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This is the third version of Novalogic's popular combat helicopter simulator, Comanche. Along with excellent graphics and sound come an attention to detail that rivets the player to the seat. Comanche is the kind of simulator that will have you calling it all kinds of derogatory names, but will always be ready for you when you have swallowed your pride and want to give it another shot. It is by no means an easy combat simulator, but like anything worthwhile, the patience and perseverance is worth the satisfaction of completing a mission. There is much to be learned about the manner in which rotary aircraft fly, and this simulator will provide you with a good understanding of what skill and coordination is required to "Make it go". For those of you who like a challenge and have had some simulator experience, pluck up your courage and use the advanced flight model right away.
Comanche 3 has been designed to closely simulate the entire combat helicopter environment and as such has many gauges and weaponry to keep track of. Rudder pedals and a joystick with a throttle are recommended if you want to get some education as well as fun out of this simulator. Just like the real helicopters, you will be expected to learn the balance of torque, pitch and power in order to get somewhere in this simulator. Be prepared to spend a little more time than usual getting familiar with the feel of this aircraft than you have in the past with other simulators. I regularly fly home simulators and found this game a challenge. With all the realism, it is easy at first to over torque the rotor or just inadvertently hover into a nearby observation tower. The biggest hurdle in learning to fly a helicopter from most accounts seems to be the hover. Comanche 3 is not a simulator that will coddle you in this regard and it is common to start a mission in the midst of a respectable crosswind that you have to be ready to compensate for. There are quite a few training missions to get you ready for combat. I recommend you go through all of them before attempting a real mission. You will find that the training gets significantly more difficult as you progress and once you try a few missions, you may wish to go back to the training for a bit. A great feature in this simulator is the real-time coach or flight instructor. He will hint on the next steps as well as highlight the displays and screens you should be looking at during a particular training run. The instructions are predetermined per mission and they do not vary much.
The graphics are well rendered, as is evident in the towers and hills. There are actual trees to run into and you must get a feel for the size of your rotor before you decide to do any hedge trimming. This is one simulator that is capable of showing a large array of dynamic scenery and targets. There are enemy helicopters that are always on the go as well as friendly trains to defend that you have to keep track of. You will certainly find yourself busy in this cockpit. Much has been done to simplify things, but there is a reason why there is a crew of two in the real version. As in many of these combat flight games, you may wish to enlist the help of a friend to act as your pilot or weapons officer. I have found this works well and generally ends up being more fun. There are several displays for the gunner to concentrate on while you concentrate on not tilling the soil! The combat screens are excellent and night missions are also available. Popping up, locking on a target and dropping down again are real techniques that work with Comanche. This can become a riveting game for two people especially when you connect the sound card on your computer to a powerful sound system or sub-woofer. The sounds are many and well sampled, although you will notice a sampled noise when there is just one sound going, like the female voice of the on board computer. You do have a few units to help out in this simulator and you should get used to use them as some missions will just be impossible if you try to go the hero route. Artillery can be called for as can your wingman to help out. If you find yourself just a little overwhelmed, assign a few targets to the other Comanche. He always sounds ready to help until you hear him under enemy fire. One of the things noted missing from the previous version is the line uttered by the other Comanche pilot, "Get that laser out of my face!". It appears that this pilot is so adept at maneuvering, you will never see him in your crosshairs by accident or on purpose (if you are trying to examine all the parameters of the game).
As mentioned earlier, the flight model is excellent, but there seems to be a little inertia missing. When you rise into a hover, you stop somewhat abruptly when power and torque balance out and this is also noticed when banking in turns. Having never flown the actual Comanche, I cannot be extremely critical since computer advances in control management may actually result in these kind of precise movements. One of the more interesting features of this simulator is the ability to fly damaged. This adds another level of realism to the situation in a simulator and I believe it is a must. Comanche's computer will inform you of damage and you will be able to see a diagnostic display of damage. Damage will of course affect your ability to complete a mission, but it is possible. You may experience loss of power, weapons systems failures or severe vibrations affecting handling. Flying "nap of the earth" is recommended in this game as there are S.A.Ms and other helicopters that are just spoiling for a kill. There are plenty of canyons to duck behind and sneak around in, just don't forget about those rotor blades! They just don't take kindly to being introduced to fixed objects.
The randomness in missions is pretty good, but the actual tasks do not vary. This may get a little tedious since you will find yourself going over the same mission several times. This is a simulator that you won't want to get the best of you. The only benefit the repetition is that the repeated parts become relatively easy. The mission goals could be stated a little better. It is not always clear what the goal or primary objective is. There is one exciting train mission that leaves unsure as to whether to follow the train and protect it or clear its path with artillery strike orders.
There is definitely value in this software, and a great deal of effort was made to produce a good product. Of special note is the flight manual that comes with the software;(yes the actual paper book). It gives some excellent explanations of what is going on with your helicopter and gives a good base to get you in the air. Novalogic has shown that it takes its software seriously. With the software getting more and more sophisticated, it is becoming a must to have a 3-D graphics card to handle the scenery calculations. Comanche runs without it, but I am sure the speed and quality of image could have been even better had the option been made available. To take full advantage of the game, I recommend rudder pedals and a joystick with a throttle that will be used as a collective.Written by Jeffrey Waters
Pentium processor or faster,
Min 8Mb memory,
DOS or Windows 95,
VGA or better (VESA required for high resolution modes),
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
Supports Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster 16, Sound Blaster AWE 32 or 100% compatible cards,
Supports Thrusmaster, FCS and WCS, CH Flighsticks, Wingman Extreme, Microsoft Sidewinder, standards joysticks, throttles, and foot pedals.
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