Reviewed: January 26, 2000
Released: November 29, 1999
Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. Microsoft has had a glider in every release of Flight Simulator since I can remember so why not gather together every type of "light flight" aircraft and bundle them into a simulation. That's exactly what Wilco Publishing has gone and done and the results are surprisingly good.
Check out these features for Hangsim:
Hangsim delivers 6 flyable gliders; 2 different hang-gliders, 2 paragliders, 1 sailplane and 1 microlite to your desktop and lets you fly them over some of the most photo-realistic terrain ever seen in a flight simulator - yes it's even better than Flight Unlimited. The terrain is accurate down to ten feet per pixel and since you are expected to be flying at low altitudes they have made sure there is plenty of detailed scenery for you to enjoy. The satellite imagery is overlaid over a precise Digital Elevation Model for each of the seven flight areas recreating all of the bumps, cliffs, valleys, and mountains you would see in real life.
Weather effects are presented in a realistic fashion with multi-layered clouds moving in the direction of the wind and other effects such as Thermal Drift and Cloud Suck toggles available as difficulty options. For the rookie glider pilot you will definitely want to make the Thermals (rising air pockets) visible so you know where to steer your craft to gain more altitude. One you gain experience you will soon learn how to find them without seeing them.
You can choose your Time of Day which also affects your thermals and other atmospheric conditions, plus you have the ability to turn on Dynamic Scenery allowing you to add other aircraft (and even birds) and give them a "purpose". You can have these other craft follow you, circle around you, or even better, have them locate thermals so you can follow them to each one and maintain your altitude.
You can fly your chosen craft from inside the cockpit or from exterior views with real-time panning and zoom so you can take in all the breathtaking scenery. No matter which view you choose you have a fully configurable HUD that features; Compass, GPS, G-Meter, and many others.
The 30-page manual is excellent (actually one of the best I've seen in a long time) and gives you plenty of useful information on each of the aircraft, the instruments, and the basics of thermal flight dynamics. Hangsim offers several variations of game play including; Free Flight, Challenge, Competitions, and Fun Flights. Free Flight is exactly that; pick a glider and start flying in any of the available scenarios. Challenge mode offers you several objectives you must achieve to finish the "mission". Competition is similar to the Challenge mode but pits you against other computer opponents. This is where the lack of a multiplayer option rears its ugly head. Fun Flight is pretty awesome. Load up your glider with rockets and start shooting down enemy aircraft.
Nice little touches like a personal logbook and a Flight Analysis module lets you evaluate your flight performance and display the results in a graphic format. I was surprised (and rather disappointed) at how erratic my flying style was when I saw it in a line graph. It is a great tool to help you smooth out your controls of the plane. I spent several hours trying to turn my jaggy line graph into smooth arcs.
The game supports joystick, mouse and keyboard but there is no force feedback support. This would be a welcome addition in a future patch since the joystick just seems to flop around without any relevance to your current situation. I ended up flying with the mouse and found it just as easy to control although not as realistic.
Hangsim features some of the best physics and weather modeling I have ever seen in a flight simulator. Even with a good selection of aircraft and gorgeous scenery the game still runs out of power sooner that it should. Wilco seems very interested in user feedback and they even have a "Wish List" section on their website. Hopefully future patches will address the multiplayer issue and other minor flaws in the game.
Hangsim surprised me at how stable and virtually bug-free it was out of the box. The game installed easily and detected my 3D video card. The graphics use D3D acceleration and look excellent at 800x600 all they way up to 1280x1024. Frame rates were smooth as glass until I added about six other planes to the equation then things started to bog down a bit. Some of the major cities feature buildings, which actually spring up from the terrain when you drop to lower altitudes. Most of the time they look out-of-place like in the earlier versions of MS Flight Simulator.
Sound effects are excellent. You can hear the wind whipping past your ears or through the cockpit glass if you are in the glider. The buzzing of the props on the powered kites gets a bit annoying, and the frequent beeping of the Stall Indicator is even more annoying giving you a good incentive not to stall your aircraft.
Like most other flight sims, Hangsim becomes boring after a few weeks of play. Once you've tried out all the gliders and flown over all the terrain and finished all of the challenges there isn't much left. This isn't the game's fault - just a curse of the genre. On the bright side, Wilco offers a Scenery Editor that lets you create your own terrain from digital photos, but most "desktop pilots" won't have the equipment or technical savvy to even attempt such a daunting task. If they had only included some online capabilities, this game would have an unlimited lifespan and appeal.
If you are an avid flight-junkie and have to play every flight sim that comes out then you will definitely want to add Hangsim to your collection. For the casual gamer or those looking for more excitement than a scenic flight over realistic scenery; you will want to look elsewhere. Hangsim is a good game - it just has a limited appeal and a limited lifespan.