Game Review - by Randy Widell
Pro Pilot '99 is Sierra On-line's latest answer to Microsoft's Flight Simulator. Pro Pilot '99 features six incredibly well modeled aircraft with photorealistic, fully functional cockpits that offer extremely challenging flight adventures. Pro Pilot '99 steals Flight Simulator's long-standing motto: "…as real as it gets."
Where to start? Pro Pilot '99 has a database of over 4,300 airports from the United States and Europe, and built-in flight planner. One of the most incredible features included is the dynamic air traffic radio chatter. Unlike Flight Simulator 98, the player's plane is not the only one on the planet. After planning a flight, there is actual communication of the flight plan with ground control, waiting for departing/arriving planes, and communication with traffic centers during flight. It takes extensive programming and sound editing on the end user's part (believe me, I speak from experience) to design one flight with radio chatter in Flight Simulator 98. The cockpits in Pro Pilot are fully functional. Every switch and every gauge mean something, unlike the mostly dummy-filled panels found in Flight Simulator.
Pro Pilot '99 took full advantage of 3Dfx graphics acceleration. Unbelievably organic clouds, lens flares, brilliant landscapes, perfectly recreated airports and cities, and some of the best textures make Pro Pilot the most visually realistic flight simulator on the et. The graphics are truly awe-inspiring. One gripe, however, lens flares representing ground lights and strobe lights are rather intense. Taxi-lights and the like look like huge globes of light. Anyone who has flown in any type of airplane knows that aircraft and other related lights are not that intense.
Again, the sound effects are incredible. I just can not get over the dynamic radio chatter. That really sold the game for me. I have to be honest, though, the chatter is choppy. It is still really cool, though. Pro Pilot also features some incredible background sounds I have heard in a flight simulator. Looped sounds are seamless, and intensity shifts are very smooth.
Pro Pilot '99 is really a game for people who know what they are doing. Flight Simulator 98 holds the player's hand a bit throughout flight. Pro Pilot does come with a guide that does a very good job of covering just about everything there is to know about flight and navigation, but understanding public flight before playing helps a great deal. The aircraft flight models are very realistic, and playing requires concentration. One pitfall in the gameplay: Pro Pilot is very dependent on the CD. Even on a PII 400 with a 32x CD-ROM drive and 128 megs of RAM, the game skips due to Pro Pilot's frequent need to read the CD for textures and scenery.
I really enjoy playing this game. I do, however, have a few gripes that I feel I must address. I guess all of Pro Pilot's realism is a trade-off for expandability. I might not have been looking hard enough, but I have not scene scenery add-ons for Pro Pilot yet. I also own Flight Simulator 98, and, as of the writing of this review, I have 736 planes for it. The aircraft featured in Pro Pilot are complex, professionally made models of the actual planes with detailed moving parts and such. Not even the planes produced by Alpha Software for Flight Simulator can hold a stick to the modeling job done for Pro Pilot. It is rumored that Sierra will release add-on planes, which will be nice considering the fact that Sierra only included short range aircraft with the game, but Pro Pilot is not nearly as expandable as Flight Simulator. This is not a truly bad thing, but it is something to consider before buying Pro Pilot (ultra-realism vs. a pretty realistic library of planes). Pro Pilot is also lacking in navigational aids. Flight Simulator's database of fixes, VORs, NDBs, etc. is far more vast than Pro Pilot's - although a third-party program like Abacus's CoPilot is needed to access them efficiently. With such a vast database, a program like CoPilot can offer infinitely more flexibility in flight planning than Pro Pilot's flight planner can. All in all, Pro Pilot is a wonderfully realistic game for short flights, however I wouldn't recommend it to those masochists out there who like to fly international flights half-way around the globe - at least until some long range planes are added, then Pro Pilot will be just all sweet.