Comanche CD. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Retooled for greater efficiency and maximum enjoyment, Comanche CD is definitely not just another example of shovelware (floppy-based computer games hastily crammed onto a mostly empty CD-ROM in an attempt to cash in on the multimedia craze). Not only does this package combine the best-selling original and three mission expansion sets (for a total of 100 missions), but the game's flight model and memory handling appear to have been significantly tweaked. Contrary to past experience, the CD-ROM version of Comanche actually runs smoother, faster, and more reliably than the floppy-based original.
The game simulates tactical air combat aboard the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter. Because this amazing vehicle is still in the prototype stage--the U.S. Army's real Comanche isn't slated for active service until 1999--the game's flight model is based on a combination of conjecture and applied physics. Likewise, the combat settings are pure fantasy with a hint of real-world conflicts.
Newcomers to the world of helicopter simulations will appreciate the multiple training missions. Here you'll learn to use the craft's integrated computer-controlled navigation, sensor, and weapon systems. You'll appreciate the Comanche's ground-hugging flight capabilities (due to the air cushion created by your rotor blades) as well as the automated fly-by-wire ground-distancing sensors. The use of terrain masking--flying low amid mountains, valleys, and tree lines to avoid detection--is key to your success. Simplified controls make this bird a breeze to fly, lending the game a slight arcade-style feel, which might put off hardcore flight sim enthusiasts. Otherwise, it's fast, fun, and tremendously challenging.
Missions are divided among nine campaign groups. There are 12 environments, including arctic, desert, and jungle settings, each having unique characteristics. Individual missions also vary according to objectives, ordnance, enemy types, friendly support, and overall difficulty. Enemy intelligence ranges from surprisingly weak (Operations Overload and Silver Dome) to wickedly tenacious (Operations Terminal Velocity and Over the Edge).
Graphics are often stunning, utilizing NovaLogic's Voxel Space technology, which generates photorealistic fractal imagery on the fly. Many closeup renderings are a bit chunky because of the low 320 x 200 VGA resolution. But the graphics speed, rich color palettes, and 3-D effects are mesmerizing, drawing you into the overall experience. The CD-ROM version also offers digital stereo sound and expressive full-speech capabilities for all on-board systems and pilot communications. What enhancements are missing from the CD-ROM? How about an on-board mission recorder or, considering the game's speedy graphics engine, a head-to-head modem option?
System requirements are high, but not unusually so: Although a 386SX is the minimum configuration, the game plays best on a midrange 486DX or Pentium-based computer. The CD performs extremely well in a single-speed CD-ROM drive, even without software caching. In fact, because it runs in the computer's 32-bit native mode, most users will have to create a barebones boot disk or DOS 6 configuration, sans expanded memory managers and extraneous device drivers.
Comanche CD can't begin to compete with other high-end flight simulations in terms of depth of gameplay or strategic diversity. However, for cinematic graphics and pulse-pounding action, this value-packed CD edition will keep you glued to the edge of your seat.
Distributed by Electronic Arts
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