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A-10 Cuba!

An Engrossing, Addictive, Must-Have Simulator

The Good
In creating A-10 Cuba, Eric Parker achieved a perfect blend of realism, playability and originality that have ensured this sim a permanent home in the pantheon of classic air combat titles. Precise attention to detail and excellent mission design are some of the hallmarks of this engrossing title.

To begin with, the physics are incredible. Ground handling, often an afterthought in flight simulators, is superior to some driving sims. Objects collide and ricochet in a very convincing manner, and the Warthog bobs and weaves with all the feel of a real airplane, which I can say as a licensed pilot. When part of a wing or horizontal stabilizer is destroyed, handling and stability are impacted accordingly. Fly too fast with the gear down and you'll see it slowly bend backwards. Clip your wing on a tall building and watch your plane spin out of control. Just about every surface and object in this sim interacts in a realistic way, and half the fun is trying to land your badly crippled Hawg with half a wing and no nose gear. At times, A-10 Cuba feels like a sim that was built around a physics engine.

Of course, fancy physics do not a game make, and thankfully A-10 Cuba provides a very big sandbox in which to explore. Training missions take place in a desert environment full of mesas and plateaus, while actual gameplay occurs in a bustling model of Cuba. Air, sea and ground traffic liven up the world, which is generously sprinkled with towns, harbors and airports. Wander into enemy airspace and you can expect to encounter active and deadly AA. Terrain is varied and interesting, providing ample opportunity to hotdog through valleys and tunnels. Simply exploring the island can be a real treat. An additional set of unusual and imaginative multiplayer-only environments are the icing on the cake.

A-10 Cuba does an excellent job of simulating the avionics and weapons systems of the Warthog. A variety of air-air and air-ground weapons are available including Sidewinder, Maverick and HARM missiles, cluster bombs, free-fall and laser guided bombs, kinetic energy rockets and Durandal anti-runway bombs. This is, of course, in addition to the Hawg's famous rotary cannon, which makes quick work of armored vehicles and AA launchers. Ordinance can be fired in single-release or programmed "ripple" modes, and CCIP ground targeting makes it easy to lob a thousand-pounder right through the enemy's front door.

Fortunately, all these elements combine brilliantly thanks to some very creative mission design. Clever placement of AA means you won't have time to relax enroute to target, and enemy fighters will often arrive when you're just about lined up for a bombing run. Both friendly and enemy AI are quite good, and though you can't communicate with wingmen, they usually get the job done without direction. Ten-plane furballs are a real sight to behold, and A-10 Cuba's generous view controls mean you'll get a good look at the carnage.

Lastly, the graphics may be dated but they're still extremely effective. The flat-polygon models are well made and the color schemes are excellent. As day becomes night the sky reddens, airport runways light up and the instrument lights bathe the cockpit in a warm glow. Without the overhead of texture maps or gouraud shading, this sim can run silky-smooth at 1024x768 even on an ancient 200MHz Pentium.

The Bad
There's not much bad to say about A-10 Cuba, though it does lack some flight-sim staples like a campaign mode and mission editor. The included missions are challenging but end quickly and leave you hungry for more.

The bundled help files are the only manual you'll get, and though they're effective, it feels strange to unwrap a flight simulator and not be greeted with an encyclopedic 200-page user guide.

In short, the main criticism of A-10 Cuba is that there needs to be MORE OF IT !

The Bottom Line
Though over a decade old, A-10 Cuba retains every ounce of its original appeal. The rich world environment, incredible physics and engrossing gameplay make it almost infinitely replayable. For the serious sim enthusiast who enjoys pounding the ground while dodging anti-aircraft rounds, or the Warthog fan who wants to get a feel for the character of this unique plane, A-10 Cuba is not to be missed!

by SiliconClassics (861) on July 15th, 2007

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