|a game by||Illusion Softworks|
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High-speed Internet accounts might not have hit these shores yet, but they are imminent. And when they do you can expect a new-found enthusiasm for multiplayer shooters such as Unreal Tournament and Quake III as well as a whole raft of new games that turn the basic 'arena and guns' formula into something completely different. Rather like Flying Heroes where you can forget about rocket jumping and concentrate on blasting other magnificent people and their flying machines out of the sky.
High on plot, it's not, but Flying Heroes is decidedly different. For a start you can choose between four separate clans, each complete with their own craft. The Sky Knights - like the late, lamented Rod Hull - put their faith in gigantic birds, whereas the Lizard Raiders... well you can have a wild guess what they ride on. On the other hand, the Magion clan use the powers of magic to keep strange washing-machine-with- wings-type contraptions afloat and the Hammercraft construct huge airships, balloons and contraptions that look like they'd be more at home in the ocean than the air with legions of slaves pulling away in the basement.
The battles take place in huge arenas based in different settings, from the magical floating islands of Ulanor to the sand temple in the desert of Jatar or the pyramids of Deborea. Don't let these nonsensical names put you off, though. There is a fantasy bent to the game and there are magic spells, but the emphasis is on reactions, speed and cunning and plenty of blasting to boot with weapons such as the axe-thrower, dan machine and crossbow.
If it's all starting to sound like the sort of game that you'd dream up after getting back from a club on Sunday morning, you're not far off. And if you think it's all a bit too surreal then you want to check out the ambient soundtrack and the stunning 3D graphics courtesy of the proprietary PFTRO engine. It's as if you've taken a couple of weird pills, stayed up for three nights without sleep and then switched the PC on. But don't go thinking that's a bad thing.
And don't go thinking Flying Heroes is going to be too complex either. Although you're flying around huge arenas, the controls are as far removed from your average flight simulator as you could imagine. Basically you can strafe left to right, as you would in Quake, as well as up and down, to enable you to dodge anything that's incoming. You can also point yourself in the desired direction and use your normal thrust to take you where you want to go. Primary and secondary attacks, zoom buttons and targeting are the only other things you need to get your head around, and after a few minutes with the tutorial you'll be whizzing about like a seasoned pro, collecting bounties and upgrading your craft in a bid to get to the coveted number one spot. It's not just multiplayer action either. Illusion Softworks knows that the whole world hasn't bought into the Internet community yet and if you're not planning on getting hooked up to ISDN, ADSL, or any of the other cosdy online acronyms, you can play alone in Career mode. This sports a plot (of sorts - don't expect too much), league progression and even a smattering of resource management and sub-quests.
Flying Heroes is already looking impressive, and, although the gameplay is still being tweaked, the code we've played is addictive enough to suggest Illusion Softworks has found another niche to exploit.
If it can get half as much originality coded in as Hidden & Dangerous (still one of our favourite games today) and avoid the bugs that plagued its first release, then it could well be onto a winner.
The fantasy settings, totally surreal craft and ambient music all help to play their pan and, if you're a fan of Michael Moorcock and have always dreamt of taking to the skies in your own blimp and raining destruction down on your enemies, there's no other game that comes close. We'll be keeping a very close eye on this in the near future and we'd suggest you do the same.
Download Flying Heroes
Since developers discovered that all gamers want to do is kill people they've never met, multiplayer games have been shooting out of their creative orifices thick and fast. Flying Heroes is no exception, a flying fantasy first-person shooter on the PC. Anybody who's played any other recent FPS will have no trouble picking this up. Unlike Descent, it's impossible to spin your craft through 360 degrees -only being able to hover up and down - which means less cause for confusion and less time trying to gain your bearings. And now for the bad news...
Straddling A Goose
It's best to concentrate on the single-player mode as this is what really lets the game down. You're presented with a career mode in which you compete in a set number of matches in different leagues, winning cash for frags so you can purchase and upgrade ships and weapons until you're daddy of the airways. There are four participating teams, which I could go into detail about but, apart from the Magions, they're not particularly interesting. The Magions, obviously having a sense of humour, like to fly around in giant barrels, teapots, prams or any other offbeat modes of air transport. Just for the record, the others have gone for slightly different variations of giant birds, flying lizards or airships. Each team has a different style of flight, but not so much that they can't be controlled in a similar way.
All would be fine, if it were not for the fact that in this fast-paced gaming genre your initial choice of vehicles is agonisingly slow. There's always the option to boost your speed using a gradually replenishing supply of magic, but it would've made much more sense to be able to move at that speed in the first place. But it does get better later. With the exception of the airships, the latter vessels zip along at a fair pace. Although playing in career mode it is going to take a long time to get that far and you are not likely to enjoy the pace beforehand. Speed issues aside, you can't avoid the fact that the weapons are some of the most disappointing to grace the PC in quite a while. None of the weapons seem to stand out as being particularly striking. Most are weak, lacking any real feeling of power and variably having cripplingly long reload' times.
Despite all Its weaknesses, the game would be OK If It wasn't so unnecessarily complicated and difficult.
Even playing on the easier level involves the strong possibility of being shot down with great frequency.
Herein lies the problem: if you can't get enough frags to earn cash, you can't buy any upgrades and thus can't win any of the later, harder matches. And since you can't go back to earlier matches in a season, you're stuck until the end before you can start again. You do, however, get to start with all the cash and upgrades you accumulated before. It could be said that perseverance is the name of the game. But it's not, it's Flying Heroes and having to play through a league again is demoralising enough to make you give up before you can reach the better stuff.
Because you can start off with a fully upgraded ship, multiplayer is comparatively more enjoyable, but still feels uninspired when placed against its rivals. Quake III and Unreal Tournament et al have nothing to fear. Flying Heroes did show promise at first, but poor weapons and speed problems see it plummeting from the skies of fondness faster than a dead hippo in a hot air balloon.
Oh come on. As if. What do they take us for? Cuh. The creators of Flying Heroes have the outright cheek to expect us to believe in a faraway fantasy world called Hesperie, where the favoured sport isn't football or snooker or drinking or hurling shoes into the faces of little children but dogfighting. And that's not dogfighting as in 'two rottweilers in a pit, chewing each other's faces off while a crowd of baying cockneys excitedly punch the air and each other', but as in 'two pilots flying about in the sky and trying to kill one another, you know, like Top Gun and all that'.
Well, actually forget about Top Gun because we mentioned this was happening within a fantasy world, yeah? And in the realm of fantasy, a common or garden fighter jet looks as stupid and out of place as a mechanical hen in a costume drama. Therefore, Flying Heroes is stuffed to the brim with bizarre airships, giant lizards and dragons, massive birds, and - silliest of all - people using magic to fly through the air like Superman. Like, s'yeah, right.
We're being picky, of course. To be honest, it sounds like quite a laugh - especially when you glance at the available 'fantasy arsenal'. Sod heat-seeking missiles, Flying Heroes provides dartguns, killer bees, and the wonderfully psychotic-sounding 'axe-hurler'. If you've ever wanted to re-enact scenes from Dastardly & Muttleyln Their Flying Machines, this could be your best chance.
The game enables up to six 'flying heroes' to go fantasy-dogfight bonkers in special flight arenas spanning ten different environments, none of which is remotely similar to Doncaster (that's a good thing, by the way). Think volcanoes and weird floating islands instead. Visually, it puts us here at ZONE in mind of a cross between Magic Carpet and Sega's Panzer Dragoon - but far crisper than either. A dull simulation this most certainly isn't: instead we're anticipating intuitive arcade-simple controls and high-speed 3D action.
But that's not all. No no no. Flying Heroes also incorporates a managerial mode, wherein you have to juggle resources to keep your team (er, you have to manage a whole team, if that's alright with you) afloat both financially and competitively. Win a bunch of contests, for example, and you could spend the loot you've earned on flash new weapons, or carry out much-needed repairs. Or just bag yourself a new 'ship': there are 24 different (and out-of-this-world) kinds of aircraft available, each of which can be upgraded up to four times.
So that's Flying Heroes in a nutshell - dogfighting, Jim, but not as we know it. We'll tell you more when we get our mitts on a review copy. Until then, look at the pictures and stop picking your nose.