Chuck Yeager's Air Combat
I have had quite enough of high-tech fighter simulations whose controls are only slightly more complex than those of the Space Shuttle. And I am also not particularly fond of flight simulators that faithfully reproduce the twitchy controls of today's fastest aircraft. It takes a lot more patience than I'm willing invest to deal with simulations that yield a crash-and-burn every time you sneeze.
In 1991 Electronic Arts strove to bridge the gap between the hyper-realistic simulations and aracde blasters withChuck Yeager's Air Combat. This is a dramatic departure from Electronic Art's first Yeager release, Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer, released in 1987. Advanced Flight Trainer concentrated on the test pilot process, such as defining an aircraft's performance envelope and handling characteristics, although some aerial race scenarios were included.
The program never managed to grab more than my passing interest, but Advanced Flight Trainer appealed to enough people to become a certified platinum-level best-seller. In an effort to deal with nitpickers like me Electronic Arts tapped programming wunderkind Brad Iverson, the man responsible for the highly acclaimed LHX Attack Chopper, another famous sim of the era.
The structure of Yeager's Air Combat is simple enough. The Historic Mission scenarios form the heart of Yeager's Air Combat. Historically faithful renditions of dogfights from World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam give you the chance to fly six types of fighters against 14 different opponents. Before each mission begins, prudent pilots can study the helpful tactical advice that's offered, and during dogfights, Uncle Chuck's visage occasionally appears in an on-screen window to offer bits of wisdom that could keep your bacon out of the frying pan.
A mission-creation option let's you cast historical accuracy aside and design your own dream dogfight. Your fighter type, altitude, number and types of opponents and their skill level may be varied to suit your tastes and talent.
For its time the VGA graphics in Yeager's Air Combat are more than adequate. Besides fine, uncluttered cockpits and extremely smooth motion, the rendering of the horizon line and semi-opaque clouds is a good touch. The visible features of other planes markedly increase as they approach, and the relatively high detail makes Yeager's Air Combat both a realistic and visually appealing dogfight simulator of the early 90s.
Aircraft handling in Yeager's Air Combat is forgiving, making it a pleasure to fly any of the six available aircraft. That doesn't mean you can afford to sleep at the wheel, though. Pull an unhealthy dose of G's and the world will grow dim as you begin to black out. Exceeding your plane's maximum safe speed is likely to make more than your lunch come unglued. Lift failures, stalls, and spins lurk around the corner, although under most circumstances you'll be hard pressed to get yourself into a truly unrecoverable flight attitude.
Yeager's Air Combat features most of the requisite bells and whistles I've come to expect from a good flight simulator of the early 90s, including multiple views of the action, a VCR function for mission save and playback, and controls for adjusting sound and for setting the level of detail. An added bonus was that Yeager's digitized voice is integrated into the game itself.
According to Brad Iverson, the toughest programming he encountered with Yeager's Air Combat was implementing the artificial intelligence routines that controlled the behavior of the enemy aircraft. In this early version, adversaries were prone to smooth-line flying, making them sitting ducks during head-on passes. In the finished product, your foes will "jink" when engaged, making it tougher to score a hit.
Electronic Arts had yet another hit on its hands with Chuck Yeager's Air Combat. Even though Yeager was known for not doing things by the book he, in truth, studied every subsystem of every plane he flew. Yeager surived checkout of 150 new aircraft because he read the manual.