The Bay Never Looked So Good!
Although Flight Unlimited II has climbed its way up to the top of my flight simulation buy list, I do have a bone to pick regarding the title. I must argue that it is anything but unlimited! A very poor way to describe a title that requires you to fly in a small portion of Northern California: the Bay Area. You can fly about as far north as Napa, and as far south as San Jose, but if you have any dreams of unlimited flight elsewhere, better turn to Flight Simulator 98 and have yourself an all-expense paid trip to Paris, France, instead.
As anyone would agree, the biggest accomplishment of Flight Unlimited II are the graphics. Flight Unlimited II offers top quality detail and unbelievable scenery realism. As I flew over Oakland Airport, I could see the major freeway (the 580) alongside that I have traveled so many times. All this instead of generic textures used everywhere like other simulations. Realism and precision like this can't be found anywhere else. Flight Unlimited II supports 3d acceleration and also allows you to change the resolution to fit your system. Even without 3d acceleration Flight Unlimited II is very visually pleasing and allows for the very best of visual flight. You can finally find your way around by looking down, instead of at your compass!
I was actually very impressed by the sound effects in this game (which is hard for me, and for a flight simulator). From the very beginning when the pilot yells "clear!" before starting the engine, every single effect was present and accurate. From the right amount of static when talking to the tower, to the sound your plane makes when it lands, Flight Unlimited II has it all.
The most revolutionary aspect of up-and-coming flight simulators has been interaction with the tower and flying under the real FAA's regulations. In this respect, no other title EVER has come even close to Flight Unlimited II. For example, in this game, you don't start at the threshold of the runway like in Microsoft Flight Simulator (unless you choose otherwise). Instead, you start at your parking space, turn on your engine, listen to AVIS, receive weather reports and other information, and then request permission to taxi to the nearest runway. From there, you must wait until clearance is given for your takeoff, and you are guided out of that airspace by the air traffic controller. But that's not all, not only do you talk to the control tower, there are other people in the world that are flying besides just you (seems like an obvious point, and yet every other sim seems to have forgotten!). Other people are requesting permission to land and takeoff as well, and waiting your turn comes with the territory! It looks as though Looking Glass hasn't forgotten a thing.
The physics of the aircraft are also great. I was impressed by the overall performance of the physics engine as well as the variables that were taken in consideration like weather, wind and turbulence. One of the biggest complaints about the original Flight Unlimited, was the purpose of the simulation: nothing. People found the game to be pointless and quickly boring. I don't want to criticize Looking Glass alone for this mistake, as Microsoft and every other company that has produced a commercial flight sim have befallen the same criticisms. Flight Unlimited II strives to do otherwise by adding in 25 missions that you can accept from delivering a package to a carrier off the coast, to picking up some escapees who just broke out of Alcatraz at midnight. You'll find these missions very challenging when flying around your hometown just isn't cutting it anymore.
Flight Unlimited II is a breakthrough title that took a piece of California land and did more with it than Microsoft did with the whole world. This game is fun to play, and is even better for Bay Area residents. I may be a little biased because I live in the Bay Area, so no hate mail from you Chicago flight enthusiasts. However, I definitely recommend it for anyone interested in general aviation, and in my opinion, Flight Unlimited II beats out Flight Simulator 98 any day.