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Im Mai zeigte Virgin PC-Astronauten, wie man eine Raumflug-Simulation mit unzähligen Features und Funktionen zu Tode perfektionieren kann – im November dürfen's sich jetzt auch die Amigianer angucken...

Shuttle Erneut lautet die Diagnose "Unspielbarkeit durch Übersimulation", denn ohne fundierte NASA-Ausbildung hat man kaum eine Chance, mit dem Digi-Shuttle klarzukommen: Das dicke Handbuch verwechselt Deutsch mit Fachchinesisch, und das Programm selbst erstickt förmlich an seiner Detailtreue und Realitätsnähe!

In der Praxis steht der Pilot seiner anspruchsvollen Aufgabe also ziemlich ratlos gegenüber, zumal schon die erste Übung (der Landeanflug) ein Höchstmaß an Fingerspitzengefühl und fliegerischem Geschick verlangt. Nach ein paar weiteren Testflügen soll man dann bereits mit dem komplexen Instrumentenlandesystem zurecht kommen, Satelliten oder ein Teleskop im Weltall stationieren und defektes Raumgut zur irdischen Reparatur-Werft schleppen. Leute mit besonders geschickten Fingern dürfen auch versuchen, an einem zuvor ausgesetzten Sonnenkollektor herumzumontieren.

Leider wird jedoch die Bedienung durch satte 107 Tastenkombinationen und unheimlich verschachtelte Menüs erschwert; Maus-Betrieb ist zwar möglich, aber wenig hilfreich. Daß die deutschen Screentexte keine Umlaute enthalten, mag ja noch angehen, daß sich Leute ohne Zweitfloppy hier schier zu Tode wechseln, schon nicht mehr. In punkto Übersicht genügt wohl der Hinweis, daß das Cockpit acht Bildschirme einnimmt! So umfangreich es im Shuttle-Inneren zugeht, so farblos, grob, detailarm und unsäglich langsam ist die 3D-Polygongrafik der Außenansichten. Aber dafür klingt dann das Triebwerksrauschen wieder ungeheuer realistisch... (pb)

Amiga Joker, November 1992, p.98



Amiga Joker
1 MB

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Virgin's major new simulator paves the way for Tony Dillon to boldly recite cliches which no man has recited before...

Shuttle UP, UP AND AWAY!
Spaceflight simulations are rather thin of the ground. How many can you think of? UFO from SubLogic perhaps, or Apollo from Accolade? That's about it, I'm afraid, and neither of them were very exciting. The problem is that space flight might be an exciting subject for an arcade blast but full-blown simulations are just too complex to pull off.

Shuttle is a full, hands-on simulation of NASA missions flown in their pride and joy – the world's first reusable manned space craft. It's been more than two years in the making and, to be honest, I don't think anyone is particularly bothered about the Shuttle now anyway – when was the last time you saw live coverage of one being launched? It's simply not on the agenda these days. Despite a possible lack of interest, though, Virgin's new game is an incredible achievement – both technically and in terms of content.

As Pilot and Commander of the Shuttle, your task is to work your way though the ten missions laid out by NASA, ranging from simply landing the Shuttle when launched from the back of a Boeing 747, to repairing satellites and a full instrument landing. These are supposed to range from easy to hard but, to be honest, you'll be lucky if you can get into the cockpit inside the first few hours of playing.

Shuttle The program is a FULL simulation, unlike most titles (i.e. Thunderhawk, Falcon, Knights of the Sky et al) whereby all you really need to do is point the craft in the right direction, apply a little thrust and off you go in perfectly controlled flight. This is more in the SubLogic vein, where even the tiniest move can be critical, and the smallest miscalculation possibly fatal. The way the craft responds is apparently perfect, so even landing from a small altitude at a low speed is difficult for the first (dozen) tries. Compare landing the plane in Afterburner to docking in Elite without a docking computer to see what I mean.

