|a game by||NovaLogic|
|Editor Rating:||7/10, based on 2 reviews|
|User Rating:||9.0/10 - 2 votes|
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NovaLogic takes to the air for a third time with its latest attack chopper sim, Comanche 3. This Comanche is armed with the new Voxel Space 2 graphics engine that uses impressive texture-mapped 3D polygons and may deliver unparalleled visual realism.
You grab the stick for 30 real-time missions that send you into some very unfriendly skies where you go head-to-head against Russian Hind choppers, T-80 assault tanks, and even a moving train. A multiplayer option enables two to eight pilots to enlist, and you need only one copy of the game. With other promising flight sims like Viper and Falcon 4.0 crowding the PC tarmac this spring, it'll be interesting to see if Comanche 3 can really get off the ground.
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Comanche 3 is NovaLogic's latest installment in the helicopter flight sim arena. How does it compare to others like Jane's AH-64D Longbow or Interactive Magic's HIND and Apache? It blows them away as far as graphics, but falls pretty far behind as far as extended gameplay. Comanche 3 is based on the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche reconnaissance/attack helicopter. According to Boeing Sikorsky, "RAH-66 Comanche is part of the U.S. Army's 21st-century modernization plan." Its design allows the Comanche's radar return to be approximately 600 times smaller than that of the Apache. It is equipped with the very latest high-tech electronic surveillance and targeting systems, as well as the capability of arming a hefty amount of firepower including AGM-114 Hellfires, AIM-92 Stingers, Hydra 70 FFARS, and a 20mm cannon with 500 rounds of ammunition. Comanche 3, the game, will allow you to get a taste of what operating this 21st-century beast is like. You get a total of 32 campaign missions divided into four groups of eight, each in a different location and terrain, along with five training missions.
Considering NovaLogic spent time corresponding with the Boeing Sikorsky team and were actually able to visit the Comanche test site and take the 'copter for a ride, they did an excellent job capturing the feel of helicopter flight. No, I've never flown an actual helicopter, but based on the best helicopter sims out, Comanche 3 is definitely up to par. As in the other sims, you can fully adjust the level of realism from a beginner's level to full-blown expert. One thing I really like about Comanche 3 is the way in which you can adjust realism. Instead of picking the standard categories of easy, medium, or difficult like other sims, you are able to enable or disable every flight feature, such as fantail control and fully controlling the collective. The latter will help keep you from burning the engine out. Along with excellent control options, Comanche 3 has plenty to shoot at within its missions. You will never find yourself endlessly waiting for something to happen. The missions are all laid out well and offer more challenge than simple search and destroy. You will be required to take advantage of what helicopters were designed for if you want to survive, mainly using your environment to duck behind for protection as well as sneaking up on your enemies. The flight dynamics for Comanche 3 are excellent, and the missions are well designed; I only wish there were more. Thirty-seven may seem like quite a lot, but compared to sims like Jane's Longbow and Interactive Magic's HIND, which offer well over 100, it just doesn't cut it. Basically, when the campaign is over, so is the game. It would have been nice if NovaLogic included a random scenario generator or the like. There also is no arcade mode in which you can just fly and destroy everything in sight. Realism is great, but let's face it, so is arcade blasting action. Even HIND offers that.
One word: jaw-dropper. This is the first game NovaLogic has designed with their new, proprietary VoxelSpace 2 graphics engine, and I must say it is quite impressive. Just look at the screenshots. These are NOT cut screens. Structures are just as impressive as ground and sky textures. In one mission, I hovered over a house that was as detailed as the town buildings found in Diablo. Everything is in true 3D as well. The clouds in the sky are transparent and actually glide by realistically. Lens flare is well done and the transition between the cloud layer has to be seen to be believed. Your view also extends as far as the eye can see -- distance is not cut short. The downfall, though, is that the game is pretty demanding on your system.
I ran the game on a P90 with 40M of RAM and a Verite 4M graphics accelerator and it is barely acceptable at the highest resolution. Do know that even though I have a Verite board, it only acts like a standard 4 MB board for games not specifically designed to take advantage of it, so it doesn't accelerate just any game. With this in mind, I am extremely impressed with NovaLogic's VoxelSpace 2 technology, and I hope to see more. The reason I gave Comanche 3 a 90 is because of the graphics. It is definitely on the next level, and it definitely makes me want to make the processor and motherboard upgrade. One note: once you see it in its highest resolution, you will not want to turn down the graphics. It looks pretty damn ugly when you do. One thing you can do, which I thought was pretty neat, was play in letterbox mode. The graphics look just as good, and it runs just a tad smoother.
The audio for Comanche 3 is done in Dolby Surround Sound, so it is quite impressive. A mike was attached to a pilot flying the actual Comanche, so you get to hear what it actually sounds like in there. The Comanche 3 was designed to be relatively quiet for stealth operations, compared to other 'copters, and you can tell. There is plenty of in-flight chatter from teammates and the like. Explosions and weapon fire are all well done, but they did lack the impact and clarity found in HIND.
Comanche 3 supports up to 2 players via null modem serial cable, 2 players via a minimum 14.4K BPS modem, 8 players via IPX/ODI, and, depending on connection speed and internet play, via IPX to TCP/IP driver (KALI).
The documentation for Comanche 3 is excellent. It goes well beyond a simple description of the controls. Throughout the manual you will find useful tips and interesting tidbits on why things were designed as they were. You will find everything and more than you need to get going, including information on enemy craft and weapons.
Required: DOS, Windows 95 or later required. Fast Pentium for higher resolutions. VGA or better video, VESA required for hi-res. 16 MB RAM minimum. 2X CD-ROM drive. SoundBlaster sound card. Comanche 3 also supports Thrustmaster FCS and WCS, CH FlightSticks, Microsoft SideWinder, standard joysticks, throttles, and foot pedals. A couple of notes on the SideWinder 3D Pro: I found that the throttle was way too sensitive running the game in DOS and Win95. Also, Comanche 3 assigns set functions only for the buttons on the top of the stick. You can't reconfigure them in any way, and the buttons on the base of the 3D Pro completely go to waste.
Comanche 3 is an excellent addition to any flight sim fanatic's collection. Although you don't get as many missions as in the other sims, you do get the best graphics available and excellent gameplay. This game has to be seen to be believed. My only regret is that once I exhaust all the missions, there won't be anything but the graphics to bring me back to single player mode. But then again, considering there are so many games and oh so little time, 37 missions are plenty.