Thursday, November 22, 2007

Review: Be a "Top Gun" with "Acceleration"

You haven't experienced "Flight Simulator X" until you have been shot off of an aircraft carrier.

Developed by ACES Studio, "Flight Simulator X: Acceleration," adds a ton of depth to an already deep flight simulation game. The expansion, which requires "Flight Simulator X" to play, offers virtual aviators more than 20 new missions, including search and rescue, aircraft carrier operations and multiplayer racing modes. Yes, you can race your friends online.

You can start with the new missions after installing. You will need at least 2 ghz processor, 1gb of RAM and a 128mb video card. I ran the game on my rig - 2.1ghz AMD Athlon, 1.5gb of RAM and a 512mb ATI Radeon X1600 - and it ran pretty smooth. The recommended requirements are 3 ghz processor, 2gb of RAM and a 512mb video card. I also used my Saitek X45 flight stick and all of the buttons were mapped perfectly.

The new multiplayer racing mode in "Acceleration" lets gamers compete against friends and foes in four types of racing including aerobatic (Red Bull), Reno Unlimited, cross-country and sailplane.

The single player missions include finding a missing co-worker, a rhino-rescue mission (by helicopter, of course - extraction by an F/A-18 "Hornet" would be rather messy!), search and recover, Red Bull Istanbul 2006, Reno Air Racing, Rocket Launch Air Cover and my personal favorite, Carrier Landing.

Of course, you can just take the three new aircraft, including the multitasking F/A-18A "Hornet," the P-51D "Mustang" (I'd love to find the Tuskegee Airmen mod for this plane) and the EH-101 medium lift helo, for a spin.

I opted to do a few touch and goes in the F/A-18 from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to get my *feet wet.* The communication is unreal - and the graphics are awesome. I definitely recommend cranking your graphic card up to the max for this.

The controls are responsive - if you don't own a flight stick, this game BEGS for one. You can adjust the controls (sensitive or firm) and since this game is a Games for Windows title, it *should* install properly. My review copy didn't. I had to update my DVD-R's drive at least three times before I could install "Flight Simulator X." When I did get it working, it was top-notch.

The "Hornet" also has a tail hook for carrier landings. I did do a few and ended up a crispy spot on the flight deck. Soooo not cool ... I'm no Maverick just yet ...

The graphics are awesome and photo realistic, and the in-game sounds are dynamic. The scenery is simply stunning - and the aircraft are faithfully recreated.

I wouldn't mind being able to play my own music during missions (like "Iron Eagle"). Another feature that didn't make the cut is the ability to fire weapons. I am not sure why this feature was left out, but it would be a welcome addition. If Microsoft opted to release a "Warbirds" expansion, I could say, with confidence, that folks would really snap it up.

Since it is an expansion, you can always just fly the regular "Flight Simulator X" missions or free flight, though doing the 30 extra missions really costs you just $1 per new mission. Not a bad deal for several different experiences.

However, flying and chatting online with friends, as well as other aviators is the real draw of this expansion. The Red Bull races are rather intense, as well as the Reno races - and carrier operations are a challenge as well.

Whether you want to fly at the speed of heat, rescue a rhino, bag a couple traps on a flight deck - or just haul cargo, you won't have time to slow down with "Acceleration."

Why should I care: For a mere $29.99 plus tax, you can add 30 intense missions to your copy of "Flight Simulator X." Yes, it's worth it.

The good: 30 missions at $1 per mission - new planes, new scenarios, multiplayer racing, carrier touchoffs and landings, crisp graphics, photo-realistic cockpits and scenery and "Vomit Comet" mission

The bad: The expansion requires a pretty well-configured PC to run it - and it's a very hardware intensive game - and having a few missions where you can dogfight or do a mission where you get scrambled to engage a bogey would be sweet

The ugly: Me crashing into the flight deck ... what else?

Overall: 9.25 (out of 10): This is a value expansion, worth its price several times over. Not that the original game needed to be expanded, but "Acceleration" offers a fresh departure with some pretty challenging missions. The expansion adds even more depth to one of the most engaging PC video games on the market.


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