Here's something that augured well for A-10 Cuba even before I clapped eyes on the thing... I turned up at the office in order to collect the beta version cd and it wasn't there. Guess where it was? Actually that's stupid, you'll never guess, so I'll tell you: Paul (News Ed) had it. Or rather he didn't have it, as it was still at his house. He'd liked it so much he'd taken it home and had forgotten to bring it back in.
Sorry, he said.
That's alright, I replied (carefully not bringing up the fact that I was about five days late coming in myself).
Anyway, so what's it like then? I asked.
The flight model's brilliant, he said, enthusiastically. You can really feel the weight of the plane.
He continued raving about it for a while and then mentioned that he'd been controlling it with the mouse.
Yes, the mouse.
Yes, the mouse, he said, yet again. Blimey. He's either really clever or a total nutter, I thought. I decided to have a crack at using the mouse myself the next day, if Paul remembered to bring the disc in.
(And if I remembered to turn up.)
The next day...
I remembered to turn up, and found that Paul had not only remembered to turn up himself, but also to bring the disc in. An excellent state of affairs! The disk was plunged straight into the drawer of the office P166, and, after an absolutely nightmarish installation session (the only whinge you'll find on these two pages), it was up and running. I plumped for the Cflying lesson' section of the missions, in which pretty much all you have to do is take off. And I was using the mouse. Oh, and the keyboard instructions were from the Mac version, because this was originally a Mac game (more of which later). Anyway, so I was thumping away at the keys, wibbling the mouse around all over the shop, and didn't even manage to make it to the runway - I had become lodged in the desert sands surrounding the airbase. Try again. This time I sort of crashed into a hangar - not violently enough to destroy the a-io, admittedly, but never forget that aeroplanes don't have a reverse gear, so I was buggered regardless. Try again. Oh dear. This time I managed to break off one of the wings and collapse the front wheel. (Still, it was pretty smart that you could break a wing off and collapse the front wheel, if you know what I mean). I zoomed the external view around and looked at the damage from different angles. I did that! I thought to myself, proudly.
Back seat admirer...
Wow, cool, said a voice from behind my chair. It was Jeremy (ie. the Ed). Yeah, look, I replied, showing him the busted wing and wheel from yet a different angle. Yes. I saw. Erm, so you haven't -ha ha - actually taken off yet then?
No, I admitted. But it's bloody good fun just taxiing and crashing into things. The suspension works! I know, said Jeremy. It's smart. And I like the fact that everything's so clear, and moves so well.
He then entered into a discourse about how texture-mapping was all good and well, but not at the expense of clarity and fluidity. And, of course, he was correct. All right-thinking people should have this view. I hope you do too. You see A-10 Cuba is Cold-fashioned' in the sense that it's full of non-textured polygons - but it looks fab regardless, because there's truckloads of sharply defined detail. You can see other planes a squillion miles away, when they're simply pixels, whereas in a texturemapped sky such things can easily Cdisappear'. And because the game engine isn't struggling with rotatey bitmaps and the like, there's plenty of room for supplementary detail: other planes trundling about on the runways, that type of thing.
Anyhow, Jeremy watched my next attempted take off, and, at about the moment my a-io entered the lake, he handed me a Cpresent'. It was a joystick. I took the hint.
Up, up and away...
Finally I was able to discover that what Paul had said was true: the flight model was great, and you really could feel the weight. Scuppered slightly by the Mac keyboard instructions, however (there are a zillion keypresses available, this is a complicated game), I left the weapons launching stuff and went instead for the Cjust pissing about in a plane' approach. And yes!! All my experiments worked. It was possible to do a wheels up landing, just as long as you teased the plane down at a fraction over stalling speed. Many other experiments worked too. This led me back to the fact that this was originally a Mac game, from the same team who coded a Hornet doofer, and a WWII game I forget the name of. These three Mac flight sims are quite different to the majority of their pc counterparts insofar as they seem to be designed from the ground up rather than the sky down. By this I mean it's as if their zero altitude stuff is worked out first (skids, bounces, low-speed collisions etc), whereas on the pc side these things often feel like under-implemented after-k thoughts, once the avionics have been ' put to bed... a few notable exceptions aside. Whoops, sorry. I'm getting poncey. Ahem. Erm, anyroad, let's just finish up with the fact that A-10 Cuba looks to be instantly accessible, but mightily complex in the long haul -and that if I had to pigeon-hole it. I'd probably stick it in the same camp as SU-27 Flanker.
But then again this isn't a review - it's a preview - so I don't have to come to any conclusions at all, or mention that the playing areas are a tad on the smallish side. And besides, you'll be able to check it all out yourself next ish, seeing as how there's going to be a fully playable demo on the coverdisk. Jesus, we treat you so well it's almost as if you're our bird! Kissy kissy! (Stop it! - Ed.)
Download A-10 Cuba!
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The good news is, if the aliens ever really attack like they did in Independence Day, there will be a whole bunch of computer gamers with the requisite flying skills to pilot the mothership-destroying F-16s. The bad news is, they will have these skills only because they have been forced to acquire them to get any enjoyment out of the ever-more-realistic flight combat sims on the market today.
Now maybe you're the type who really honest-to-God wants to know what it's like to fly an A-10 Warthog and don't want to bother with joining the Air Force, going through all the haircuts, funny hazing pranks, etc. If so, go to your nearest computer software retailer posthaste and pick up a copy of A-10 Cuba! — you will not be disappointed.
If, on the other hand, you're like me and you don't want to repeatedly get killed because you forget to put your flaps up, or because you didn't quite make a four-point landing, even though you managed to kill 4 enemy planes, then you'll find A-10 Cuba! a lot on the technical side. Remember: it is billed as an "ultra-realistic flight simulation."
Speaking of technical, the biggest hurdle to getting the hang of A-10 was just getting it installed. It seems that several thousand copies of this game went out with incorrect CD keys printed on the label (why use a CD key for a $29.99 game in the first place, Activision?) ... if you are foolhardy enough to install the game with said incorrect CD key, you get to learn a lot more about the Windows 95 registry than you ever wanted to en route to getting your computer to accept a correct CD key. Fortunately, Activision has now released a patch (196 KB) that fixes most of the installation headaches.
486 DX2-66 or better, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive, 40 MB hard disk space, 256 color SVGA video card with 1 MB RAM, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible, mouse. Joystick or flight yoke highly recommended
At this point you're probably thinking that I hated this game—in fact, I didn't hate it; it just wasn't my cup of tea. I think that with a few hundred hours of flight practice, I might like it quite a bit. I'm not sure it's a game per se, or should be sold as such, but it's a strong entry into the flight combat sim market and carries a very friendly price. The graphics are pretty sparse (compared to the likes of SU-27 Flanker or the Jane's Combat line), but this is necessary to insure that a wide range of processors and video cards can keep flight smooth and battles engaging. There is a good range of missions available, and most are quite challenging.
On the usability side, I think there is much in this sim that should be set to toggle on or off at the user's discretion (I refer to the no less than 83 keyboard commands one must remember in-flight to stay aloft and in one piece), but even without such features, it's a good sim for the price. So my recommendation on this one runs like this: make sure you really want to learn how to fly if you're going to buy this one. If you want to be an armchair Top Gun, this isn't the package for you. If you're in doubt and have some free time on your hands, grab the almost 8 MB demo and see for yourself.