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EF2000, Digital Image Design, San Jose, Calif., 1997, $49.95.

The high-tech Eurofighter 2000 (EF2000) has yet to see service, but PC owners can pretend to fly it today. A strike fighter developed jointly by Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, the appropriately named EF2000 is slated to make its service debut with the Royal Air Force in the year 2000. This, of course, poses a problem for a software design team trying to model a flight simulator after the EF2000: real performance data is either nonexistent or classified.

Digital Image Design, a U.K.-based software development group, is fortunate to have a good relationship with EF2000 developers, and their product–named simply after the aircraft itself–is a solid example of a thorough simulation. This is the second incarnation of the software, the original having been released to critical acclaim two years ago. The most obvious strength of the original has carried over to its descendant, and EF2000 version 2.0 sports a handsome graphics suite that rivals the best any contemporary flight simulation has to offer. Flights are illustrated with green hills, ice-capped mountains, fjords and islands, and the time of day is seen in rustic sunsets, airports lights at night and missle trails during the day.

Pretty as EF2000 is, it would be but an arcade game if not for the developers’ attention to flight modeling. The Eurofighter is maneuverable, but pilots must respect the value of speed in the equation, and improper management of the speed and agility tradeoff can easily leave the jet vulnerable to less capable aircraft in a dogfight. The virtual pilot is often fortunate enough to fly with highly advanced weapons, and the use of missiles at long ranges is more common than a dogfight.

This brings forward the subject of avionics. Again, a simulation of the Eurofighter and many of its advanced missiles could still be considered a bit of science-fiction until the real deal arrives in the future, but of the conventional weapons modeled in the package, doctrine and effectiveness appear to have been well researched by the developers. The documentation is quite lengthy and covers the ordnance and procedures for the multirole Eurofighter. In practice dogfights with other craft, missiles were neither useless nor infallible and featured realistic ranges and HUD symbiology. Opponent intelligence was respectable as well, with advanced fighters of all nations as eager to use their beyond-visual-range tactics as any Eurofighter pilot might be.

On the technical side, Windows 95 support makes game installation and configuration markedly more user-friendly than they were in the original version, and numerous bug fixes and enhancements have been implemented. Players with modems or network access will be able to fly with or against their friends. The already fine graphics are enhanced further for those with 3D hardware graphics support. Finally, the simulation now features editors to modify mission plans or create quick dogfight scenarios, and excerpts from an excellent strategy guide are included in the package. Whether these extras are enough for veterans of the game is a matter of personal preference, but PC pilots new to EF2000 will find version 2.0 worth checking out.

Bernard Dy