Saturday, December 13, 2008
I want my... never mind...
Black Shark is out... and it's about frickin time. I've been waiting... no, itching actually, for this sim to be released for well over a year now. I told myself I wouldn't get it if it was released before my L-39 was done. Yeah... that idea lasted about 45 seconds when put to the test. ;)
Was it worth the wait? Definitely!
Only installed it just this morning and have been flying around for an hour or so, but I'm already very impressed. The performance is pretty good provided you don't go too bonkers with the settings. It's definitely better across the board fps wise than FSX, though it's a bit less consistent when the detail really piles on.
The flight model though... that is just a work of art. I've never flown a helo sim that feels so much like the real thing. People always say that flying a helo is like balancing on the head of a pin, or a million other such comparisons, that it's as unstable as a flying machine can get and you always have to fight to keep it upright. That's rubbish of course, helos are quite stable due to the gyroscopic effects imparted by large amounts of balanced metal whirling above your head and their very low centre of gravity. If you can compare them to anything simple at all then a quickly spinning top on a table is the closest match. They do get unstable when you abuse their controls though, and the Black Shark, having relatively low yaw stability, definitely makes you pay for it.
Retreating blade stall, ground effect, and the vortex ring from rapid descents are all modeled and the normal manoeuvres for getting out of them in the real world work perfectly in the sim. The vortex ring in particular causes a nice little vibration through the helo.
The trickiest bit I've found so far in getting a handle on flying it is managing the trim. It has an electromechanical cyclic trim that is very much like what you'll find in any modern helicopter: Put the cyclic where you want it, hit the trim button, and that's where it stays until you change it. It basically makes whatever cyclic deflection you had when it was trimmed, into its new centrepoint. It does take quite a bit of getting used to though after FSX's total lack of helo trim, and the patched in pitch trim of FSUIPC.
I have yet to blow anything up (besides myself) but I'll make a post when I do.
One other very impressive feature, besides the (500+ page!) manual, is that they've taken a different approach with licensing/copy protection. I am firmly of the mindset that when you pay money for something then you bloody well OWN IT, end of freaking story. I don't buy into this 'leasing' crap that most software companies seem to think is perfectly fine these days. Fifty (plus) dollars for a game is not a rental agreement, it's a purchase. It's always been this way, and I couldn't care less what the fine print in the EULA says for I will *always* view it this way. You rent movies, you lease cars, and you buy software. I understand the need to protect an enormous investment, particularly now of course, but this licensing garbage has always been way across the line for me.
Anyway, as you're all probably used to, when you install your game, and enter your license crap, everything's great until your machine crashes, or you upgrade, or need to reinstall windows or whatever, at which point you're basically screwed and have to go begging to the publisher for the right to use something that you already OWN.
So in a brilliant bit of foresight (what? people upgrade their computers!?) they've actually allowed you to get your activations back when you uninstall Black Shark. About bloody time! It's still wrong, but this makes it slightly less wrong at least, a small step back towards the realm of 'sane' copy protection.
I also highly recommend having a Track-ir for this, and if you do have one make sure you update your drivers for it (latest version Oct 8th) or you're going nowhere fast. The control setup is a little wonky to figure out at first, but it's customizable in the *extreme*, which I love.
Bottom line: Its Lomac roots are visible, but it's been given an absolute ton of polish and the user interface is brilliant as well. If you've been lamenting the lack of any decent helo sims on the market as much as I have, you really should buy this. Just be prepared to be thrown in at the deep end. There's an 'arcade' mode in the sim, but no self-respecting pilot would ever touch it of course... right? ;)
It's $50 US, a 2 GB download, and took about 6 hours to get.