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"I'm strapped in, Electronic systems on. All Check AOK"
"Cleared Taxi Condor1."
"Left Engine on."
"Right Engine on."
"Throttle to 75."
"Wheel Brake off."
"Stud One go."
Applying careful Rudder, keeping her at 20 knots I manoeuvred onto the taxiway. The smell of aicraft fuel was all around, passing two, I gave him the thumbs up as he pulled out behind me with three and four lowing.
"On runway, Throttle 0 Wheelbrakes on."
"Condor1 Clear for takeoff."
"Throttle 100, Afterburners on."
The roar of the engine was pounding over my heartbeat, the wheelbrakes couldn't hold the sheer awesome power and slowly the plane slipped forward, lurching.
"Wheel Brakes off."
The relief from the wheelbrakes was apparent, the aircraft was forced forward by the intensity of the Rolls Royce turbofan twin jet engines, tens of thousands of pounds of sheer thrust propelling me forward, the plane instantly lerring back freed from the resistance.
10 seconds later
"Lead - Airborne."
"Two - Airborne."
"Three - Airborne."
"Four - Airborne."
"Stud two Go."
"Stud three go."
"INCURSION BY HOSTILES AT 290 DEGREES, 75 NM, ANGELS 10, CAN YOU INTERCEPT"
"TWO - SPIKE."
"THREE - BANDIT."
"TWO, THREE, FOUR, ENGAGING."
"TWO - GUNS GUNS GUNS !!"
"THREE - MISSILE."
If that little dialogue got your heart going excited for a second, or even just a little confused, then you are on your way to experiencing some of the many feelings you will get when you play with "EF-2000".
All the dialogue seen above is quoted directly out of the game, and if you didn't understand all of it, that's fine, the 286 pages of the manual will be there to help. You read right, a manual with "two hundred and eighty six pages!" "EF-2000" is the new flight simulator by DID, the people responsible for "F-29 Retaliator", "Robocop 3", "Epic", "TFX" (Tactical Fighter eXperiment) and "Inferno: The Odyssey Continues". At first, "EF-2000" seems to be TFX-2, however classified on the box as 'TFX Military', it doesn't take long to realise that this is one classy complex simulation.
Set after the year 2000, the Russian Ultra Nationalist Party sweeps to power in the Autumn of 2001. In manoeuvres strikingly similar to the German invasion of Poland, the Russians swept into Finland, then into Kazerberstan and Aberstan. Meanwhile, Russian Naval forces seized control of the powerful Black Sea Fleet. The future of Central Europe will now be decided by the battle of Norway - a battle that was to be principally fought in the air and sea. The unforgiving topography of the Scandinavian and North Cape areas is unsuitable for ground warfare. Unfortunately for the West, the almost constant daylight of the Nordic summer months rendered squadrons of NATO Stealth-fighters all but useless.
All that stands between Russia and European domination are Norway and eight front line air bases, two US carrier fleets, a UK carrier group and long range support from Denmark, Scotland and Iceland. Several hundred NATO fighters and bombers stand against a force twice there size.
"EF-2000" is a phenomenal piece of software. I used to eat flight simulators once, it seemed that every week a new one would come out, and I would run off to get it. Well, after tragedies such as F-15 Strike Eagle III, and the constant bombardment of half-caste flight sims with 'Just the right mix of arcade and Sim' I'd had enough. Even "Falcon 3.0", patched 100 times over, annoyed me with its unrealistic sized targets, and the cheesy video scenes, it seemed that I was to wander the flight sim wilderness. That was until "EF-2000".
When I first loaded "EF-2000", I immediately jumped into one of the Simulator missions, and what I was presented with was not what I was ready for. The hazy twilight of an overcast day in front of me looked fantastic, instead of the plasma like dithers seen in the over textured 'other sims', DID has opted for a color dither, a realistic grey sky was sitting in front of me.
