Condor (PC) review
"Condor deals only with gliding and it does so extensively, but as long as you're interested, you don't need to have previous flight-sim experience. But get used to the ground. You'll be seeing a lot of it."
Condor is a flight simulator that focuses exclusively on gliders, that is to say, planes without an engine. That makes them very environment-friendly and silent, but to me that also makes them uncomfortably similar to coffins with wings. This game’s product description did very little to dispel my fears, as it is so proud of its realism that it mentions having to sit in the cockpit, on the ground, doing brake tests for a while before even taking off as a selling point. You know, compulsory procedures so fun that we also want them in our entertainment.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Although Condor does offer an extremely realistic simulation for fans of the genre, it welcomes newbies to a “flight school” that consists of several tutorial-like missions. As far as tutorials go, admittedly, these ones aren’t the easiest ever: the game tells you what you have to do, but not how to do it. So I saw a cutscene telling me to use the air brakes, and immediately after I got control of the glider. I had to get the game case, take the manual out and check what button to press for the air brakes while all this time my glider quickly approached the ground in an increasingly vertical trajectory.
During my play of Condor I have become intimately familiar with the ground and the collision mechanics. I’ve crashed into plains, mountains, slopes, trees, grass, gravel… If it exists within the game and it is solid, I can promise that I have run my glider into it. But, you know what? I care very little. It takes all of two clicks and less than a minute to be on the air again, thanks to short loading times and the full customisation of the game. There are missions in which you can land, or take off, or race from point A to point B in a given amount of time, but you can also enter a level without any real objectives and simply glide to your heart’s content.
That way, even though it is difficult to learn how to manoeuvre a glider, there is no real penalty for failing. This is absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of flight, because there’s so much to it: you will have to adapt to the wind, to the air’s temperature depending on whether you’re flying over a mountain’s sunny side, or under a cloud, or over a heat-generating town… At first I thought the point of the game was to use the glider as a vehicle to go through loops or travel or something, but I have discovered that its true challenge -and enjoyment, really- lies simply in staying airborne. It takes a lot of focus to stay on the right side of the ground (hint: above it), but it is strangely relaxing to not worry about getting anywhere and pay attention only to balance.
Although the graphics aren’t exactly next-generation, that also means they can be handled by present-day computers without slowdowns or glitches. The sounds, pretty much like all of the gameplay, are strictly realistic and it falls on you to decide whether that’s a good thing. It means the rushing air gets unbearably loud when falling at full speed, and annoying beeps come from mysterious machinery. On the bright side, I could swear I felt the vibrations when crossing a set of turbulences.
If you want to do crazy stunts and pilot jets at Mach speeds in record-breaking times, Condor is not the game for you. If the sole idea of gliding on the air without knowing where you’re going to land appeals to you and you want to replicate it in an application that deals fully and exclusively with that idea, then you’re in for a treat.
Freelance review by Martin G (November 25, 2007)
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