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Eurofighter Typhoon: Hands On
by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Article Type: Preview
Article Date: Apr. 30, 2001

Version: "Release" (This is the version of the sim we used in this preview. Rage called it the "Release" version. We assume this means the same thing as Gold Master).

The 4th Generation

A couple of days ago I loaded up the fourth generation of Digital Image Designís long line of combat flight simulations. EF Typhoon has arrived!

I confess to being less excited about this one than I was about Total Air War (TAW). Partly I think this comes from having been in on the evolution of EF2000 as a beta tester for TAW. The scope of TAW was broad, and I really liked the design concept. At the time, I donít think anything else quite compared and I still fly it on occasion.

Combat Action in Typhoon

EF Typhoon hasnít grabbed me the same way, in spite of the increased power of the campaign engine.

It helps to remember that I was underwhelmed the first few times I flew EF2000. In spite of the impressive beauty of the simulation for those days (1995 or so), it took me some work to get into it. Once I did, I was hooked, and the Graphics Plus version was fantastic.

My experience in these few days with EF Typhoon is mixed. I had a crash problem immediately on loading, not only dropped to desktop, but instantly dropped out of WIN ME to reboot. Turning the sound off completely in the setup solved that issue, and so my testing at the moment is without sound (running Turtle Beach Santa Cruz for sound).

I have now flown one training flight and two missions in the campaign. The second mission is a Typhoon sub kill and then an intercept of the cruise missiles launched by the sub; I flew this mission three times to test wingman ability.

Mission Roster

Here are some initial impressions, with a batch of screen shots from the first missions.

First Impressions
The pilot interface doesnít appeal to me personally. The design is supposed to increase immersion, Iím sure, and give you the sense that you are really dealing with six real pilots. Your choice of pilots is a powerful influence on the way the campaign plays out, so the designers wanted to make sure we got the picture.

Pilots' Mess

But while the concept is sound, the interface itself doesnít really work for me. I just donít care for the implementation.

The pilot models are too unreal, the lighting too dim, the movements too robotic and repetitive. Granted, you arenít supposed to sit and stare at them for too long. Or are you? After all, these arenít cut scenes that flash on screen and then take you back to a planning interface of some kind. I find I am now quick to hit the ACCEL key to get on with the game. But then if this was the expectation why bother with the interface as is?

Sigh. No matter. Like the Bard said, the play is the thing.

As I flew the first training mission I found another unwanted feature. HELP menus constantly popped up to tell me which keys did what. Yikes! Thankfully, this is really intended for the novice and can be turned off in the setup. Itís really not a bad idea at all. Just turn it off quick.

Eurofighter in Typhoon

Ok. Weíre rolling now.

As most will be aware, the cockpit is non-functional, a sort of retro twist when most simulations have been increasing the functionality of cockpits. The designers have aimed EF Typhoon at the middle core crowd, and the choice of aircraft and interface is more game-like than their previous efforts in an attempt to attract a broader audience.

Fine, but how does this work for me?

Once the action starts I donít notice it much, so I think it works. I recall flying this way in TAW most of the time anyway. One complaint I have is that the MFDs look a little cartoonish, and donít quite match the overall feel of the sim. I found myself wishing for the MFD style used in TAW, where a transparent overlay of the DASS was visible rather than a non-transparent pop up MFD. Of course, the MFDs can be turned off completely, but thatís not a very good way to fly if you want to live.

No cockpit view with MFDs

Typhoon Cockpit with MFDs

Total Air War no cockpit with MFDs

Neither is there a way to bring up the MFDs full screen, as in TAW. And the cockpit has no wide field of view, you can only narrow it with the zoom key, not expand it by zooming out.

Hmm. So far I feel like Iím dwelling on what is missing, but these are initial impressions only. All I have heard online tells me that there is a great combat simulation in here. It probably doesnít help that I have no sound immersion.

Let me back up and tell you a little more about the impact of your choice of pilots on the campaign.

You have a choice of ten pilots initially, including two women. These pilots range in their skill specialty, their psychology, and even their physical condition. Some are team players, some are not. Some are exceedingly healthy, some are not. Some are good at air to air combat, some are good at strike missions or wild weasel missions.

Pilot Bios from Manual

If a pilot flys a strike mission, where the targets are clearly specified, and instead chases an incoming bandit, he risks facing military discipline. The nature of that discipline will depend on the state of the war at the time. The pilot may get only a reprimand, or he may be off the mission roster for a time. If a pilot hits a friendly or bangs up a good bird on landing, he is more likely to face severe disciplinary action, even extending to time in the brig. But with only six pilots at your disposal, you really canít afford to be short a pilot.

Similarly, landing at the wrong base with no good reason can get you in trouble, unless your plane is damaged. And if you eject over unfriendly territory . . . who knows what might happen? These factors will influence your choice of pilots, and also change the way the campaign plays out.

Wingmen and Comms

Typhoon Manual Comm Structure

The command structure looks similar to TAW. Iíve only had opportunity to use my wingman in the second combat mission I flew, which was to intercept and destroy a Typhoon submarine which had just been spotted off the coast and was expected to land commando teams as well as launch cruise missiles. I attacked the sub at the same time as missiles were launching, and ordered my wingman to engage air targets. He responded that he was nose hot and engaging, and one of the targets showing on my HUD then went locked (an X appeared in the box). But a moment later my wingman had switched back to Brimstone to engage the sub (my own shots had hit but not destroyed it).

I checked comms to see if I could check my wingmanís status, but there doesnít appear to be such an option. I couldnít tell if he would switch back to air-to-air targets after engaging the sub, but he didnít seem to. I locked an air target and ordered him to engage, and he responded that he was engaging, but this time no X appeared in the target box on my screen. This could be because he had already fired all his air to air missiles.

On Screen Menu

I flew this mission a second and third time, partly to test wingman response and partly because I came up too fast on a cruise missile and merged with it. My Typhoon didnít like that effect and disintegrated.

My second flight of the mission (itís a good idea to save a campaign after each mission in case you too merge with a missile) was interesting in its result. I ordered my wingman to card formation, and then to attack air targets. Again my wingmanís initial targeting of the cruise missile bomber showed on my HUD via the datalink. But on later targets this didnít happen, though he would respond and tell me he was engaging my target when ordered.

This time around I did note my wingman attacking the air targets via my passive detection system. But the news here is mixed. He appeared to fire off four missiles almost simultaneously. Since his loadout was identical to mine, this means he fired two ASRAAMs and two medium range Meteors, unless he was using Brimstone air to ground weapons (which arenít recommended for air targets). I noted that all his missiles missed their targets, not surprising since his firing solution was less than ideal.

Next: More on weapons and targeting systems.

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