FLIGHT OF FANCY!; GAME ON.
Achtung! It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but IL-2 Sturmovik is going to be a big name in the world of flight simulation on PC. Elsewhere, there's a look at the classic shooter Half Life for PS2
IL-2 Sturmovik (Maddox/ Ubisoft) For PC CD-Rom Price: pounds 29.99, out now A FLIGHT simulator set on World War II's Eastern front seems far removed from the mainstream simulator market, but IL-2 Sturmovik is set to become an instant classic. With a choice of 31 flyable aircraft from all involved parties, Russian, German and American, the emphasis is on playability and choice.
There are options to turn down the realism and make flying the aircraft simpler. This is not necessarily a bad thing in the beginning, but even with these options selected, flying still feels true-to-life and they definitely don't detract from the experience.
We all like good-looking graphics and IL-2 boasts the best seen in a flight simulator for some time. The attention to detail is extensive.
Shooting a convoy or a building will result in people running for their lives.
Flying the IL-2 itself will allow you to shoot these targets from the rear gunner, an interesting view and flight position.
Weapon damage seems to be very well modelled with different weapons producing varying results. Not everything disintegrates in the same way, a theory worth testing on anything in the game arena - there are no low blows here. Indeed, with damage in mind, care should be taken as your aircraft can only suffer so much before you find yourself plummeting to the ground.
The IL-2 AI pilots behaviour is quite concerning. They have an unnerving ability to think more than most and are actually quite tricky to shoot down. Maddox have managed to apparently train the AI pilots in different flight schools as their individual behaviour is that different - a nice touch.
The game can be played in a multiplayer mode, but if dog fighting with up to 32 players is not your cup of tea, you can design something that is, using the mission builder.
Alternatively, fly co-operative with 16 players and perform a team offensive on your favourite targets.
IL-2 Sturmovik is one of the best WWII flight simulators available. It's highly playable and, unlike some flight simulators, it doesn't take months of flying to have fun. It looks good and sounds good. A worthy choice.
Half Life (Gearbox/ Vivendi Universal) For Sony PlayStation2 Price: pounds 34.99, out now WITH its gripping storyline and tense gameplay, the original PC version of Half Life was nothing short of brilliant. Gearbox have finally come up with the goods on PS2, and it sticks closely to the original.
You play the part of Gordon Freeman, a scientist at a US government secret research facility known as Black Mesa. When an experiment with antimatter goes terrifyingly wrong you are plunged into a desperate mission to escape Black Mesa and the creatures that now occupy it.
What sets Half Life apart from its contemporaries is the near-complete lack of cut scenes. Everything that conventionally happens in 30 seconds of video is fully immersive, so at the beginning of the game before anything hits the fan you are left to stroll around, check out the locker rooms, chat with other scientists and revel in the normality.
When it all starts to go wrong, the game keeps tensions running high with spectacular set pieces. You see other staff meeting grizzly ends and creatures burst out from false ceilings, doorways, and every other conceivable hiding place while you're looking the other way.
If there's one problem with Half Life on PS2, it's the accuracy of its conversion. It's been so faithfully reproduced that all the glitches from the PC original have come with it. The graphics look two years old, especially in the character textures and animation, and the speech effects sound empty and synthesized.
Furthermore, Half Life's best assets were the dozens of online multiplayer modifications that were developed for it. With the PS2 in its currently unconnectable state, a large slice of the game's appeal has been put beyond reach.
There are better first-person shooters for the PS2, but if you've never sampled Half Life on the PC it's a piece of gaming history that's worth a look.