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Flight Unlimited II is the second game of the Flight Unlimited series of general aviation flight simulators created by Looking Glass Studios, acclaimed for their sophisticated physics and pioneering gameplay features. It was released in 1997. The game was preceded by Flight Unlimited and followed by Flight Unlimited III. A fourth, combat oriented game based on the ZOAR engine used in the third and second games, called Flight Combat: Thunder Over Europe, was in development when Looking Glass folded.
Unlike the first game, which was released in versions for Windows and DOS, it was developed for Windows 95 only. The simulation eschews the original game's focus on aerobatics, in favour of creating an immersive civilian flight environment. This is achieved by the photo-realistic 3D mesh terrain, real-time air traffic control communications and large depth of non-player-controlled air traffic, features unrivalled at the time of release. A series of flight lessons covers basic flight manoeuvres. Support for IFR flying and approach vectoring is included. Flight challenges provide "missions".
There are 6 flyable planes:
- Piper Arrow
- Beechcraft Baron
- De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane
- Fokker Dr.I triplane (provided by a patch)
- P-51D Mustang
- Trainer 172
All player controlled aircraft have callsigns ending with Lima Golf (LG), for Looking Glass.
There are also many other aircraft controlled by the computer, ranging from the flyable ones (except the Fokker), to larger corporate jets, passenger jets, military transports, and (off-duty) fighter craft. These aircraft fly on their own flightpaths around the map and can be the focus of view of the player (it is best that the player's own craft is not airborne during this!). They use lower detailed models than the player aircraft, without any moving parts (such as propellors or control surfaces). They cannot be damaged by collision with the player aircraft, and on occasion, may even fly through terrain. The player can be affected by jet-wash from large planes. Most of the larger commercial aircraft have several different skins representing differing companies, several of which parody real airlines.
Like the first game, between flying sessions most functions are accessed via an FBO screen representing the inside of a small building. In the second game, however, this interface is 2-dimensional, as opposed to the 3d rooms of the first game. There are two screens used depending on whether or not the current airport is a 'controlled' one.
The main cockpit interface is 2-dimensional, allowing mouse control of various systems, such as the radio stack, landing gear, OBS knob, external lights, and throttles. It is viewable in two forms, IFR (full instrumentation) and VFR. In the VFR view, only the top instruments are visible, and more of the view outside the windshield is visible, as though the pilot is sitting up slightly. There is also a 3D cockpit mode, but unlike the first game, this contains few moving elements. The control column(s), throttle and external control surfaces are the only moving elements. Notably, the instruments are not modelled in this mode, with the dashboard using flat textures. In addition, if parts have broken off the aircraft, they will still appear attached in this mode.
The damage system is more sophisticated than the previous game. Unlike the first game, the plane does not simply break into many pieces when it crashes or the airframe breaks under strain. Instead, when the plane structure breaks, it will break appropriately. However, it will only break into four pieces at maximum (front, tail and both wings). This game can also simulate engine and equipment failures. Using the flaps at high speeds can cause them to become stuck in their current position. The left and right wheels of the landing gear on the Baron, Mustang and Arrow can be crushed individually (or both at once) by landing too hard. The landing wheels on the other three planes cannot be damaged, but on these planes they are either non-retractable themselves, or part of a non-retractable structure.
The game is played in the region of the San Francisco Bay Area, with approximately 13,400 square nautical miles, or 46,000 square kilometers of area covered, with textures derived from black and white USGS aerial photographs taken in 1993, which were then colourised. Most landforms such as mountains, hills, valleys, and other changes in land height are modelled from geographical data on the region. Some other major flight simulators of the time, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, allowed the player to fly around the entire globe, or most of it. However, the amount of detail used for individual areas was but a scarce fraction of what Looking Glass achieved in re-creating San Francisco. The textures used approximate to 4 metres per pixel. According to the manual, it was the first game with terrain detailed enough to allow for Dead reckoning navigation. Some out-of-the-way areas use mirrored textures and terrain, but this was presumably for areas the aerial photographs did not cover.
Most of the buildings, such as houses, are nothing more than flat textures (for obvious performance and practicality reasons), but some special objects and landmarks, such as bridges, stadiums, etc. are modelled. Some "ordinary" buildings are modelled, but only those over ten stories (according to the back cover of the game box).
The game is reputedly one of if not the first to allow players to take off from and land on water with a seaplane. The Beaver can land almost anywhere there is water, but as could be imagined, some bodies of water are much too small for landing or taking off. There are three maritime airfields in the game, for seaplane use only. The AI controlled Beavers do not use the maritime airfields.
The game is reputedly the first to feature a fully functional air traffic control system, with the busiest airfields having some form of control tower, ground control and ATIS systems, each accessible via different radio frequencies. Various uncontrolled airfields may have only a UNICOM frequency shared with some other airfields. Private and maritime airfields have no radio at all. There are also three radar approach controllers, who can give vectors direct guidance, vectors ILS guidance (with the official patch installed), and airport status advisories. The player can also utilise VOR/DME systems for navigation.
Players can contact the radio facilities for a variety of services and information. They have to share these facilities, however, as the many computer aircraft also make use of the system. As such, players should not interrupt them while they are talking. The game also features Pilot Controlled Lighting. At certain uncontrolled airports, the player can dial in the appropriate frequency on their radio, and press a button to broadcast a series of clicks to activate or increase the runway and taxiway lighting intensity. AI controlled craft also make use of the system. Depending on installation choices, there are up to six different voices used by pilots; four male, two female. The player chooses one, the AI controlled planes use the rest. There are four separate voices, for UNICOM, tower, ground, and radar controllers respectively.
The game allows a fair amount of customisation. Players can set the plane starting point, time of day, rough wind speed, rough wind direction, cloud height, haze, fog and rain. However, the weather system is universal, and does not change over time. The same weather effects will be present throughout the map, throughout play, varying only by height above sea level. The third game in the series features localised, changing weather conditions. Players can set up complex flight plans to aid in navigation, though these are purely optional. There is no lighting map for the terrain so flying at night is most realistic away from cities.
The game has pre-scripted missions, often with individual settings and events. These vary greatly, from challenges involving maneuvering and navigation, to sudden system failures, to night missions, strong weather, or a combination. Details of some missions make humorous references to various games or movies, using parodical names, such as Boston Flowers (Austin Powers), or Mox Fulder (Fox Mulder). Several more missions are added by a patch.
Unlike the first game, this game does not have a recording feature. However, it would appear that, due to the presence of certain non-selectable elements in the FBO interfaces that this feature, as well as the opportunity to fly in other locations, were in consideration at some point. These would probably have become available at a later date, most likely via an expansion CD. The third and final game in the series, which is set in Seattle, does have a recording and playback facility, and can import the terrain data from the second game, with lower-detailed west coast bridging areas in between. Due to palette differences it is not possible to have both photo-real regions loaded at the same time.
Compatibility with modern systems
Like most Looking Glass games, this game was designed for Windows 95. It will work in newer versions. However, when installing under Windows NT, Windows 2000, XP, and possibly 2003, the installation program may refuse to install the game. In these cases the installation must be forced by executing the installer with the command line parameter '-lgntforce' (as in looking glass nt force), without quotes. Also, some 3d accelerator cards, most notably some Intel cards, cannot render the fog or haze effects, which impacts the game visuals.
- Flight Unlimited II downloads on 3D Gamers (Provides the final version patches, and updates containing new missions and the Fokker triplane.)
- Flight Unlimited II at MobyGames