Sunday, March 23, 2008


This makes the second flight-sim we've looked at here, and while GL-117 is bunches less realistic, it's also bunches more fun. It appears to be a few versions out of date, which is a bit odd considering that the last version released was released in '05, but even in this state it's completely playable.

There are four training missions that give you the hang of controlling the aircraft and blowing stuff up, but the meat of the game lies in its campaign mode. There doesn't appear to be any sort of 'story' per se, at five missions in; each mission is arbitrarily defined, and not related to any of the others.

GL-117 is an arcadey combat flight-sim; prior to each level, you pick your plane and your armament package, and then it plops you into the mission a few hundred feet above the ground. While taking off and landing are not the important bits of combat, the fact that you never take off and that it just cuts to the mission-select screen after you finish a mission certainly make the simulation a lot less immersive.

Where GL-117 really shines is in the controls - I've never played a flight-sim with mouse controls so intuitive and streamlined that they feel perfectly natural. I wasn't even tempted to pull out the joystick, which is a first for me as far as flight-sims go. Huzzah!

Graphically, it's got the Linux-3D look. You know how everything is sharp and well-defined, but doesn't look photo-realistic, it just looks 3D? If retail games are using oil-paints, your average open-source game is rocking crayons or colored pencils. This falls at the upper end of colored pencils, but it's certainly not as impressive as that game for the 360 I keep seeing ads for.

The machine-gun and explosion sounds are a bit too tinny and empty for my tastes, but the throttle sound is fun. The music is decent and oddly dancy, but it only plays in the title screen, so it doesn't really matter.

Flaws? The most glaring issue I had was that I couldn't create new pilots or delete a pilot or anything; this resulted in my playing through everything as 'Pilot AB', and only having one slot I could play with. Couldn't find any mention of the problem elsewhere, so I'm going to assume it was fixed in a release after the one installed via Ubuntu's packages, and that I would have had no problem if I'd compiled from source.

The campaign, as mentioned, doesn't have any sort of narrative to it, so you are going to play solely for the joy of the mechanics. Thankfully, the mechanics are well-conceived and well-implemented, so it's still fun, but it doesn't have the pull to push further that a connected series of campaign missions would have had.

It's greatest strength is probably its largest flaw to a lot of people: it's not an accurate simulation at all. It's a fun simulation, but you only have to know five buttons and that includes the three buttons on your mouse. What it offers the casual player in terms of instant fun and accessibility, render it useless and unsatisfying to the hardcore flight-sim player.

There stands the verdict: if you're looking for a light n' fluffy pastry of a combat flight-sim, GL-117 is exactly what you need. It's simple, fun, and fast-paced. If, on the other hand, a hearty meal full of minutiae and realism is all that will satisfy you, you'll have to look elsewhere.

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