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Flight Simulator X Flies on to Computer Screens

Flight Simulator X

Microsoft Game Studios recently unleashed “Flight Simulator X” for Windows, the latest iteration in its acclaimed flight simulation series. But does the new game live up to the high standards set forth by previous titles in the franchise? Is the new version simply a graphical update?

In actuality, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X is so realistic you might as well use it to teach yourself the basics of flying. Flight Simulator X has a little bit of everything for everyone, which simply means that the game is easily playable by any party interested in what it has to offer.

The new version builds upon the success of its predecessors by reproducing near-perfect real-world flight situations that are so deep and immersive that it’s actually hard to categorize it as a video game. The franchise has morphed into a sophisticated training tool for pilots and enthusiasts.

Flight Simulator X is available in two editions: Standard ($59.99 CDN) and Deluxe ($79.99 CDN). The main difference between the two is the amount of content available. The standard edition ships with 18 aircrafts, 40 high-detail airports, 28 highly detailed cities and 30 plus missions, while the deluxe edition ships with 24 aircrafts, 45 high-detail airports, 38 highly details cities and 50 plus missions. But no matter which edition you choose, Flight Simulator X will feature more than 24,000 airports, which allows gamers to venture into their hometown or visit their favourite locals. Flight fanatics should definitely consider purchasing the deluxe edition as they will get the most out of their money.

Traditional gamers will enjoy the inclusion of mission-based gameplay. These new scenarios give users the ability to take part in a series of action-orientated missions that have specific goals which must be achieved before its completion. These missions will clearly satisfy gamers who would get bored of the traditional sim offering.

This tenth edition features a massive graphical engine upgrade. Flight Simulator X compliments its visual enhancements with real-word situations like weather effect, day cycles and seasonal changes. The game also bolsters visually explicit environments that showcase an extremely detailed bird’s-eye view of the surface. Gamers will be able to enjoy an aerial view of the simulated life depicted by Flight Simulator X, which includes (among other things) traffic, farmland and livestock. A truly engulfing experience.

Flight Simulator X also features online capabilities where gamers have the opportunity to either be an air-traffic controller, a pilot or co-pilot. The degree of interactivity between users is entertaining and unique. Gamers will need to work together in various instances to complete tasks. They will be able to chat in real-time with their online cohorts either through a headset or by typing using a traditional keyboard. These new online capabilities are definitely a welcomed feature that help expand Flight Simulator X’s gameplay experience.

Control wise, the game offers various control schemes. The obvious is the keyboard/mouse scenario which can be overwhelming for a new user thanks to all of the various key commands. Luckily, Microsoft included a physical keyboard map with all copies of the game. The game also includes support for an Xbox 360 controller, just plug-in your wired controller and you’re ready to go. The Xbox 360 option still requires the use of the keyboard for some particular tasks. For an even more realistic experience, a Logitech Wingman-type controller is the preferred control scheme. There is nothing more satisfying than using a simulated throttle-type controller for completing precise flying maneuvers.

The PC requirements for Flight Simulator X is a machine with 1 GHz equivalent or higher processor with a minimum of 256MB of RAM combined with a 32MB DirectX 9 compatible video card. But the game actually requires a lot more juice to be able to run this in all of its graphical glory. A computer purchased within the last six months should be able to decently handle everything this game has to offer. Even at lower detail, the game is still highly enjoyable.

Flight enthusiasts and sim junkies should definitely consider picking up a copy of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. The game has so much to offer when it comes to realism that it becomes the perfect training tool. But be warned, this is a hardcore simulation that might easily overwhelm a traditional gamer. Luckily, Microsoft offers a trial version of the game at http://www.microsoft.com/games/pc/flightsimulatorx.aspx, which gives gamers an accurate rendition of what to expect from it. Overall, Microsoft Flight Simulator X gets the four out of five star treatment.

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Emergence Day Arrives! Gears of War Review

Gears of War

The buildup surrounding the launch of Epic Games’ “Gears of War” for the Xbox 360 had many wondering whether or not the game would live up to its hype. And to add to the brouhaha, Epic Games and publisher Microsoft Game Studios decided to officially launch “Gears” on Nov. 12 with a daring launch event entitled “Emergence Day ’06”. In the end, the big question remained, was this new franchise really deserving all of this attention?

In Gears of War, gamers take on the role of disgraced military strongman Marcus Fenix. Fenix, a former war hero, embarks on a mission to rid the war-torn planet of Sera from the clutches of the dreaded Locust Horde who’ve crept up from beneath the surface to terrorize mankind. The game kicks off with Fenix’s rescue from imprisonment by friend Dominic Santiago. Fenix and Santiago then join forces to make their way out of the prison complex and soon start fending off an intense Locust attack.

Be warned, Gears of War is not your typical shooter. Epic decided to use a third-person perspective instead of the traditional first-person view that has been used in many titles in the last few years. Gears also takes elements from tactical shooters such as Rainbow Six, which encourages the gamer to cover and wait for the perfect opportunity before launching an onslaught. Gamers who dash into action end up rushing to their deaths. Scenarios sometimes require several attempts before you realize what the correct checkpoint completion procedure is. This trial and error style of gameplay is interesting as you’ll be challenging yourself by trying to figure out the correct course of action in order to complete the scene.

Gears of War is the first game to hit store shelves that uses Epic’s latest Unreal Engine (version 3.0). As soon as the game boots up, gamers will immediately be treated with the engine’s unique attributes that easily makes it the best looking next-gen title thus far. It will be interesting to see what developers using the engine will come up with.

As noted in the previous paragraph, the visuals in Gears of War are outstanding. Characters animate smoothly and realistically. The environmental effects are gorgeous and will literally have your jaw drop in amazement when you end up witnessing what the game has to offer. The great thing about Gears is that it utilizes a distinctive cinematic feel that immerses gamers in an engaging story through a dark and creepy war-torn world. It could be awhile before gamers get to experience a game with this much graphical depth.

Multiplayer is also a strong component of the game. Gamers can complete the story campaign with a friend thanks to Gears’ solid cooperative gameplay, which requires teammates to work hand-in-hand to assure survival. But the best multiplayer experience is reserved for Xbox Live subscribers as the game offers three modes of gameplay (Warzone, Assassination and Execution) in addition to co-op mode. The real fun lies behind Execution as gamers are required to literally execute a downed opponent. Execution is basically a two-step procedure, bring down your enemy and then go up close and pound the final nail in their coffin (by either curb stomp, chainsaw or torque bow).

Gears of War is available at retail in two formats, the Standard Edition ($69.99CDN) and the Limited Collector’s Edition ($79.99CDN). The Collector’s Edition comes bundled with an additional DVD showing behind the scenes footage of the making of the game and includes the MTV special “Gears of War: The Race to E3” along with the “Destroyed Beauty” hardcover art book.

Gears of War is definitely game of the year (GOTY) material, and it will be interesting to see if Gears can topple such heavy weights as “Final Fantasy XII” and “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” and take the GOTY crown. But in the meantime, it’s safe to say Gears of War deserves a near-perfect score, and that gamers should find a way to experience this game. Finally a game that managed to live-up to its hype. Welcome to next-gen gaming!

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