Flight Unlimited II

15Flying over lovely San Francisco.

It was smooth sailing for Microsoft’s long-running Flight Simulator series, but with Flight Unlimited 2, it finally faced some real competition. The original sim from Looking Glass was fun to fly with its neat acrobatic challenges, but it didn’t even begin to recreate the experience of piloting a civilian aircraft from airport A to B. Flight Unlimited 2 attempts to fix this issue, and offers a bunch of interesting advances along the way.

The primary criticism you could throw at Flight Unlimited 2 is the limited flying space. It covers only a modest area of the San Francisco Bay area and the surrounding region. But the limitations in airspace are more than compensated for by the updated graphics, but also by the inclusion of ATC communications.

If you’re taking off from an airport, you need to check with the control tower to see what runway you’re going to use; enter into an airport’s airspace, and you’ll start receiving audio transmissions urgently requesting information. It’s all delivered in dead-pan voices, just like you hear when a black box recording is being played.

Once again we are handed a selection of five different aircraft: the Arrow Piper, the Trainer 172, the twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, the De Havilland Beaver, and the WW2-era P-51D Mustang. Each has distinct handling and flight characteristics, making even a routine jump from one small airstrip to another a unique experience. The Trainer, for instance, is as easy to handle as its name implies, but jump into a Mustang and you feel like you’ve just entered a flying death-trap.

16As far as actual play goes, Flight Unlimited II is pretty open-ended: you can design your own flight plans, take off and land at any of 46 airports, start in mid-air at any point on the map, or tackle one of the “adventures” built into the game. These are scenarios that put you into tight spots like coping with weather problems, but can also involve stunts. What’s most surprising, though, is that Flight Unlimited 2’s true appeal lies in its replication of the minutiae of civilian flight. Yes, that sounds boring – but once you throw yourself into it, you’ll be surprised at how fun it really is.

System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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