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Search & Rescue 4 PC CD-ROM

Published by Just Flight
Developed by Interactive Vision
Released: Out Now
Price: £19.99

Not long ago we looked at Vietnam Med+Evac, a game that placed you in the Vietnam war and made you responsible for rescuing victims in all manner of circumstances. The game put you firmly in control of a helicopter, a UH-1 Huey to be exact, with the sole purpose of search and rescue. The development team behind the game were responsible for the Search & Rescue series of games. Today we'll look at the latest in the Search & Rescue series, Search & Rescue 4.

Search & Rescue 4 offers the choice of playing out a single mission or taking part in a campaign. In all there are close to a 100 missions and these include 10 free flight missions, which allow you to view the different locations the game is set in, and 10 tutorial missions. The single missions cover every conceivable rescue situation possible. The missions contain polar expeditions, avalanches, car accidents excavations etc., you name it the game has it. In Search & Rescue 4 you are given a choice of helicopters to pilot. There is the BK-117 C-1, the HH-65A Dolphin and the SH-3 Sea King. Each one of these helicopters have their disadvantages and advantages and your choice should be influenced by the situation you're heading into. You can also choose the weather, whether or not to have real physics, the time of day and the starting position as well as having crashes enabled. Basically speaking you can make it a simulation or more of an arcade experience, it's up to you.

The campaign allows you to create your own pilot and take part in randomly generated missions. When creating your pilot you have to make a few choices, which will determine how difficult the experience is. You can choose to fly with realistic or easy physics, whether or not to have your pilot immortal (the campaign will of course end if you're not immortal and you're killed), you can choose whether to allow crashes or not (or rather whether to make your helicopter indestructible) and finally you can choose whether you should be able to replay a mission should you fail or make any mistakes that you are unhappy with. You begin the campaign ranked as an ensign and have to progress through to an aircraft commander (which requires a whopping 200 flight hours and 6000 points). Points are gained in the missions you undertake throughout your career. As you can see there is a hell of a lot work to do before you'll complete the campaign.

Whilst the game is generally fine, I have to take issue with the amount of controls you have to learn, particularly if you're just using the keyboard. Not only does the game use a fair portion of the keyboard but there are also additional commands that can be accessed by holding down the shift key. Even with a joystick, there are still a multitude of hotkeys to learn and unless you're heavily into your simulations you'll probably find this too daunting. If you are using the keyboard though you can turn the physics realism down so as to make the control more bearable. The game itself makes no attempt to teach you these key commands and you'll have to study pages 50-51 of the manual, which have keyboard layout diagrams.

Graphically Search & Rescue 4 is a real mixed bag. The buildings look terrible and look like they've come from a mid-nineties PC game. They are flat, having very little detail in their textures. The terrain graphics are decent but nothing impressive and the same can be said for the helicopter models and pilots. If you've invested heavily in your graphics hardware this will come as a massive disappointment, especially after the current crop of flight sim games are looking so good. However, if you don't have a monster of a PC you'll probably appreciate the good framerate and how smoothly it all moves along.

There are no problems for deaf gamers with Search & Rescue 4. All speech is subtitled and shown in the top left corner of the screen in exactly the same way as it was in Vietnam Med+Evac. All mission details are shown in text as well, so there is nothing you will miss out on. I always make a habit of looking at previous reviews of games that I am about to review and it was interesting to see a lot of US reviews remark on the lack of a manual. I found this strange as the Search & Rescue 4 came with a manual (containing 56 pages) and rather useful it was too. I would certainly have been lost if it had not been for the manual.

Search & Rescue 4 is a decent game overall. If you played Vietnam Med+Evac and enjoyed it then you'll definitely enjoy what's on offer here. However if you don't have a decent joystick and hate having to remember a multitude of keyboard controls then you're not going to take too kindly to the steep learning curve this game has. It would have been better if the game had made more of an effort to introduce the novice pilot to the basic controls because without reading the manual, it's an uphill struggle to find out how to do things. Still if you're into your simulations and fancy the idea of being able to perform virtually every search and rescue operation known to man, then you'll appreciate what's on offer.

Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10
Only serious helicopter simulation fans and the very patient need apply. Search & Rescue 4 has an impressive amount of rescue situations available but the multitude of controls that have to be learnt will deter some gamers.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No problems at all for deaf gamers.