Any reasonably competent sim dev can turn heads with a finely modelled Tiger tank, Vulcan bomber, or Schienenzeppelin railcar. It takes a rare talent to do the same with a vehicle so ubiquitous, so achingly ordinary, even a picture of it has the power to... power... to... ZZZ ZZZZ ZZZZ ZZZZ ZZZ ZZZ.
My trousers are not for sale, Mr Nkomo. NOT FOR SALE!
Crikey, nodded-off for a second there. Now where was I? Oh yes, rumpelstiltsims... sims that spin gaming gold from deeply unpromising vehicular straw. A2A's lastest FSX add-on is a shining example.
The $50 Accu-Sim C172 trainer takes flight simulation's most anodyne aerodyne and turns it into something improbably charismatic and incredibly physical. Right now, if hungry flames were devouring my multi-hectare MSFS hangar and I could only save one machine, this Cessna would be the one I'd shove to safety.
I'd brave the smoke and heat not for the flight or visual models - though both are superb - but because A2A have supplied me with a vivacious virtual machine rather than a desiccated data table with a pretty 3DS file attached. They've made my Skyhawk persistent and crammed it with interconnected components that age and fail... components that can be individually inspected and repaired. Every fouled spark plug, scored cylinder and FUBARed flap is an acerbic comment on my piloting prowess and the laxness of my maintenance regime.
We've seen this holistic approach before in other Accu-Sim releases like the B-17 and P-40 but Scott Gentile and co. take it to new levels with the C172. Using a new pre-flight inspection interface, aviators can now circle their parked steeds waggling flight control surfaces, peering at linkages, and examining dipsticks. Is your engine oil espresso-dark? Is your baggage door rattling? Are your tyres bulging? Missed or ignored faults may result in engine misbehaviour, handling issues, unplanned landings or worse.
With problems obvious and overhauls free and instantaneous in hangar mode, there's no real excuse for unchecked dilapidation. Until A2A get together with Duncan Murray - the man behind Air Hauler (see on) - and attach prices to spares (many of which are officially licensed), mechanic man-hours, and mods like wheel fairings and propellers, this add-on's impressive attempts at simulating aircraft ownership as well as aircraft flight will always have a slightly soft edge.
All developers of serious flight sims are passionate about their subject matter. A2A - as the development vid below proves - combine that passion with perfectionism and imagination. Collecting audio at night... recording 'identical' switches just in case their clicky signatures are subtly different... manually verifying turn rates at various taxi speeds... this is a team doing everything in its power to generate Belief. If there was a way to include the smell of exhaust or upholstery in an FSX adjunct, they'd almost certainly be the first to offer it.
I suspect many flight sim add-on purchasing decisions boil down to “How much do I like the depicted aircraft?”. With this C172 that question is irrelevant. Anyone eager to experience simulation at its most ambitious and successful will fall in love with the A2A C172.
Remember aeroflyFS, the German-made GA revelation that wowed Simulatia back in early 2012 with its sun-kissed Swiss scenery, workmanlike flight models, and sky-high framerates? After a year and a half of add-on and sequel rumours, the game and its dev, IPACS, has been taken under the wing of seasoned British sim supplementers Just Flight.
Starting with a Piper Archer III and a Beechcraft Duchess III, JF plan to enlarge the default aircraft fleet with a selection of planes adapted from their FSX range. Once that's done, the new collaborators will look at expanding the sim's stunning-but-slightly-claustrophobic airspace.
Will we eventually get true day-night cycles, improved cockpit functionality, and AI traffic? If I was able to attend tomorrow's bally tempting Flight Sim 2013 show at RAF Cosford, I'd corner a JF representative and find out.
Assuming I wasn't too busy bombarding Duncan 'Air Hauler' Murray, with questions, that is. The maker of the brilliant MSFS air cargo company adjunct, will be talking about a recently announced sequel in a presentation at 15.00hrs.
Instead of St Peter's
Euro Truck Simulator 2 turned left onto massively multiplayer boulevard earlier this week. Presently, users that register at www.worldoftrucks.com can do little but customise licence plates, upload profile portraits, and share pics of their tastefully embellished rigs, but one day soon, mark my words, they'll be competing for cargoes and honking impatiently at each other on rain-lashed Polish bypasses.
The Flare Path Foxer
Want directions to the nearest T-34-topped war memorial or Grumman Guardian gate guardian? Ask Matchstick. With a little help from plane-speaking newcomer Kakarot, one of defoxing's most practised practitioners located six of last week's seven mystery monuments.
Only a pillbox on Anzio's Riviera Zanardelli remained foxy.
Until now all the losswords that have appeared in Flare Path have been bog-standard Grade Is. Yesterday, while reading my breakfast tea leaves, I saw the unmistakeable outline of Desmond Tutu wingwalking on a Tu-2. The meaning was clear. You're ready for Grade IIs! In a Grade II not only are vital words missing, clues have been stripped of their vowels. To find the missing words, simply flesh-out the skeletonized clues, guess the theme, and work out the pattern shared by the five component puzzles.