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Flight Unlimited is the first of the Flight Unlimited series of General aviation Flight Simulator games created by Looking Glass Studios. It focuses mainly on Aerobatics. It was released in 1995 for DOS and in 1996 for Windows 95 and Macintosh. Notable features are the pioneering physics system, landscapes and FBO interface. It was one of the first games to use 3D elevation mesh and photo-realistic images to create realistic terrain representing small areas of country in the USA and France. It supplies challenges in the form of aerobatic lessons and hoops courses, where it is required to fly through virtual "hoops" in the sky against the clock.
The physics system was innovative, as it was together with SSI's Su-27 Flanker, one of the first home computer flight simulation games to feature the idea of fluid dynamics. Instead of the control inputs directly affecting the plane, the controls affect the control surfaces on the plane, with the flow of air doing the rest. For example, in an older game, pushing forwards on the keyboard or joystick would directly make the plane pitch down (relative to its orientation), as though a 'magic hand' was rotating the plane. In Flight Unlimited, pushing forwards on the keyboard or joystick tilts the elevators, and the flow of air over the tail and elevators causes the planes orientation to change accordingly.
The game also simulates the gyroscopic flow of air over the plane caused by the propellers. Additionally, the game takes into consideration the changing 'angle of attack' of the propeller blades as they rotate, which causes the plane to list to one side very slightly. The rotation of the propellers causes the plane to rotate very slightly in the opposite direction of the rotation. Finally, the game simulates the weight in different parts of the aircraft, with the heavy engine in the nose causing the plane to pitch downwards, requiring correction in flight. The exception to these is the Sailplane glider, which has no engine. The manual goes into greater depth on the effects of the physics.
This more sophisticated physics system allows for realistic aerobatic manoeuvres that were just not possible with other flight simulators of the time. The game features an extensive lesson mode, covering everything from level flight and rudder turns, to the most complex manoeuvres, such as the Avalanche and Rolling Turns. A training instructor flying with the player during the lessons will offer helpful advice and point out where they are making mistakes. If the player scores high enough, they can get a certificate for each manoeuvre.
The game has a special keyboard control system that allows precise control over the plane, but a joystick allows much more precise control.
The game features 5 flyable aircraft:
Rather unusual (for the time) is the FBO interface. It allows the player to walk around a room in 3d and select objects to access functions in the game. For example, a whiteboard allows access to the lessons, while a world globe allows the player to go to other world locations.
The game has a demo recording facility very similar to that in the X-wing space combat simulator. Recordings can be saved and played forwards or backwards, at various degrees of speed. Camera views can be changed, as in normal flight, and at any time, the player can 'eject the tape', and play the game from the current point of the recording. The game comes with several recordings, some of which show a range of manoeuvres, while others show how 'not' to fly a plane.
There were two versions of the game released, for MS-DOS and Windows 95. The DOS version features a rather innovative easter egg in its credits screen: A 3d mini-game of sorts where the player can bounce a cube of coloured Jelly/Jello on a plate. The faces of the developers are on the sides of the cubes. Dropping one will result in a new cube with the next set of developer faces appearing. This mini-game is somewhat reminiscent of the early Nintendo GameCube technology demo Super Mario 128, shown at SpaceWorld 2001.
- Flight Unlimited downloads on 3D Gamers Provides the final version patch, demo version, and manual.
- 'Flight Unlimited' at MobyGames