An A1 poster displays all the shuttle cockpit controls, and two manuals, one with over 140 pages, detail everything you could possibly need to know about the shuttle's complex and extensive controls. The instrument panel is enormous, spread all around the pilot, and the only way to truly represent it is to split it into six panels, each one nine times the size of the screen. Only the main ones have keyboard equivalents so just learning how to control the bird can take a day or two.

Such complex controls do not make for an easy game. For instance, when coming in to land, searching frantically for the right control button amongst the hundreds of options istn't going to make your life as a pilot very easy, and more often than not the craft will smash into the ground before you're even looking in the right direction. This is where the key commands come into it, but don't think for a moment that these are going to make things any easier. There are 104 different key commands listed in the manual, ranging from the very simple F10 external view through the Control+G+A to ready the landing gear and Control+G+D to lower it. By mixing key presses with the shift, alternate and control keys, you can run the entire simulation, but who's going to remember so many different combinations to make the sim worthwhile?

Shuttle But ease of use isn't what this kind of simulation is about. If you want things easy, play Afterburner. This is for the aspiring professional, and although I may have already said a lot of things to put you off, the simulation itself is nothing short of excellent. The attention to detail and realism is staggering. For example, probably the first thing anyone will want to do when loading up this game is watch a launch. Launching isn't easy (is anything in this game?), so thankfully there's a built-in running demo which takes you through a complete mission, just to show you how it all works. From the launch pad, you can watch the shuttle lift, release the booster rockets (which fall away leaving trails of smoke – a nice touch), fly into orbit complete with stars, release a satellite and then return to good old Mother Earth.

Trying to do the same yourself would be suicide, so the missions are designed to ease you into your new role as a shuttle pilot. The first few missions let you try your hand at launching and landing, and once mastered, you can try positioning and repairing the Hubble telescope, or a full instrument flight, where you fly completely by cockpit information.

By way of a helping hand, there are a variety of autopilots you can use, ranging from no help at all to a feature which finds all the controls you need to use next and highlights them ready for use. Rather than guarantee you instant success, though, these help options are more useful if used as a teaching aid, showing you how to go about things yourself.

If you're the sort of person who likes options, then this is the game for you. The main many has nearly forty options, from setting up the game graphic details to viewing the various parts of the ship, and the in-game menu has over a hundred, letting you jump to any part of the cockpit or choose from a multitude of external views, which range from any point around the craft to looking at different parts of the game world.

And so we come down to the graphics, one of the most important aspects of the game. I have to say I was disappointed initially with the polygons used. Everything looks over-simplified, although not so much as to render objects unrecognizable. What really lets the game down, though, is the speed. Although the real-life shuttle is very fast on screen it looks in danger of being overtaken by a reversing Lada. The rest of the game looks great, though. The control panels are perfectly drawn, and the view into the payload bay is a little spooky, especially when seen in space.

All things considered, Shuttle is a very balanced game. On the plus side, it is an excellent simulation, and it's rare we see so much detail and effort put into this sort of game. On the downside, it no doubt will be a closed door to most people. It's just too hard to get to grips with unless you are completely dedicated to the game. It takes a lot of effort – which does pay off – but I can still only recommend it to enthusiasts.

CU Amiga, July 1992, p.p.68-69

Between April 12 1981 and January 29 1986, the four Space Shuttle orbiters were flown twenty-five times collectively. Not only was the shuttle a revolution in that it was the first reusable spacecraft, but the launch of Columbia with its two man crew also marked the first time solid fuel rockets were used for a manned launch. In fact, the shuttle continued to prove itself a success, despite numerous delays surrounding each launch. In fact, it only ever lifted off on scheduled launch time once, on June 27th 1982. The fact that faults were found for almost every launch should have been a warning to everybody.
It wasn't, and on the 25th shuttle flight, the Challenger shuttle lifted from the pad and dramatically exploded 1 minute and 13 seconds later, killing the seven crew. The flight had been delayed six times previously due to technical faults and bad weather. The future of the costly shuttle programme has hung in the balance ever since.

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July 1992
Vektor Grafix


VIRGIN £29.99
The first sim you'll need a pilot's licence to fly...