Pro Pilot '99
In the vile, treacherous, back-stabbing world of civil aviation flight sims, there are two camps. No, let's be clearer than that: there are two flight sims. It isn't exactly the most competitive of genres. At one end you have Microsoft's Flight Simulator 98 - big, bold, brash, and covering the world in fairly basic detail. It's a veteran. It's seen the war and lived through it to tell its tale. At the other end there's Flight Unlimited II (nee... well just you try and guess, eh?) - young, cocky, filled with flair, looks and style, making up for a lack of geography with an astonishing level of local knowledge and atmosphere.
Where's The Detail?
The best way to describe Pro Pilot '99, therefore, is to go for straight comparisons. It's better than Microsoft's effort in the areas of non-urban graphics, interface and ease of use. Creating flight plans, tracking navigational beacons and communicating with ATCs are all much better here. What it lacks is Flight Sints sense of authority and its expandability. Although Microsoft's graphics may be spartan to begin with, download a few scenery files from the Net and things can easily be transformed; with Pro Pilot you're stuck with what you've got. Some of the airport layouts are astonishingly bad, for example, comprised of little more than a runway and a tower stuck on top of the grass. No taxiways, no buildings, no structure at all.
While we're on the subject, a word about the scenery graphics. "They used to think the world was flat, that's because they never had Pro Pilot 99..." says the press kit that we were provided with. Ha ha. Funny Americans. Unfortunately the urban areas of Pro Pilot '99 do look flat - very flat. It's the same story as in every other civil flight sim - large cities are simply a generic flat texture map with a few notable 3D landmarks thrown on top. And it doesn't work, plain and simple. This isn't essentially Pro Pilots fault, as no one else seems to have solved this problem yet (at least not in the civil flight sim world. Military flight sims, on the other hand, never seem to suffer from this. Surely lessons can be learned?). But it does mean that the required 'real-world' atmosphere is never really created.
On the plus side, Pro Pilot does clouds exceptionally well - really fluffy, really packed. These are the finest clouds I've yet come across in a flight sim of any genre. It may sound a trivial point, but it really does add a lot to the experience. That said, FUII has far better overall weather effects.
In fact, compared to Flight Unlimited II, Pro Pilot really suffers. It can't hold a candle to FUlls graphic quality. And although it boasts the whole of America and Western Europe instead of just San Francisco, it doesn't feel as real or as alive a world as Eidos's baby. The radio communication is minimal to say the least, and not easily accessible from the flight screen. And to say the world feels empty is an understatement. Even Microsoft's title provides a fair amount of dynamic scenery to admire.
What Dynamix needed to do was create a realistic world, not just a good flight model. Something that kept you interested, and gave you something different from the other two titles rather than more of the same. What they've done instead is to create a middle ground that no one really needs to visit. There's a lot of emphasis on the training side of the game and, to be fair, elements such as the on-screen handbooks and checklists and the tutorial videos provide a lot of information that's easy to grasp for novices.
But the same can be said of the rival software, and there's just so much more to recommend over there.
Download Pro Pilot '99
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2019-01-10 Pro Pilot '99 game added.