ADVANCED FLIGHT TRAINER 2.0
Remember the good old days when you could pick up a flying game and zoom through the sky without knowing anything about aerodynamics? If you could wiggle your joystick up, down, left, and right, you were off into the wild blue yonder. But some of us demanded more, some of us wanted (gasp) realism. So we ended up with true flight simulators based on civilian aircraft and real flight characteristics, and jet-fighter games based on military aircraft, with compromises favoring handling over the excitement of combat.
Finally, Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer came along to bridge the gap. While it lacked combat scenarios, the program simulated both military and civilian aircraft, each with very realistic flight characteristics. Many pilots said this program had more of a realistic feel than any other program, including Microsoft's Flight Simulator.
However, the original version of Advanced Flight Trainer had a somewhat outdated feel. The biggest problem was poor graphics support—AFT was one of the last CGA-only games. Electronic Arts locked onto this and other problems and launched Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer which supports EGA and VGA graphics.
New graphics show up everywhere. First to catch your eye are the new cockpit designs. World War I biplanes and high-tech jet fighters no longer share an identical cockpit layout. The outside views have been enhanced with more realistic terrain teaiures and race-course layouts. And from the outside, a P-51 now looks like a P-51, not a box with a propeller.
You can watch your flight from every imaginable camera angle and use videolike effects to change your perspective and zoom in or out. You can also choose these views after your flight, using the Replay function. This improved feature replays the entire flight, and you can fast-forward to the interesting part and then go back and see it again from another angle.
AFT 2.0 adds even more choices to the wide variety of aircraft you could fly in the first release. The original version included 15 diverse aircraft, including the Sopwith Camel, the SR-71 spy plane, the Cessna 172, and the Bell X-1. Now the count is up to 18 as you can go for a spin in the new F-117A Stealth Fighter, take an experimental plunge in the X-15, or try your hand at a dead-slick landing in the Space Shuttle.
With the new planes come new locations. Six new race courses, including the famous Reno Unlimited, offer plenty of low-altitude challenge, as well as occasional carnage. The program keeps track of your best times through the gates—if you make it that far.
Besides the races, there are also several locations to test your nerve and skill. Two that have kept me awake long after I should have crashed for the night are the Canyon and the Bridge. In the Canyon, you fly down between two twisting lines of mountains, which is not as easy as it sounds. The Bridge is even more fun. Here you fly a figure-eight pattern; you first fly under a suspension bridge and then come back around and fly directly over the roadway, avoiding the suspension cables on both sides of you. It's a neat place to fly when things are getting a little too serious. Try whipping under the bridge in the Space Shuttle, then putting her down in the middle of the river to get you back in the right frame of mind.
Unfortunately, the improvements in AFT 2.0 come at the expense of screen update speed. Players with slow XT computers will have control problems. Even more frustrating is the lack of consistency. The refresh rate speeds up and bogs down, depending on what's onscreen. It's hard to get a good feel for how an aircraft handles when an aileron roll takes roughly twice as long when the screen is crowded. Even on my 10-MHz AT clone, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels scenarios are almost unplayable.
Had Electronic Arts called the game Chuck Yeager AT and marketed it for fast AT-class machines and higher, they would have gunned down most of this criticism.
If you have a fast machine and liked the first version or are a fan of flight games in general, I'm sure you'll be impressed with the great graphics and unique features in AFT 2.0. But if your computer operates at 8-MHz or less, the remaining copies of version 1.0 have been marked down to less than $20. That could be the best software deal in town.
IBM PC and compatibles—$54.95
1820 Gateway Dr.
San Mateo, CA 94404