In a vain attempt to try something different we have decided to approach our review of EF2000 in a slightly different way to normal. Seeing as it's such an impressive game (and we've got the world exclusive on it) we are going to look at it in two different ways: one from the propellor-head point of view, courtesy of Simon Bradley, and the other from the, er, "normal person" perspective, courtesy of John Davison (even though he isn't.)
Games Player's Perspective
Games Player's Perspective sit down and look at a game without having to go into all of the techie stuff. We've never really produced a review like this before, so it's nice to be able to just give you my gureaction on EF2000, safe in the knowledge that Simon will be jumping up and down, shouting about the flight model and all sorts of bits and bobs that I've never even heard of.
I'll quite happily come clean and admit that I enjoy flight simulators, but to be completely honest, I'm more a subscriber to the "jump in and then shoot at something" school of thought. Appreciating that everything up to and including the dynamics of the nose-wheel steering mechanism is virtually perfect isn't really my style. While I can appreciate that all of this is of some importance (if nothing else it proves that the programmer's been taking his clever pills regularly), when push comes to shove, it's of no consequence to me when I'm playing the thing. I play flight simulators as though they were fairly complicated games. I'm not really like good ol' Bradders, who knows what it's like to fly real jetfighters and tends to compare virtually all sims to the real thing. Sorry, that's just the way I look at it. And I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of you out there who feel the same way. We all think that being a fighter pilot is the height of glamour (with the possible exception of working on a computer magazine, of course), but it's all a lot of hard work really, isn't it?
Since going to see the game at DID for the first time a few months ago, there are now various members of my family, close friends, work colleagues and probably strangers in the pub who wish I would shut up about the damn thing. I don't actually remember the last game that managed to inspire me with such enthusiasm. Sure, my long-lasting relationship with Doom has been fairly successful, and the quick fling I had with Magic Carpet was satisfying in a wham-bam-thank-you-mam kind of a way. On the whole, though, I feel like I could really settle down with EF2000. Unlike many other games, it has so much to offer... it's good looking, fun to play with, offers plenty of depth, an incredible level of artificial intelligence and is terrific in bed... um, er, yes.
Okay, I'll concede that it has a few daunting elements and the manual is the first scary thing you'll come across -it's huge! Heaving the monstrously heavy tome from the box and onto your lap is only the first challenge that this baby is going to offer you. Obviously, being a journalist, I always play a game for at least three days before I even notice that there is actually a manual, but once you dare to open the thing up and take a peek inside, you realise that there's loads of info in there. Not only does it go into some considerable detail about the game itself, but it also tells you virtually everything you could ever want to know about the Eurofighter. This is a serious example of a major toilet-accompaniment manual if ever there was one. Oh yes, and it's got a nice metal cover. Cool touch.
Loading the game up for the first time though, is quite a rewarding experience. After the usual "Hello, look at me, I'm really flash" intro sequence (boring, boring, skip that), you are popped into a very easy-to-use, user-interface, which allows you to choose between arcade, simulator and campaign mode. Now, the best way to talk about these is to discuss them in order of complexity before reaching the I huge finale, where I go all gooey about the mission structure and then finally climax when I talk about the graphics.
A game of three parts?
EF2000 at its simplest is the game you find in arcade mode. Designed to be a sort of "Doom in the sky"-type arrangement, the game builds various missions which lob you into the sky, with a fairly simple flight model, loads of weapons and tons of things to shoot at. This is the real, base level "game" for propellor head-wannabes who can't be arsed to deal with all the complicated bits like flying via waypoints and actually doing the things you're ordered to.
In simulator mode you can do two different things: you can either jump into individual situations, which vary from basic flying to attacking either ground or airborne targets; or enter training missions which teach all about the weapons, on-board systems and flight mechanics of the plane.
The real guts of the game, though, comes in the campaign mode. This is where you find yourself thrown into the war scenario of the game (outlined in The Story So Far box out), and every action you make is of vital importance to the overall war effort. In short, this really is a quite staggering thing to be involved in. The feeling you get when you roll out and find yourself as one of hundreds of aircraft flying around is quite unbelievable. At different times you can find yourself backing up Tornados, Harriers or even helicopters.
If you've flown any other flight sim then you will know that things always get more interesting when there are more aircraft around, but scanning your radar and realising that, as your efa's rumble over southern Norway, there are something in the region of 50 SU35S parked just over the next hill is absolutely thrilling.
The bit where I go all gooey about the graphics
Look at it! Just look at it! Have you ever seen a flight simulation that looks that incredibly good? Have you? Okay, Okay, apart from Flight Unlimited, but that suffered from the fact that the playing area was roughly the size of a postage stamp. Apparently one of the reasons that Norway was chosen as the playing area (apart from its alleged strategic importance) was the fact that it has so many different geographical features -the fjords, the mountains, the snowy bits and the lush green bits. So in the four million square miles that are "simulated" in the game - yes, I did say four million - you have positively oodles of different sorts of scenery to keep things interesting.
Aside from the ground detail, the aircraft modelling is also rather smart. Everything looks pretty damn close to the real thing and, when you take a peek at the external views of the planes, you can even see the hud glowing in the canopy. And (this particular aspect seems to get me unreasonably excited for some reason) you even get a lense-glare effect in the external views as you look towards the sun and a heat haze which blurs the graphics when you look at the afterburners!