It was early morning and the runway lights were lit up, but not just the runway, the taxiway lights also. I looked around, and too my surprise, the airport was fully populated. There was actually activity, Other kinds of planes were entering hangers, leaving hangers, and these were harriers and A-10's. Too my right, another EF-2000 aircraft sat idly, little did I realise, this was my Wingman, waiting for his 'intrepid leader' to make his move.
Over the radio blared Air Traffic Control with permission to take off. I started the engines to the aircraft and made my way to the runway. The pilot responded with the correct frequency change for taxing (being Stud one) and my wingman powered up next to me to follow from behind. As I stopped on the runway, another frequency was auto selected for me, and permission to take off was given. I took off and gasped in awe at the scenery that lay in front of me.
"EF-2000" has many new and interesting features, by far one of the most impressive is the virtual cockpit, a cockpit where you have total freedom to look around. However, unlike "TFX", when you move, your instruments aren't cleverly made unreadable, or go blank, but being 3D objets themselves are still totally legible.
The Virtual cockpit is actually a true 3D object itself. From playing the game, I gather the way they have done it, is to create the 3D full screen view and overlay the 3D object of the virtual cockpit, perhaps using a type of Z-Buffering technique. Inside the cockpit, you can look left, right, Up, Down, and as this game has support for a VR headset and head tracking inside as well.
Now I've never flown an EF-2000, or any fighter plane for that matter, but "EF-2000" is supposed to be very accurate, so I'll have to quote DID on this one.
"Although Eurofighter is still a highly classified project, our aeronautical engineer has deconstructed available plans and created a flight model that's as accurate as possible in the circumstances (our consultant RAF pilots like it!) We supplemented information from British Aerospace with US Datcom files on aerodynamics and pilot advice on practical fly-by-wire handling. What's more, we have carefully modelled the flight characteristics of allied and enemy planes, so you can expect planes like the MIG-29 to perform as they would in real-life"
The scenery, you have to see! Make sure you check out the screen shots at the end of this article, as it is just spectacular. DID have actually texture-mapped 4 million square kilometres - and it's not all the same.
There are fjords in Western Norway, marshy lowlands in Finland, dense forests and snowy mountain regions of the North Cape. "EF-2000" could be the world's first 3D travel brochure. With a free-flight mode built in, what better way to relax.
"EF-2000" is also the first flight simulator I have seen that uses true MFD's (Multi Function displays). Of all the Flight sims I have played, I had always heard of these displays, "Falcon 3.0" for example had them, and I remember looking at the screen and noticing all the 'little boxes' around them. It always puzzled me what they were. It is not until "EF-2000" that I finally have a complete understanding of how the electronics of a fighter plane really work.
The MFD's in "EF-2000" are accessible via the 1, 2, 3 keys on the numeric keypad. When pressed, the virtual cockpit zooms into either of the screens. When looking at an MFD though, you can move the mouse and press any of the corresponding buttons around it (that's what all those "little boxes" I was referring to were, buttons!). As a virtual pilot, you can actually press the same buttons, in the same place as the real EF-2000 pilot would. As fighter aircrafts are being deliberately made simpler for the pilots to fly in regard to electronics, it is also easier to be able to glance down at a display and 'press a button'. There is, however, also a keyboard equivalent for each function for those that are 'mouse impaired'.
If I haven't said it enough already, this is one intense simulation, and it becomes all the more apparent when you have to communicate with your wingmen. Never have I seen military accurate commands in a flight-sim before, and here are just some of the wingmen responses and your own orders.
MUSIC - The pilot is being jammed.
FOX ONE - Report of launch of Radar Guided missile.
FOX TWO - Report of launch of short range IR missile.
CONTACT - Reports radar or IRST sighting of hostiles.
MUD SPIKE - Warning of SAM Radar threat.
CONTACT 340, 22, ANGELS 10 - Sighting on heading 340, range 22nm, altitude 10,000 ft.
BREAK! BREAK! BREAK! - Instructions to leave the refueler in a hurry.
BRACKET LEFT! - Instruction to form the left arm of a bracket manoeuvre.
