AAFO.COM First Look Preview
 
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We talked earlier in this article about the computing power needed to run Xtreme Air Racing. This is a very graphically detailed simulation and is beautiful at the higher settings but this does come at a price.

We do not have the developers minimum system requirements at the time of writing, but we can offer our two test machine specs for an example.

Test System 1: Custom Build, Intel Based PC

  • CPU: Pentium III 650MHz
  • Video Card: 3DFX Voodoo 3 3500 TV
  • Sound: Creative Labs SB Live
  • Memory: 384 mb
  • CD ROM: 24x
  • Joystick: CH Products F-16 Combat Stick
  • Throttle: CH Products Pro-Throttle
  • Rudder: CH Products Pro-Pedals

As you can see, this system is not a slouch but it's also not by any means, a highly tuned, dedicated gaming system.

You can also see in the screen shots that were taken when the frame rate indicator was turned on, our test system has been more than adequate for satisfactory game play, even at the very high settings we have been running for these screen shots.

Our second test machine is a similarly configured (same sound card; Voodoo 3 3000 vid card; 256 mb memory) but running a PIII 450MHz CPU. Xtreme Air Racing is quite playable on this machine as well by reducing either the resolution or detail settings.

As with any simulation, if you throw in more graphic objects, you put more strain on the system to render and display these objects with an acceptable frame rate. Xtreme Air Racing can slow to a much less pleasing frame rate when you are surrounded by seven other airplanes in a full-on battle for the lead at the highest graphic detail settings. With our test system a slight "backing off" from the highest resolution setting allowed us to run all detail settings at high, with quite acceptable results.

Victory has gone at the never ending simulation quandary - details versus frame rate - with some standard solutions, as well as some fairly innovative ones…

One approach Victory has taken is to reduce the level of graphic detail of other airplanes when you are in competition. If viewed from your normal, in-cockpit position, your competition is not rendered in total hi-res. Since you don’t have time to really look closely at the other airplanes during the intense competition, this is a logical way to reduce CPU and graphic card load. If you switch to an outside view, the detail levels are increased. Even with this feature, I have not noticed markedly lower quality rendering of the airplanes flying close during competition.

We have attempted to aim this preview of Xtreme Air Racing at those who are active flight simulation users, as well as those of us who are not active, even those who have never flown a flight simulation at all.

If you fall into this latter group, Xtreme Air Racing offers a sort of unique feature. You don't even need to know how to fly to enjoy this sim. Nor do you even need to have a joystick hooked up to your desktop.

By starting a race in autopilot, you are free to watch the action from a multitude of locations around the race course, including every cockpit in the race!

There are pylon view stations that mimic the actual view that Press photographers enjoy at Reno. Also, by cycling through the various airplanes with the "P" key, you are placed within the pilot’s-eye view of each racer on the course. Or, you can go outside your racer and play "floating cameraman" (admittedly one of the exercises that helped cause my early motion sickness). Cycling the "P" key in this view mode will take you just outside of each and every airplane on the course.

At the conclusion of each race you are brought to a review screen showing fluids used, position on course, pylon cuts and much more useful information. You are then given the option of viewing a "movie" of the event…

Now here is an extremely fun and useful feature!

Go back and watch your moves from outside your airplane…or watch your competitors moves either inside our outside, or from any viewpoint on the course. You can study the racing action in detail over and over…see where you did good or did poorly, as well as your opponents' good or bad habits…

...it’s like watching the game tape. Learn your opponents moves…plan your strategy for the next time you meet up!

The remaining fluids information is also quite useful for tuning your racer. Going in "green" as a novice, you do not know the quantities you will ultimately use. This screen allows you to carry only enough fluids to finish the race and return to the runway…

...i.e., less weight = MORE SPEED!

We’re going to put a "wrap" on this early look at Xtreme Air Racing for now. Since receiving our alpha copy, there has been much more done within the latest build. Damages are turned on, landings have been implemented, additional graphics have been installed…

In short...the work in progress nears completion. There is much we did not touch on within the body of this portion of the article. For example, Reno Stead Airport is not the only race course available. There are several other "fantasy" courses available and all are quite challenging indeed (See screenshots accompanying this article for views of these courses).

We thank Victory Interactive for allowing us the privilege of sharing this first look at Xtreme Air Racing. This particular Flight Simulation has been a long time coming, however — from what we have seen in this first look — the wait has been well worth it.

(author's note, as of final edit of this review, Victory has begun pre-release ordering at thier website http://xtremeairracing.com )

Story and screen shots by: Wayne Sagar

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