The Sukhoi SU27 (known in Nato as Flanker) is one mean son-of-a-bitch. It is big, manoeuvrable and ridiculously overpowered. It has a faster sustained turn rate than the F16, and carries ten (yes, ten) of the most modern air-to-air missiles around. This is not something to mess with unless you are very good, very lucky and very cavalier. It is also truly beautiful, and is one of the best things you will ever see at an airshow. I watched the display by Anatoly Kvotcher at Farnborough a few years ago. Standing with me was a guy from McDonnell Douglas (the folk who make the F15). He watched for a few moments, then turned to me and said "Shit. I'm glad they're on our side now." Like I said, this is one mean aeroplane.
Go play with yourself
So what has Mindscape given us? Well, basically, this is a simulator. If you want a game, go play with something else. If you want to really get involved, then stick around - I sure you that you will not be disappointed. We'll cut through the intro and briefing areas for the moment, mainly because this is a Beta version and they aren't in yet.
Once you are in the cockpit, you will notice a few interesting quirks. Yes, all the dials are there, as you'd expect, but with a twist. They're in Russian. So are all the legends on the HUD. Not your pseudo-cyrillic like you see in lesser products, though; no, this is the real thing, exactly as you'd see in the actual cockpit. Speeds and altitude are metric, too - something to be you realise that you're.crossing the threshold three times as high and half as fast as you thought. You look out on to a world which, although pleasingly rendered, is not in the same league as US Navy fighters or whatever, but which is better than that in Tornado or Falcon 3. Switching to an external view, you see an aeroplane which is perfect in every detail. There are no bits that look wrong, because there are no bits that are wrong. The stores are accurate. The colours and markings are accurate. The nose wheel steers when you work the rudder. Flaps, elevators, rudders, gear and airbrake all work properly, both in function and time. So you hop back into the cockpit. Quick look around, light the fires, flaps down, brakes off, burners in and off you go. The cockpit vibrates as you shoot down the runway, and at this point you stop noticing any limitations in the graphics. Basically, this really is as realistic sim as I have ever, ever experienced on a pc. Get airborne, clean up and realise that you have to trim this bird - like I said, it's a simulator rather than a game.
Look at the vortices forming on the wi,ngs. Snap roll, loop, tailslide - you can do anything you like with power to spare. By now, you will probably have found out that you can lose it completely, and that the ejection sequence is really quite amusing. You can recover from the complete horlicks you just made manually, or you can use the (real) panic button and the aircraft will try to get itself out of trouble.
But you aren't really interested in that, are you? You want to shoot things down. And you shall, my child, you shall. Su27 is set in the Crimea, on the basis that this is a likely area of heated discussion between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, and that it may get unfriendly as a result. Both sides use former Soviet equipment, and are pretty evenly matched. You fly as a Russian, and as such will be up against MiG29s and so on. No Flankers, though - the Russians haven't exported them. None the less, as far as opposition goes, you get the lot - SAMs, AAA, ships, you name it. And they all look and behave like the real things. They have a radar signature, they have blind spots, and they are smart. If a SAM launcher knows you're around but it has something in the way preventing it from locking you up, it will move. And yes, it'll take the right amount of time. And yes again, when it gets there it will do its best to stamp on your choc-ice.
Enemy pilots are a mixed bunch, just like in the real world. Average ones are just that - average. But good ones will make you sweat. And you'll probably get to see that ejection sequence a few more times. There's a good padlock view to help you out, making use of the helmet-mounted sight and HUD repeater which is carried in the aircraft. And once you lock the guy up, he's as good as toast. Have a laugh. Fire a missile and switch to the external view of it. Zoom in and look at the fins. No, you not imagining things, they actually do move as the missile tracks. Attention to detail has not been lacking.
I have a thing about accurate flight models. Nothing ticks me off more than a flight simulator that flies like Sonic the Hedgehog. No criticisms at all here. I am led to believe that Anatoly Kvotcher -senior test pilot and the man who displays the aircraft all over the world -has had a hand in the verification of the model. I am not going to argue with the man who tailslides several tons of jet at low level just for the fun of it. All I can say is that this flies just like I'd expect. It's not easy, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is. Having said that, the panic button is a big help, and the documentation that comes with the simulator gives as much information about staying in the air and avoiding the ground as you could reasonably ask for.
Planning the mission is always part of the fun if you are a real aficionado, and a pain in the arse if you aren't. Either way, you should be happy here. Run with the defaults or change everything other than the objective and enemy activity, the choice is yours. The planner is intuitive and thorough. It also gives you the ability to create a mission from scratch and save it for later, either as a challenge or for the hell of it. You can record your performance for posterity and step in to the playback at any time. Campaigns happen in real time, and as a result your mission performance will have an effect on your future missions. As such, planning is very important, and the planner is flexible enough that you can work well ahead of your needs and clear a way to the target if needed.
Networking flight sims always adds another dimension, and Su27 is going to be networked in some form - possibly as an add on. If this is the case, expect to see multi-player co-operative and multiplayer head to head, as well as the more usual head-to-head options. As for no.s supported, we'll have to wait and see, but I'd guess at no less than eight.
No doubt you're wondering what sort of mega pc you need for this. Well, the good news is that a 386DX will do, as long as you have 8mb. You will, of course, get better and faster results on a faster machine, but the design is such that frame rate isn't compromised at all, you just lose some detail. If you're really pushed, you can even use EGA.
I think I love you.
So what is this, then? It seems to be a simulator; it has pretty good graphics, an interesting and believable campaign scenario and a good planner; and it runs on a low-end pc. A miracle? Perhaps, but I'm going to reserve my total adulation for the finished version -after all, I am a journalist and that makes me a cynic. I don't know if this can be as good as it seems, but so far I'm afraid I've seen nothing to make me think otherwise. If Mindscape keeps its eye on the ball, Su27 will be the King of the Heap by some way. Here's hoping.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode