Written by  :  Martin James La Grange (3)
Written on  :  Sep 20, 2001
Platform  :  DOS

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Magnificence in Coding

The Good

This game is perhaps the epitome of what a programmer should be doing when coding : conciseness coupled with genius ! The simulation has another aspect that will find immediate appeal to all propellor-heads : It was designed as a real conversion trainer for real fighter pilots ! There has been so far no such product on the market, and so it remains unique among its contemporaries. The graphics are actually staggering, given the hardware that the beastie will run on. A Humble 486 machine running Win 95 will run this thing in local (non-extended) mode. First : the scenery : My *** ! we are talking every single thing in the Crimea, down to CARS ! there hasn't been so detailed a simple looking sim. Mountains, powerlines (which you can fly under !!), and all buildings as well as forest patches are there ! astonishing in the extreme. Secondly : The hardware. Its all there. All of it. All ships, All aircraft on the Russian side (+ 2 american adversaries), All SAM's (and auxillary equipment), all weaponry. A note on the weaponry. Ballistics mathematical model is FLAWLESS. not close, not accurate, but FLAWLESS. The concept boggles the mind. If a prospective pilot wants to examine the behaviour of a weapon system, they are quite able to do so from their arm chair, without harm, and with scientifically verifiable results. This is a whole cut above any other military sim, barring Jane's F-15, a much later, and more machine intensive Sim. Thirdly : Your mount. It all moves. ALL of it. Nothing excluded. For example, when you pop the air brake, you can actually see the little jack within extend. Magic. Then, when you move your rudder on the tarmac, the nosewheel moves in sympathy, and in the right direction, too. On take off, your undercarriage folds in, correctly, and with the doors behaving in a way that is engineering wise correct. And then, when you take off and land, the hydraulics behave in the correct fashion, i.e. they squat under the acceleration. And did we mention the parachutes ? Fourthly : It gets better : ALL the aircraft present, have the same level of detail thus described. Phew ! And simliar detail is built into the modelled weapon systems. The Kedge missile, for instance will do things in the following order : Drop, unfold fins, light rocket, and light the jet. Then explode on contact, just above the waterline of the errant ship. And just like its equivalent, the Exocet. Fifthly : The miracle of size. When a fellow propellor head (who may not have encountered the sim before) is informed of the games abilities, and hopefully sees it, is usually very impressed. When quizzed by their inductee to the world of the Flanker on presumed software size, we encounter a little scene out of Amadeus, where Mozart wanted people to guess the length of a harmonically challenging form. We hear first something along the lines of '...well, a CD-ROM, surely...' After a look of disbelief,'...a hundred plus megabytes?...'. Further stunned looks after denial and '...can't be smaller than 50 to 30 MB, surely !!??...' We break it to them gently, then. EIGHT ! eight, and that includes mission files. The manual is longer : 12 MB, included as a help file. It does not help to mention that openGL acceleration file is included in the 8MB. Your fellow propellor head stands aghast for a while, rationalises a bit about poor graphics, but concedes texture shading as being quite advanced. And then gasps again, as we come to the next wonder. Sixthly (and lastly), The creator's details : Flight sims, from the dawn of time, have sought to mimic the exotic behaviour of gas flows in other gases over thermal clines. As any mathematician/fluid dynamician will tell you, this is a nasty business. Depicting these effects in 3d rotatable graphics is a nightmare. Flanker does all of this without breaking a sweat ! From wing tip smoke dissipation and retention over distance of particle kinetic motion, to contrails off the LERX, to flare and chaff and weapon dynamics, for its size, Flanker is a miracle, to say the least. And it remains so to this day. Ver 2.0 is only a graphics update, not a real dynamic improvement. This is because it doesn't have to be. Flanker 1.0 through 1.5 are the epitome of wonder. The cockpit (haven't even mentioned it yet !) is wonderful. All working guages, moving head (to track targets while shooting head guided missiles). And everything is not only metric (a bit of a relief if you live in a metric country like South Africa, and are a scientist), but in Russian ! Just like the real thing. I must hand the russians their aesthetic crown, for nothing looks prettier than a blue backed cockpit panel. Apparently the airliners are like this as well... I love Flanker. I love it, because it is the epitome of good programming, and the wonder of its age. An extra-ordinary bonus is the mission editor, from which all other moderns can safely be said to have sprung from.

The Bad

Nothing. The manual is long though, but at least you read the darn thing. Many Flight Simulators come with long manuals that nobody reads unless in frustration. At least with Flanker you read it to a purpose: You are basically an apprentice Russion PVO fighter pilot, and so MUST know your bird. Study is always good. And then, it is heartening. Just like the real pilots, you know all you could.

The Bottom Line

To the novice : Cut you teeth on something that will live in your heart forever as a symbol of perfection. Don't be afraid to crash, as you may do often, and also don't be afraid to be shot down. Flanker is reliable, and so can be re-started at the drop of a hat. You will always be able to fly another day. To the median flyer : Not to be missed. Something beyond what you have done previously, and definitely worth you while. You will feel deprived in other sims when you see how simplistic they will feel, after Flanker. Definitely your stepping stone to the cutting edge of technology. To the Propellor head: Your basic origin for everything else of great complexity. A wonder of conciseness, of dynamics, of coding. Don't scoff at apparent primitveness, and you will meet great rewards in a simulation of a fidelity so far unmatched by anything except the Janes simulations.