When Cascade first played its Ace a good few months ago, it met with great critical approval and was generally hailed as one of the best flight simulations around. Now the Harrogate-based software company dealt its second ace. And once again they've turned up trumps.
But be warned, coping with Cascade's colour-codes security device could seriously damage your sanity and colour perception. These things are sent to try us, I suppose. Stick with it and you'll win through.
Now a second warning. Air Combat Emulator Two does not reveal all its secrets in a few minutes of sky-high action. You've got to log in a few hours of flying time to really enjoy it.
So what do you get? Ace 2 is head-to-head combat. Either you versus the computer or against a pal. The screen is split in half showing the views from the cockpit of both fighters, which are a different design. One jet is based on a carrier, the other at an inland airbase. In the one player mode you fly the carrier based jet.
There are two game scenarios. The first is a close range dogfight. Both jets, armed with aerial cannons and heat-seeking missiles, are placed at random on the map within a fairly short range of each other. It's then seek and destroy. Even with the computer on the lowest skill level - it ranges for one to 20 - I kept getting a nasty shock from behind. Those heat-seeking missiles are lethal!
The second gameplay involves a full scale aerial and ground attack and centres on a spyship positioned just off coast which is monitoring an inshore radar station. This unfriendly act is not well received and ends in some real jet-set action.
The layout of the cockpit instruments in each jet is different but you basically get the same controls. These include radar, compass, altitude and fuel and velocity dials, a messages screen and weapon selection.
You also have control over engine power and must return to base if your fuel and weapons are running low.
Now for the weapons. These are:
- Cannon - for use at a range of less than one mile
- Heat-seeking missiles - can be used at distances of up to eight miles
- Radar-guided missiles - these are for real long shots from up to 25 miles
- Air-ground/ship missiles - can be used at altitudes of under 2,000 feet and at speeds of less than 500 knots
Hitting the V key will bring up a map of the battlezone. Useful if you enemy seems to be staying away.
I quite like flight simulations - providing they are fairly easy to get into. Nothing annoys me more than having to read a flight manual which seems just as long as the real thing and then having to spend what seems like hours getting the right engine thrust, flap setting and rudder control correct before being able to take off. And even then I always end up raising the undercarriage before I've taken off!
Well, with Ace 2 there's none of this to worry about. The fiddly controls are kept to a bare minimum and when you hit the fire button the action starts.
Ace graphics and ace sound - from music man Rob Hubbard - ensure Ace 2 is a worthy successor to Ace.