The missions in "EF-2000" are your standard flight simulator type mission, shoot this, bomb that, however, at this point, it is necessary to enter the disappointing aspect of "EF-2000" which are discussed in more detail in the 'patch' section. The missions themselves aren't exactly lacking, but the descriptions are, choosing a mission consists of a window with options such as ... Mission 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. When you select one of the mission types another window pops up with information such as Target location, Target, Weapon, Base, Role. Except for that information, there is no 'briefing'. It may be corny, but I'm used to some military type telling me the situation, and what has to be done. I don't know if this feature is realistic, but I doubt it, the last air-force base I saw included officers staffed and on active duty!
The "EF-2000" campaign is what you progress on to when you finish all your simulator missions (though it is not necessary to complete all the missions first.) The campaign uses a unique function to "EF-2000" known as 'The Wargen Engine'.
The DID Wargen engine is actually a sophisticated war-gaming engine that underlies the unique 3D world of "EF-2000". According to DID, over 10,000 individual objects in the world are controlled by the Wargen as you interact with the environment. The theoretical basis for Wargen actually comes from ideas presented in colonel A. Warden's book on the operational theory of a modern airforce.
The Wargen operates at four distinct levels of command based AI. These levels are Grand Strategic, Strategic, Operational and tactical. Data in the forms of orders and directives are filtered down through the system to the lowest levels. Field reports and statistical data are then propagated back through the system to update the higher levels of intelligence.
The level of most importance to yourself however, is the tactical level, when you fly your mission, an advanced tactical AI system processes all ground and air combat that occurs around you. This translates to a scenario, where for once, your wingman or the aircraft that you have to support aren't ash the instant your not there to help them. Artificial Air to Air combat uses probabilities of a lock-on coupled with the plane's ability to evade the lock, and a probability of kill to determine the outcome.
Sound in "EF-2000" is also very good. The CD soundtrack is extremely fitting, a rather rousing jazz/fusion Military affair. The in game effects are very good (I haven't heard an EF-2000 so I can't vouch for engine sounds) but they all seem to be as I would imagine them.
Also take heed 486 owners, the day of the Pentium is here. When I originally tried "EF-2000", it was on a DX4-100. It ran particularly well in 320 x 200, but "EF-2000" also allows 640 x 400. I had to see just how it looked. Fabulous is barely a word to describe it. It was so spectacular, that I now own a Pentium 100 on which the game runs superbly.
Debriefing is also very lacking - again to be addressed by the patch. There basically isn't any, with only a window that comes up and tells you percent of mission complete, how many enemies killed, how many of your squadron killed, and an overall rating. The patch will at least add the route you took and events that occurred.
Finally the options that will be addressed by the patch will be the Multi-player issues. Now this has the potential to be huge. Multi-play at the moment is limited to 'King of the skies' where up to eight pilots shoot each other down with guns only. A few simulator missions can also be done co-operatively, but they don't hold too much interest. The patch will allow campaigns to be played with up to eight players over IPX. Yes Kali fans, "EF-2000" is fully compatible with Kali, Internet gaming could take on a whole new dimension with complete strangers around the world forming squadrons and taking on the enemy in the same campaign.
The patch by the way, due out at the end of February originally, has been delayed again, here is a quote direct form the DID web site...
The patch is going to be released very soon, I will admit that the main problem is network stuff but there are also some single player things that need looking at and these are receiving as much if not more attention. We wouldn't hold off on release if it wasn't necessary. I hope you understand that the changes we are trying to make take time to perfect and the patch is so close to completion it hurts. We have already made the decision to put the modem fix on hold until after the release of this initial patch to help speed up the patch process and we really are working hard (very late nights for the testers!). So please stay with us for just a short while longer and we will have the best patch we could possibly make. -- Jon Spencer, Head Tester DID
If your after a shoot-em-up in a cockpit with a story type game, get "Wing Commander IV". But if your after a very detailed simulation, you can't go wrong with "EF-2000".
Written by Jere Lawrence
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