Sabre Ace, Virgin Interactive, Irvine, Calif., $49.95.
Sabre Ace takes a welcome jaunt into the seldom highlighted era of the Korean War. It brings with it a mix of contrasts, including the interesting coexistence of jets and propellers as pilots and aircraft makers struggled to cross the threshold into the jet age. The CD-ROM’s remaining contrasts, however, are more disappointing.
At first glance, there is much to like in Sabre Ace. A simple interface and nice artwork make navigating different sections of the game easy. Training missions, multiple-player support, a single-player campaign that progressively graduates players to better aircraft, good sound effects and radio chatter, excellent 3-D graphics and terrain visuals help to bring the game to life. Other features are innovative situational awareness aids, like an aircraft locator that unobtrusively helps to tell you the general heading of a craft, or the formation augmentation device that keeps your craft in formation.
It is unclear who this product is intended for. Its lack of realism may be designed to appeal to inexperienced users, but some omissions in realism actually make the game harder for rookies. Drag, for example, is not modeled properly, causing the aircraft to keep high speeds in high G turns. The poor drag model makes landing needlessly difficult, yet Sabre Ace forces players, novice or otherwise, to land successfully in order to receive credit for missions.
G effects, such as redouts and blackouts, are lacking, as are airframe integrity loss when exceeding maximum speed, control stiffening at high speeds and realistic damage models. Perhaps the greatest threat to the player’s survival is the lack of a good virtual cockpit and a crippling view system that shields major portions of the sky from view.
Sabre Ace is easy to learn and fun to play, with a nice campaign that follows the Korean air war on both sides in planes like the North American F-51 Mustang, Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, Yakovlev Yak-9 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15. As it stands, however, the Korean air war still needs an ace to represent it in the PC world.