My first computer game was EF 2000. Developed by Digital Image Design in 1995, EF 2000 modeled the high tech Eurofighter expected to arrive in the year 2000 (even real aircraft suffer delays, just like games). It was part of DID's legacy of excellent flight simulations that began with TFX (1993), a futuristic flight sim, and culminated with Total Air War (1998). EF 2000 drew me in and made me want to learn the various weapons, radar and navigational systems. When not in front of my PC, I lugged the small but thick manual to the exercise room, vacations, work, lunches, etc. Later, after purchasing other less accomplished combat flight sims, I realized that DID inyfdeed produced some of the very best.
Total Air War simulated the F-22 and possessed about everything that anyone ever wanted in a sim: good flight modeling, smart AI, a dynamic campaign, in-flight refueling, AWACS and graphics that rival even today's sims. TAW was the perfect combination of fun and realism, game and sim, and moved ever closer to the dream of a fully dynamic war simulator. Because of the success of past titles like TAW, expectations for Eurofighter Typhoon were high.
As DID's long line of award-winning military flight sims portended a promising future, the company began toying with the idea of developing a purely fun military game. While Wargasm would be a far cry from the realistic war simulator that fans had envisioned, the game did succeed as one of the first really entertaining 3D strategy titles. Predictably, hardcore simmers looked askance at the idea.
Eurofighter Typhoon is different from any of the company's previous titles. While many in the flight sim community would have been satisfied to outfit the Eurofighter in the TAW or Wargen engine, DID made it clear that the new Eurofighter release would not be a hardcore sim, but would focus on battle management, strategy and fun. It would inherit elements from grandfather EF 2000 and bastard stepchild Wargasm. Its lineage was split between the methodical simulation of its predecessors and the action-oriented 3D romp of Wargasm. So, like Mr. Spock, Eurofighter Typhoon is part Vulcan, part human. Aspects of flight sim, strategy, roleplaying and cinema comprise this creature. There is no instant action, mission builder or myriad of complex buttons to push. Its design seems more on the order of an interactive movie than a flight sim. Therefore, it may be a bit unfair to compare Eurofighter Typhoon to a typical sim.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Eurofighter Typhoon lets the player begin a new campaign in either peacetime or wartime. In a Cold War-like scenario but set in the near future, Russia and the West duke it out for control of Iceland. During each day of the campaign, news feeds appear in text and video form chronicling events as they unfold. The player chooses six pilots from a roster of ten to stop the inevitable Russian invasion of Iceland. Each pilot possesses his or her own unique personality, talents and survivability skills, which must be taken into account when determining the overall strategy. For example, choosing all combat air patrol pilots might be the best way to gain air superiority. Icons show what each pilot is doing: flying a Strike, CAP, Wild Weasel or other mission. Or perhaps a pilot is awaiting rescue or being reprimanded or even escaping from jail. Waiting up to ten minutes to fly a mission can task one's patience, but there is plenty of work to do once in the cockpit. Ducking behind mountains, dodging SAMS and having snowball fights with anti-aircraft units all contribute to the fun. The flight model felt good, the enemy AI made formidable opponents and the damage modeling was very well done.
The game models the Typhoon's advanced weapons such as the Alarm missile, the anti-radar missile that homes in on SAM sites. With many weapons, hitting targets often became a difficult chore as with the Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missiles. I soon learned that knocking out a mobile ground target always required exactly two Brimstones hits. Many of the aircraft's advanced features turned up missing in action such as radar modes, advanced autopilot modes and aspects of weapons guidance. Yet some were assumed to be present, but automated. For example, the player hears the electronic counter measures (chaff and flares) fire automatically instead of manually as in past DID sims. Also, the game designers may take a bit of license in assuming that tomorrow's cruise missiles will have evasive capabilities. However, what other game has even attempted to model cruise missiles?
Various incarnations of Head-To-Head, Team and Cooperative multiplay options are available. New are Touch and Go where players start in the air and touch the base to arm, and Typhoon Racer in which pilots race and shoot like an airborne Interstate 76. Internet play does not seem to be highly promoted. Perhaps Eurofighter Typhoon's greatest hope for longevity is in LAN play, especially if future missions are released.
The exterior of the Typhoon itself is the best-looking model I have seen in any flight game. Shiny reflections emanate from the canopy glass. Areas of damage on the Typhoon show charring and sometimes missing exterior parts. Inside the cockpit is a different story. I miss the clean look and interactivity of the TAW panels. The pilot can move around freely in any direction but there just doesn't seem to be much to do in there.
The cut scenes depict pilots with Quake-like character models but with a touch more realism. These scenes that show what each pilot is doing can be boring unless he is in flight. The nice thing is that the player can switch to another of the six pilots or to the Smartcam, a camera for viewing events around the battlefield in real time.
Can you name that sound? I was a little surprised to hear some of the exact sound effects from TAW such as the engine fly-by effect. But then again, they were and always will be excellent sounds -- sweet nostalgia. The radio chatter should convey real-time information to the player as well as draw him into the realism of battle. I found myself having to listen carefully to comprehend the muffled, quiet voices of other pilots.
Minimum: Pentium 266, Windows 95/98/2000/ME, 64 MB RAM, 350 MB hard drive space (250 MB for swap space), DirectX-compatible 3D graphics card with at least 8 MB onboard RAM, 16-bit DirectX-compatible sound card, 2X CD-ROM drive, keyboard, mouse
The rare quality of drawing the player into the campaign and making him want to keep fighting for turf (even if it's the cold snow of Iceland) is Eurofighter Typhoon's most outstanding quality. For this reason, most anyone is likely to enjoy this game with the exception of the most hardcore of sim enthusiasts. When I purchased EF 2000 back in 1995, I never would have imagined that I would be flying a Eurofighter sim in the year 2001 with fewer features. The game's lack of choices cannot help but elicit a bit of head-scratching even from the most optimistic of gamers. Indeed, emotions have run high regarding this release. To many, Eurofighter Typhoon has been hopelessly Wargasmed by the lure of potential sales to arcade-loving gamers. To others, it is a bold risk toward a new style of game that incorporates both strategy and fun. The real Typhoon flies somewhere between those two waypoints.