If I have any complaints at all about the graphics of this game, the only thing I would have liked to have seen would have been more built up areas; when you move in over a city, the only buildings constructed from polygons are those of strategic importance. It's only a minor gripe and I can appreciate that the processing power required would be vast but, still, it would have been nice.
As A Pilot And A Flight Sim Nut, I have to say that I was probably in a minority when TFX came out. You see, I hated it. I thought the graphics were gimmicky, the sound effects were pointless - I mean, just how many times does a guy have to shoot down this "lizard" character before he goes away? And the music was irritating as hell. Sorry folks, the efa may well be superbly equipped, but in-cockpit entertainment, it's not on the options list. Sure, it flew Okay within limits, but the weapon dynamics were wrong and the enemy pilots were really not very smart. So, all in all, a hearty raspberry for TFX.
Now, it will probably not come as a
great surprise if I tell you that I had pretty low expectations when I heard about EF2000. In fact, 1 was looking forward to balancing my recently rather high game scores by really being able to pan something. John's idea about us both reviewing the thing together means that I don't have to ramble on about the whole thing and that I can simply limit myself to the flight perspective. For record, though, if I was reviewing the whole game, I wouldn't have given it that much of a slagging. In fact, I may even have said some rather nice things about it. So, how has it changed over its underachieving sibling? Well, John goes into all the fundamentals elsewhere, so all I'll say is that it looks bloody excellent and you can lose the music. That gets some of the easy stuff out of the way, leaving the real meat of any flight simulator - the flight model. Before the non-aviation nuts out there start to glaze over, don't worry, this will be short and fairly painless.
Making your head spin
As far as the flight model goes, this is spot on. Don't take my word for it, they've had input from the Chief Test Pilot on the efa programme and he reckons it's right. So I guess it is. The efa is what's known in aeroplane circles as dynamically unstable. That means that, left to its own devices, it will not behave in a nice way and so has to be kept under control by a selection of computers that would make your average Pentium go green with envy. What this means to the pilot is that she/ he can make ridiculous manoeuvres by making use of the inherent instability of the design. So we're talking lightning fast roll rates, snap turns, silly angles of attack and a propensity for really biting your bum when you least expect it. Yes, gentle reader, the high-speed stall, spin-and-Dutch roll are back. And guess what? An unstable aircraft becomes stable when it's Dutch rolling. That means that it's a bitch to recover. In fact, this aeroplane will kill you quite happily as will most of its contemporaries, although most sims forget this. I mean, when did you last get a Falcon to spin? Or a MiG-29 for that matter? The gist of all this is that the flight model is very good across the board, and doesn't seem to have been too severely fudged in the name of playability. Instead, DID has gone down the route of offering options to set up the difficulty of flight; a good thing which more software companies should offer.
Combat seems to be quite good, with the bad guys learning quickly. The campaigns are suitably non-linear, and the overall combat and strategy thing is pretty rewarding. Sadly, I haven't had a chanci to get it up on the network yet, so I can't really comment on the multi-player options. Stores options are suitably varied and don't behave too badly.
A room with a view
One of the much lauded things about TFX was the range of new views which were introduced. Again, I though they were gimmicky and pretty pointless. The thing is, if you have to look around in reality, you only take a fraction of a second. If you have to use the keyboard to look at your left mfd, then it takes several seconds. And if you find the display moves when you knock your mouse by mistake (you need it for the display controls, by the way), then you have to get back to where you were before and that takes more timciWhile this is happening, Ivan is climbing'all over the back of your aeroplane and nibbling bits off with his canon. Along the same lines, some folk like scrolling views as ultimately, they're more realistic, but they're something I find irksome. They waste time and resources and are less effective at doing what you need. But hey, whatever lights your candle is fine by me. Although I have to day that I do think it's a little unfair not to be able to see all the cockpit in sufficient detail to use the radar and threat warning effectively, while still being able to see where you're going.
I guess the long and the short of it is this: for flight and general messing around, the way that EF2000 does its pilot views is nice, but for combat, especially air-to-air knife fights, it sucks.
The bit where I go all gooey about the flight model
I've already said that the flight model is very good. Let me qualify that a little. The problem with TFX was the processing power needed to make it all run at a sweet pace with everything turned up. Well, this looks better, runs at higher resolution and has a more sophisticated AI. And you know what all that adds up to, don't you children? Yes, that's right. Buying that P120 that you've been waiting for all this time.
Jerkovision made its appearance big time in svga on anything less than a P90, and that really buggers up your roll and manoeuvre rates. Fortunately, the game has a 320x200 mode, which runs pretty well on a DX2 (if you have a good graphics card), but to get the most out of this you do really need a ninja-bast.
To sum up then, it has to be said that it's a vast improvement over virtually all the alleged sims on the market. DID has obviously done its homework, both regarding the flight model and what the punters want, and has delivered it handsomely. If you liked TFX, this will make you embarrassingly excited. If you thought TFX was crap, then you will immediately see a huge improvement, and will probably be impressed. When you first play, you'll be disappointed, but it'll grow on you. Personally, I rate the game part fairly average, but the simulator part is absolutely perfect in every detail bar one (the one being, the way that internal views change). Like I said, if you liked TFX you'll love EF2000. If you didn't, but like simulators, this will still prove worth getting for the purity of the flight model.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode