Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002: Professional Edition
Windows - 2001
Description of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002: Professional Edition
In the harsh world of computer software where it sometimes seems that the average titles have a lifestyle as ephemeral as the mayfly, it makes a pleasant change to actually be eagerly awaiting the arrival of the ninth version, as Flight Simulator is back in its 2002 incarnation.
The only problem with a pedigree this long is that you have to keep coming up with ways of improving the product. Past options of adding a few new planes and some better graphics aren't going to cut it. This time round, Microsoft is mainly banking on three exciting new features: a new kind of aircraft in the shape of a floatplane (though pedants will point out that Flight Simulator 4 came with a floatplane); working air traffic control; and auto generated scenery, including other aircraft passing through the Flight Simulator 2002 skies. Will these be enough to keep Flight Simulator 2002 ahead of its major rivals, Fly! and X-Planes? In my opinion, it might just.
The first surprise came with the system requirements. If the figures were to be believed, this version of Flight Simulator didn't require much better specs than the last version - a first! Could it be true? Well, not really. The bare minimum 750MB is only for those who want to spend much of their time aloft waiting for their CD drive to flush the next bunch of landscape onto the screen. For the best performance, you have to say goodbye to over 2 GB of disk space. Blimey. Fortunately, the option to include or remove areas is available.
Incidentally, Flight Simulator 2002 once again comes in two varieties: standard and professional. This review covers the professional edition, which comes with four extra aircraft, some tools for editing scenery and the instructor's station that allows an instructor on one PC to monitor the progress and set up problems for a student on a second PC.
Pretty as a Picture
The graphics really are a notable improvement over the last version, and run admirably smoothly. It's hard to place, but they're crisper and more vibrant somehow. It's also a great achievement that I'm able to keep detail levels high and get better framerates than FS2000. The exterior view on the aircraft look better than ever and zooming in with the spot view reveals a wealth of detail. Control surfaces move, landing gears retract just like the real thing and, falling firmly into the "Why did they bother?" category, you can now even open the doors of the aircraft. I wonder how many hours of programming went into that?
The idea of the scenery generator is that it fills otherwise unpopulated areas of landscape with vegetation and buildings suitable for the part of the world you are flying in. A slider in the graphics detail window allows you to control just how much detail is created. This concept works very well and adds considerably to the splendour of the view out of the window. Overall, the graphics are perhaps the area where Flight Simulator 2002 makes its biggest advance over its predecessors and are a job well done.
Inside the cockpit, control panels haven't changed much from previous versions. Unlike other titles, Flight Simulator 2002 doesn't employ exact replicas of the real aircraft panels. This has the advantage that the panels remain readable and usable at lower resolutions (I found all the panels perfectly acceptable at even 640x480). On the other hand, it does mean that sometimes the switch or knob for a certain function isn't present on the panel (just how do you change the barometer setting on the 737's altimeter?) meaning that you have to fall back on a series of non-intuitive keystrokes... which you first have to dredge out of the documentation!
The virtual cockpits of Flight Simulator 98 have made a welcome return and the amount of detail included in them is quite astounding. Complete with working instruments and moving controls, the only pity is that, unlike sims such as Rowan's Battle of Britain, none of the switches and dials are "mouseable" in the virtual cockpit view. If they were, you really wouldn't ever want to leave it. Not all aircraft have virtual cockpits though; the Mooney, Lear, Camel, Schweizer and Cessna 182 RG are all lacking in this respect, though strangely the Cessna 182S does have one, as does the F4U, though it lacks the detail and moving controls of the others.
In the Hanger
I may be jaded having reviewed too many versions of Flight Simulator, but when I looked at the list of aircraft for the new version, my breathing refused to quicken and I steadfastly failed to slump to the floor in a faint, feebly muttering, "It's all too much!" under my breath. Much of the aircraft on offer had a familiar look from the previous version of Flight Simulator. And the version before that. And the version before that.
Still, there is new stuff here, including the Boeing 747, the Cessna 172 and the Cessna Caravan floatplane. Owners of the Professional Edition also get the Beechcraft Baron (or Raytheon I should say these days) and another version of the Caravan with wheels instead of floats.
Of the new arrivals, the stars for me were the Caravan, which offers the player the chance to try out an aircraft with STOL performance, and the Baron, which simply looks great and is very nice to fly besides. Of the other newbies, the 747 is, let's face it, just another almost indistinguishable Boeing bus and the Cessna 172, though very nicely done, is just too similar to the 182 to get excited about. I suppose those learning to fly in a 172 in real life will welcome the new arrival.
Fun thing to try: the floatplane manual says that even though the floatplane Caravan comes equipped with wheels, the floats are so tough that it's possible to touch down on dry land with the wheels retracted. Who could resist? So, when my Cessna finally came to rest at the end of a rather bumpy run, I noticed that the plane was still rocking gently. Strong winds maybe? Nope. It was rocking exactly as if it was sitting on a lake. Looks like some programmer forgot to check a flag at some point!
You will also find a Vought Corsair lurking in the options, pulled straight from Combat Flight Simulator 2. Kind of like the P51 that used to come with the Flight Unlimited series. It's weird the way similarities between Flight Simulator 2002 and Flight Unlimited keep cropping up. Did Microsoft hire a bunch of programmers when Looking Glass augered in? On a related note, the Bell 206 chopper is still around and upon trying it, the thing swooped all over the sky as I wildly over-controlled in my accustomed style. Nice to see some things don't change.
There's just one aircraft missing from FS2000's roster -- the Concorde -- and it's puzzling as to just why this would be. It was by far the most interesting aircraft to fly, so either Microsoft was put off by the crash in France last year or the flight model in Flight Simulator 2002 has changed somehow and the Concorde couldn't be easily made to work with it. I hope we'll see it back soon.
Anybody Out There?
Now we finally turn our attention to the last exciting new feature of Flight Simulator 2002: air traffic control. Yes, now you can have a nice man tell you which direction to point the plane's nose all the way from runway to runway if you desire. Once again this invites comparison with the late, lamented Flight Unlimited and by and large, Flight Simulator 2002 emerges with credit from this comparison. The ATC interface is well designed and as well as allowing the player to communicate, it also contains options for setting the radios to the correct frequency.
By and large, the options available to the player are pretty limited, with no opportunities to declare emergencies and be diverted to the nearest airfield, as you could with Flight Unlimited. On the other hand, the Flight Unlimited controller sometimes managed to steer you onto a course directly away from your intended destination, which the FS2002 has yet to do. It can sometimes be grating to the European ear to hear American accents coming from the speaker no matter which part of the world you happen to be in, but hey, it would have been a bit much expecting Microsoft to have recorded accents from all over the world.
It really adds flavour to the game to be able to fly from, say, London to Berlin under IFR and hear the chatter between other aircraft and the controller. As an added bonus, you can take a look at the other aircraft at the press of a key. Impressive stuff.
Another Rain Forest Saved
Flight Simulator used to arrive with a customary doorstep-shattering crash, but sadly, the FS2002 box floated down to the mat as softly as thistledown. In the same way you lament when a dried-out alcoholic goes back to the bottle, it gives me no pleasure to report that Microsoft has, after its fine efforts with FS2000, returned to the concept of the paperless product.
Well, not quite. FS2002 comes with a slim (but very well done) pamphlet that guides the new user through the process of setting up the sim. It also comes with a Frequently Asked Questions list, one of which is: "Where's my !$#@ing pilot's handbook?" (Expletive added.) The pamphlet smugly informs you that Flight Simulator 2002 comes with no less than 5 handbooks - all in PDF format. This is a whole other rant to get into, but suffice to say, you spend a whopping £70 on a game, you expect the manuals to come hand bound in the finest leather, not on a bit of plastic.
Sadly, the handbooks themselves, though full of interesting information and well presented, simply don't contain the kind of detail needed to answer your questions for a product as highly complex as this. Or if the detail is there, it's impossible to find. The good news is if you point your browser at the third-party run Flight Sim Veteran's Club, you'll probably find what you want.
There goes the engine
In case you were thinking otherwise, Flight Simulator 2002 isn't perfect. It bombed out on me once at the end of a long flight, an instructor appeared to bail out halfway through leaving me endlessly circling over Seattle and, although London is as exotic a location to me as Kathmandu, I believe the Millennium Dome has been relocated on the spot occupied by the London Eye in real life.
I'm a great believer in tradition, so let me repeat what I say every time I review Flight Simulator... it's misleading to call this title a game. It's a serious, detailed simulator where the rewards are to be found in trimming the Cessna to fly hands off or in making a perfect IFR approach in the middle of a thunderstorm. Those who simply want to pole around the skies will not experience a tenth of the depth Flight Simulator 2002 has to offer. Bear this in mind before going for a purchase.
Looked at objectively, little has changed between Flight Simulator 2000 and Flight Simulator 2002. Yet, the new features that are included prove enough to turn a tired looking product into something that deserves to be right at the top of the civil flight sim heap (small heap though it may be). Yes, I would have liked to see the detail the aircraft are modelled in increase to something at the level of Fly! or 767 Pilot in Command. Yes, I would have liked the flight models to match the best that X Planes can offer. And yes, the interface needs a revamp. But the combination of vastly improved graphics and working air traffic control have added a depth to Flight Simulator 2002 that it's been lacking in its last couple of incarnations and has certainly rekindled my interest in the title. Not enough has changed to let it take home all 5 stars, but the new features certainly make it worthy of one of our highest recommendations.
Those who already own Flight Simulator 2000 should certainly think about upgrading, though it's probably best to opt for the standard edition and spend the £20 saved on one of the numerous add-ons available for the Flight Simulator series.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
Comments and reviews
00123 2022-01-23 2 points
can't install. installation asks for at least 3 disks, only the first 2 are provided here.
DeathkidVR 2021-11-27 0 point
Vigorf.A is a tool for running apps without a valid license or genuine product key. It doesn't plague your PC.
IchLiebeKartoffeln 2021-11-09 0 point
!!! Yep, this download has a virus named Win32/Vigorf.A !!!
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