Game Review - by James Allen
With foreign threats realizing the fact that the US can bomb the crap out of anyone, war is on the decline. This leaves the armed forces with not much to do (besides testing missiles here in New Mexico), especially the US Coast Guard, the forgotten armed force. Most of what the Coast Guard does nowadays is, well, searching and rescuing. That then leads us to Search and Rescue 2, a game that tried to capture the tension and pressure of Coast Guard missions. Does Search and Rescue 2 land safely on the oil rig, or crash and burn in the tumultuous seas?
The primary focus of Search and Rescue 2 is piloting the USCG HH-65A Dolphin helicopter, the pride and joy of the Coast Guard. This is the only helicopter included, but that's just fine, since it takes a while to learn how to successfully fly just one of these things. There are two main modes of gaming, careers and single missions. Career modes is basically the same as a series of single missions, except that you are the same pilot throughout your career, and dying is bad for your career. There are a whole bunch of missions to choose from, including free flights to get a handle on how not to pilot the aircraft, and many scenarios to pick and choose. As we'll see, most are just variations on several themes, but it takes quite a while to play through all the missions. All of the variations in missions make Search and Rescue 2 quite a complete game.
The sound is OK. The sound of the helicopter blades slicing through the air, coupled with the whirl of the engines, is very realistic. The only other sounds are the communications between the members of your party. This does give a good feel for what's going on, and even though they are the same for every mission, this can be excused, as it sounds like real people are talking, rather than computer rendered voices. The sound only enhances the helicoptering experience.
There are two important elements to the gameplay: the flight model and the missions. The flight model is very realistic, and those prospective pilots without previous flight simulator experience will find it hard to fly at first. There are four aspects of flight under your control: cyclic, collective, pitch, and roll. Using a combination of each of these is paramount in flying correctly, and changing one control usually requires an alteration in the others. This realism proves that much practice must be made before attempting any missions. To alleviate some of the difficulty, a automatic hover button is included, which suspends your copter slightly above the ground. This makes landing in tight spaces a bit easier, and Search and Rescue 2's flight model a little more bearable.
All of the missions follow the real USCG procedures, and you must follow them to complete your objectives. The manual does a good job in describing the specific steps in concluding your assignments successfully. The rescuing procedures can be classified into seven categories: stretcher deployment, land and deliver, direct deployment, radio inspection, hoist pickup, hoist delivery, and free fall or sling deployment. All of the missions use one of these procedures, whether they require delivering personnel to an oilrig, medical emergencies on a boat, or delivering car crash victims to the hospital. Most of the rescuing is played against the clock, where the patient gradually deteriorates in health over time. This makes for a tense flight, where landing quickly is paramount. The missions, although are mostly similar, provide enough action to keep the gamer occupied.
The graphics are pretty standard for today's et. All of the fictitious coastal areas are rendered with towns, roads, oilrigs, and countless other objects. The environments you pilot in are very believable. The helicopter itself looks pleasant as well. The cockpit is rendered in 3D, and, although your co-pilot seems a little blocky, you can feel as thought you just might be in a real helicopter. The ground even kicks up dust and waves when you are close enough. The only problem with the graphics is the animations, or lack thereof, of the people themselves. Apparently, our world is covered in ice, as none of the people in the game move at all while conducting their duties. This is the only blemish in the otherwise very well done graphics.
Search and Rescue 2 is an accurate representation of Coast Guard operations. With an overly accurate flight model and tons of missions to complete, there are enough features to keep most people playing for quite a while. And at the low, low price, it is a recommended addition to any avid helicopter enthusiast.