non-pilots out there who are just curious about flight, like myself. However, Looking Glass incorporated over 30 interactive lessons into Flight to help you get started. These lessons are one of the best features in this program and are very informative. Ralph told me that with a system like mine (486DX-100, Gravis Firebird, 12 megs of RAM) this program could teach an aspiring pilot-to-be some book smarts before he actually went out and took some lessons. But, with a full setup ("faster" computer, flight stick, throttle lever, and rudder pedals), this program could be very useful for a pilot to practice on the ground, or for a non-pilot to learn some real basics before they climbed into a real cockpit for a lesson.

As far as the actual flight goes, Flight Unlimited packs some incredible detail. Sun glare, gray-outs, black-outs, actual recorded engine sounds, thermal drafts, wind, wing vibrating sounds and much more are all there. You can run 4 graphics resolutions depending on your system. But to really have this program shine you need a really fast computer (I would recommend a Pentium 100 or faster). In addition, there are a number of cockpit views as well as external views to choose from so you can see from the perspective you like most.

In addition, the manual is top notch. The info in it could be right out of a real aerobatics flight manual, but put in layman's terms so non-pilots can easily understand it. They say it was partially written by an actual aerobatics pilot. Ralph feels that the manual alone could teach a person some book smarts about flying and aerobatics.

The only gripe I have with Flight Unlimited is at myself for not having a faster system to really see what this program can do. The controls are not too complicated, thanks in part to all the planes being simple prop aerobatics planes with no flaps, retractable landing gear, electronics, etc.

--Brent Hegarty