Take the controls of Russia's latest attack helicopter
There’s a good reason why military pilots spend many years learning to fly and then even more time learning how to fight at the same time. Their aircraft are incredibly complicated, something admirably demonstrated by KA-50 Black Shark. It simulates Russia’s latest attack helicopter, which is a little unusual because it is a single-seat aircraft, so you will find yourself both flying and fighting at the same time.
This game offers quite a challenge even for experienced players of flight simulators because of the difference between helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Before the more casual gamers are put off, there is an instant action mode with a greatly simplified flight model and controls, and plenty of help both in the game and the thorough manuals (note the plural).
Game graphics were excellent even on our relatively old test notebook. Much of the helicopter’s time is spent at very low level and there are lots of trees and buildings that are varied enough to create a believable scenario. Other aircraft and vehicles are represented just as well.
The artificial intelligence is sufficiently impressive that enemy tanks on the ground can engage both another tank with their main guns and your helicopter with a machine gun. More information about the technical features of the game can be found at www.snipurl.com/e07qa.
The interior of the Black Shark is represented in outstanding detail: just about every button and switch can be pushed or pulled. In fact, there is so much detail that sometimes the player must lift the plastic guard over an important switch before using it.
This level of detail will either be a blessing or a curse depending on how serious you are about flight simulators and about learning to fly the Black Shark. We counted over 300 keyboard shortcuts and the start-up procedure is mad e up of over 35 separate steps. First the auxiliary power unit must be started, then all the avionics, the ejector seat system and then finally the two engines. Novices will appreciate the shortcut to do all this in one go, but it is satisfying to work through all the steps and get everything running.
Thankfully there is plenty of help available in the form of a comprehensive flight guide of 350 pages. Annoyingly the keyboard shortcuts are only listed in the panel description and not the flight procedures section.
The key command list was quite frustrating because the keyboard shortcuts are written the other way round to what were expecting – 'Ctrl-A' is written 'A + Ctrl'.
The game also distinguishes between left and right Ctrl and Alt keys, for further confusion, although none of this takes long to get used to. There is an option to print out a list of modified commands but we found it easier to learn the actual switches in the cockpit when starting up. The cockpit buttons start out in Russian but luckily there's an option to change them to English.
For players willing to put in the time the tutorial videos are very good, covering everything from starting up and shutting down to flight manoeuvres and combat. All the keyboard shortcuts are displayed onscreen (a little too briefly for us) and you can take control at any time. There are plenty of other realism settings covering the amount of fuel or weapons and even complete invulnerability so you can ease in gently.
There are single missions and a campaign mode. A logbook keeps track of flying time and successes, with separate records kept for each player. Multiplayer is also supported, either on a local network or over the internet.
Dedicated helicopter simulators are not common and Black Shark is an attractive one, even if you are not bothered about the combat element. Add in combat and there is enough here to keep the most enthusiastic simulator fan happy for a long time.
PEGI Age Rating: 16+
There is enough here to keep the most enthusiastic simulator fan happy for a long time
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