It seems that no one's told the ex-DID gang at Rage Warrington that the flight-sim genre has as much life left in it as Sir Alec Guinness these days. Which is a shame as Typhoon looks like it could be a real corker. Making use of the vastly underrated Wargasm engine. Typhoon marks a return to the ex-DID team's heyday, simulating the Eurofighter - Europe's answer to the Russian and American super-jets.
Having 'invaded' Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, the Russians have next turned their attention to Iceland. Apparently, in such a scenario, the home of Bjork and Penguins (You've never been there, have you? - Ed) would be of immense strategic importance as a resupply point for western troops. Thus, it's your job to keep Commie hands away from NATO's valuable ammo, fuel and porn supplies.
The advantages to using only Iceland as a setting are numerous. First up there's the challenging, undulating landscape to contend with; 40,000 square miles of glaciers, valleys, mountains, all with rich and detailed weather patterns, which should provide a sufficiently rewarding setting for any pilot - especially those on suicide detail. Secondly, it means that the developers can plot out a highly detailed ground campaign. As with Total Air War, Typhoon gives you the option of stand-alone single missions or a full-on ground campaign to contend with. Aside from individual infantry units - who would probably freeze their arses off anyway - the ground war has tanks, artillery and naval units, all behaving independently of your actions. Unlike Total Air War, however, there's no AWACS support, meaning you have to rely far more heavily on your radar and communication links to get an accurate picture of what's going on.
So it's a good job that your radio commands and the levels of wingman A1 are more detailed than ever before, allowing you to have greater control over your squadron.
This extends to outside the cockpit as well. Not only do you have to worry about keeping your men alive in the air, you're given the chance to manage their lives back at base. Each pilot under your command has his or her own levels of morale, fatigue and skills. And, once a campaign starts, there's no turning back - there are no reinforcements or I magically endless supply of ammo and spare parts. If a pilot is shot down behind enemy lines, he may end up being captured and tortured - or even traded for captured POWs. Naturally, the Russian enemy here is the Hollywood-style 'evil' Russian that would condone such actions. Real-life Russians are our good friends and comrades now and would never dream of such a thing.
Technically, Typhoon is passing all sorts of previous benchmarks, as the pictures on these pages will show, but the real proof will be in the gameplay. Hopefully Rage's influence will do enough to elevate the game out of the traditional hardcore-only niche that's been killing the genre lately. If not, communism will have to take a backseat to capitalist market forces as Typhoon's biggest enemy.
I will always remember the day the hardcore flight sim fan in me died. During a demonstration of Microsoft's Combat Flight Sim 21 was invited to try it out. I took the seat, started the engine on a Spitfire, gunned the throttle and headed down the runway. Then the plane went arse over tit, the fuselage broke in two and my pilot's war career came to an ignominious end. Realistic engine dynamics some might have said. Bollocks I said.
That was when I finally realised that I wanted to actually enjoy the bloody gameplay side of these things. Life's too short to spend worrying about wars and murder and all that real-world kind of stuff. If we're going to voluntarily take part in them in virtual worlds, let's at least make them fun. I want to be up there in the skies, scarf whipping in the wind as I catch enemy bullets with my teeth. I don't want to spend every sortie into enemy territory staring at the knobs on a radar display and worrying about take-off weight figures. Plane goes up, plane goes down, and in between some things blow up. All to the sounds of dramatic music. Welcome, pretty much, to Eurofighter Typhoon.
Oh So Quiet
OK, it's not quite that simplistic, but that's the essence. When hardcore sim expert DID was bought by arcade action and lens flare specialist Rage about a year ago, no one really expected to see another flight sim come from the Warrington boys again. Rather than the presumed absorption of talent though, Eurofighter Typhoon has snuck up from almost nowhere, fully loaded with DID insignia, but with the very obvious influence of Rage's gameplay knowledge shining through beneath it.
The idea is that you manage a squad of six Eurofighter pilots through a typical Russian invasion campaign set in Iceland. I say , manage (as does most of Rage's publicity literature), but in truth you don't have much control over them other than in flight. The campaign engine is being pitched as the most realistic yet, and while there's certainly an authentic feeling to the way the war pans out (the " gradual build-up of hostilities and the news reports of fighting in Europe are all too believable), the only real downside to the whole game is that you don't get any control over it.
You're at the mercy of the so-called 'virtual commanders', who make all the decisions about missions. Which can mean spending a fair bit of time just sitting around waiting for things to happen while obvious targets of opportunity could be getting the laser-guided bombing treatment. OK, so Rage/DID are trying to keep things light for the casual gamer here, but not everyone's afraid of a little strategy - look at Command & Conqueror, nearer to home, their own Hostile Waters tor instance.
None of which matters when you do take off. The meat of the game is the simulation and this is where Typhoon comes up trumps. It's an absolute blast to fly. No, it's not the most realistic thing to ever hit your screens, but nor is it trying to be. This is Hollywood flying with just a hint of realism to keep everyone happy. Want to target an enemy? Press T. Nothing more complex than that. Key moments in each flight are accompanied by dramatic music, the tension is notched up every time a missile is launched and the feeling of total immersion is fantastic. This isn't a simulation. This is fun.
DID has been very clever in most respects with Typhoon. The setting is 2015. which means that you not only get the next generation ot hardware to fly, (instead of the over-familiar and now boring Falcons and Eagles) but also some new experimental units to give it that sci-fi touch. The allied equipment is all European, meaning lots of RAF insignia to keep the home crowd happy. The setting is Iceland which is small enough to eliminate all those hour-long straight-line flights that the hardcore crowd love to recreate but which bore everyone else to tears. It also means plenty of hills, valleys and glaciers to keep life varied and low-level dogfights exciting. Basically, this is fun to play. For everyone. Not just the flight fanatics.
The truth is that the age of the hardcore flight sim is well and truly over. The once proud genre became an insular, niche market towards the end of the '90s and despite having some vocal supporters, there simply isn't a large enough audience to support the kind of games that DID, Simis, Razorworks, Spectrum Holobyte/MicroProse, Rowan and the rest used to create. You want proof? Read back over that list and tell me how many of them are either A: still in existence or B: still making gimmick-free, hardcore flight sims. Rowan perhaps, but every dying trend needs at least one misguided figurehead to act as a fiddling Nero to the burning Pompeii. A King Canute to the approaching tide. An Andy Cole to the rest of the England squad.
Nope, the fact ot the matter is that the hardcore flight sim fan is simply going to have to swallow his pride, hang up his home-made jumpsuit, dismantle his home-built 'virtual' cockpit and accept that fun and gameplay are the new rulers over AOA indicators and radar azimuth adjusters. DID saw the future early on when Wargasm appeared. It was just a little ahead of its time, that's all. Now with Typhoon the future of the genre has arrived. Let the complex campaign engine and simulation gubbins take care of themselves while the player gets on with the important business of shooting down bad guys and dodging heat-seeking missiles like a latter-day Tom Cruise. To criticise Typhoon for not being a hardcore simulation is taking a blinkered approach to the future of the genre. Fearless leader Dave Woods came over while I played this in the office and asked me what I thought of it "The hardcore crowd won't like it," I replied. "It's less of a simulation and more of a game." "Ah," mon dditeur muttered, "you mean even I might enjoy playing it?" It's a new world my friends, and if something as enjoyable as Eurofighter Typhoon is the result then bring it on, say I. You'll probably have more friends as a result.
Download Eurofighter Typhoon
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode