Jet Pilot logo

Hugh Poynton has always wanted to be in Top Gun, so he was the obvious to review Vulcan's groundbreaking new flight sim.

Have you ever seen the simulator rounds on The Krypton Factor? The bit where Kenneth the systems analyst from Chelmsford has to sit in a Boeing Simulator and attempt to land it at Hong Kong International. He sweats, gnashes his teeth and grimaces until he's crashed into the Hilton Hotel just to the left, shrugs and hopes for better luck on the manual dexterity round. The whole process looks fiendishly complicated but somehow you won't mind a go yourself.

JetPilot gives the opportunity to do just this. It would be safe to say that what Vulcan is offering here is pretty much the most realistic flight simulator written for the Amiga. Needless to say this means it requires patience, skill, intelligence and above five hands.

Almost every aspect of flying a modern jet has been reproduced here including flight parameters that come within 10 per cent of real aircraft, changing weather conditions and 27 air bases from the Easter Mediterranean to Scotland. JetPilot is absolutely packed full of options - there are three planes you can fly: The Lightning, Starfighter or MiG 21, on a huge variety of missions from formation flying to combat intercept missions.

To be honest, JetPilot is something you will either love or hate, it really depends on what you look for in a computer game. It isn't something you can just play for 15 minutes while waiting for Neighbours to start. Because of the complexity of the simulation you really need to get to know the game and practice flying the jets and using features such as the radio communications and ground tracking.

Because of the inherent realism, the planes despite being quite easy to handle, aren't as forgiving as in other less realistic sims - take off too steeply and the tail will drag on the ground and destroy the plane. Land too fast and the tyres will burst. Jetpilot is a very impressive product and flight sim buffs will be happy as pigs in mud, however I do get the feeling the game will appear too complicated and perhaps intimidating for those who aren't as well acquainted with sims.

This said, JetPilot is a step forward for the Amiga. Spec wise theg ame is pretty hungry but it shows the strengths of the computer - there isn't, to my knowledge, a game that comes near it on the PC in terms of realism and detail. The graphics are excellent, the planes are realistic right down to the smallest detail with even individual markings visible.

The geography is completely detailed and realistic - take off from a North Wales air base and you'll be able to see Anglesey in one direction and the Wirral in the other. JetPilot will run on pretty much any Amiga but, like many of Vulcan't new products, favours higher spec machines.

On a 1Mb or 2Mb system some features will have to be disabled. However, on a souped up A1200 or A4000 the simulation will run like a dream. If you have a fairly high spec Amiga and are a flight sim buff this game is tailor made for you.

Some mention also has to be made of the price - at £16.99 JetPilot is very competitively priced for such a high quality game, you will certainly get your moneys worth out of this one. The simplest missions, such as just taking off and circling are complicated enough to master, so with 20 qualification missions and loads of combat missions there is more than enough to keep you occupied for donkey years.

Jet Pilot logo AGA

Want to know whether a highly detailed and involving flight sim is going to enthrall you? Andy Smith thinks you should be told...

Vulcan's 'Mini Series' is becoming a bit of a saga actually, but that's besides the point. The point is that this game is far too fiddly to be any fun for anyone other than very serious and dedicated fans of fiddly flight simulators. Anyone who liked B17 or anything that has some life and action would, most likely, not enjoy the experience quite as much.

What is it all about though? You've got two main aircraft: The Lockheed F-104 and the English Electric Lightning (you could earn the chance to have a little tinker about in a MiG but that's going to take some serious hard work) and Vulcan - quite rightly - are very proud of the fact that all the performance facts from the main aircraft have been studied and implemented so the game mimics the real planes' performances to within 10%;

Obviously, unless you've ever flown an F104 or English Electric Lightning that's going to mean very little apart from the fact that Vulcan claim it sorta, kinda, acts the way the real things do. But hey! I've never driven a Group C sports car before and thoroughly enjoyed games that claimed they sorta, kinda, acted in the same way, so we're all agreed that this is probably a good thing.

And that's where we start to get intro trouble. The game manual is dire. Fine, there's an in-game manual you can refer to. But even here there's a huge amount of assumed knowledge and lack of direction.

Once you've tried working through the text (bright yellow on dull grey is remarkably difficult to read chaps) - with no idea what the terms relate to - you can try moving a mouse pointer round the cockpit to determine what on earth the gauges are. How am I supposed to know what a Tacan Offset 'Engaged' indicator is? And do I need it?

OK, so the manual's not that helpful, that doesn't have to reflect on the game, so let's stick to the point. Actually the point is it's still all such hard work. Controlling your plane is a nightmare - it's going to take you all day to complete the first exercise mission (landing. On an airfield directly ahead of you. With no Wind. And CHA - that's got you hasn't it?).

Move the mouse a tiny bit and you'll struggle to get your plane back in level flight. And with all the details turned on (bring out Format's trusty accelerated A1200, complete with 6Mb RAM and a whole host of other bits that Ben reckons makes it a poky little number) you'll find it takes an age to react to your mouse manipulations.

I'm sounding like I'm having a real downer with this aren't I? I don't want to take it apart for the hell of it - as I said at the beginning, this is going to appeal to people who like over-fiddly jet simulations. I'm not one of them though because I like to be able to play games.

And sure, I understand that some games take a while to get used to - often that's the sign of a very good game. Civ took an age to get used to but it's an all-time classic because it makes itself as available as possible to even a complete novice. But even after a few days trying very hard not to buy the farm after two minutes, Jet Pilot leaves me cold.

But let's suppose you are keen as mustard for these sorts of games, what then have you got to look forward to? A total of 60 Practice, Exercise and Combat missions that will take you from Scotland to the Med. You'll be flying with wingmen, chatting to control towers and generally getting as close to being a real jet pilot as is feasibly possible. All good stuff then.

There's one thing I want to get absolutely clear here. Vulcan have prided themselves on getting as close to reality as possible. For that they are to be commended. All I wish to do is point out that you're going to have to be a person who wants as much reality in a flight-sim as possible.

Casual game players who don't mind jumping into a jet for a quick dog-fight round the skies of Britain, Libya or anywhere else are going to find this far too dry and high-brow.

Which is why I'm only giving this 65%. The only way you're going to get the satisfaction the game could provide is by sheer hard work and dedication. Unless you're actually interested in the difference between the total drag and thrust of the Lightning compared to the F104 I'd go for something a little more erm, 'arcade experience' orientated.

Jet Pilot logo

Price: £16.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

Yikes! This ain't no game! There are far too many keys and nt enough aliens.

They're calling it 'The Pinnacle of Realistic Flight Simulation'. 'They' in this case are Vulcan Software, the game's publisher, so perhaps that's not so surprising. JETPilot is the first Amiga flight sim to have appears for some years now.

Many would say Amiga flight sims peaked with F-29 Reliator, or the Microprose offerings for those who like a bit more depth. Alas the near mythical TFX has still not appeared and so it seems a logical step that one of the Amiga's most prolific game publishers should rectify the situation. But can it really live up to that bold opening claim.

Need for speed
JETPilot comes with a range of options designed to get it running at a reasonable speed on any Amiga from a basic A500 to a fast 030-based Amiga or better. Even so, 'fast' is nt a word that springs to mind however you have the game set up.

The game itself is set in the present day and includes aircraft such as the Lightning F1, 3 and 6, MiGs and even the incredible Lockheed F-104. These are controlled via either an analogue joystick or a combination of mouse and keyboard.

The controls are initially hard to get the hang of and committing the various keystrokes and functions to memory also takes a bit of a time. However, the good news is that after only a short while you should be going up-diddly-up and down-diddly-own-down without too many problems.

If it's pretty graphics and loads of fancy scenery you're after, you're likely to be disappointed. However, if you want a flight sim you can sit in front of with a pot of tea and a tinker with fine tunings and options for hours on end, it's a different story.

While the 3D engine leaves a lot to be desired, a lot of work has obviously gone into making the various statistics as realistic as possible (but then I'm not an RAF fighter pilot, so frankly I'm just taking their word for it that all the details are right - do you know the acceleration rate of ay of these planes?).

Sensible, the Vulcans have included the option to practice all the elements of the game, from simple tasks such as landings, takeoffs and navigational training, to more involved tasks such as ILS and auto approach, radar practice, missile firing, air-to-air-gunnery, and thrilling abbreviated spills such as DACT, GCI VIS and CGA practice.

Before you can get down to the game for real you have to first prove yourself by completing 21 exercises (again, just to prove that you do know how to land, etc.) and then it's combat time...

You're never up against overwhelming odds, instead choosing from a number of combat options where you can face up to two opponents alone before wing-men become obligatory. Of course if you're a social creature, you'll want to go up against twelve bogies with six CPU chums - if only to utilise the remarkable 'look over your shoulder at your team mates' button.

JETPilot isn't about to win any awards for the most stylish game ever but it should satisfy flight fanatics not so concerned about heart-stopping areal acrobatics and gung-ho blasting action.

You have control over just about every option you could think of, so alter the atmospheric settings from the time of year, time of day, weather conditions or starting location, or simply muck about with the various camera views; watching from above, below, inside, or even from nearby airfields (and in case you're wondering, you're the little black spot!)

You've got radio communications (the comical old Amiga voice synth) 27 airfields around Europe to visit, tons of HUD and navigational aids and maps, and the possibility of future data disk expansions.

Compared to the classics mentioned earlier, JETPilot doesn't measure up too well. If you want a new flight sim then by all means take a look, but you may well find deeper, more exciting alternatives in the bargain bins and budget sections.