It's one thing to create an ultra-realistic flight simulation, but it's quite another to design it so that novice to intermediate pilots won't feel intimidated. And while it's great for a sim to be as realistic as possible - it would be slammed by every serious flight sim fanatic in the world if it weren't - that doesn't mean there's no place for options that allow newbies to fine-tune the degree of realism, or for a well-organized manual to help them understand the myriad weapons, gauges, and controls on a modern attack jet. And for it to qualify as a first-rate product, it also needs features such as a mission editor, wingmen you can communicate with, and a campaign mode, to name a few.
A-10 Cuba!, which bills itself as both an "ultra-realistic flight simulation" and "the most realistic flight combat simulator ever," is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Without question, A-10 Cuba! employs a very realistic flight model, and the air-combat action - which ranges from tank-killing sorties and escort missions to a bridge-busting assignment and a strike on an enemy commander's home - is fast, furious, and very satisfying.
The cockpit display is one of the most impressively detailed I've ever seen, and what's more, it is actually interactive: You can toggle switches and turn knobs via the mouse. And while gamers accustomed to texture-mapped extravaganzas might sneer at the polygon-based graphics here, they do make for a stunningly impressive frame rate - even running at 1024x768 - and the planes look pretty good, especially from an external view.
But in several crucial areas, A-10 Cuba! falls short of the competition. Its most glaring deficiency is the lack of a printed manual; the only documents you get with this game are the registration card, a layout of the keyboard commands, an order form for ThrustMaster flight sticks, and an almost worthless jewel-case insert that's woefully thin on useful information. The latter contains a screenshot with captions describing various cockpit flight instruments, but the picture and text are both so small you'd need a magnifying glass to get any real use out of it.
To be fair, A-10 Cuba! does come with online Help, but there's just too much information here to be covered adequately in this format - and if you stay in the Help file too long while the game is running, you'll be kicked out by a demo that you can't disable. This simply doesn't cut it for a flight sim, especially one that boasts how "ultra-realistic" it is. Novice and even intermediate flight-sim fans need a manual they can keep at their side for quick reference, and novices especially would benefit from a "basics of flight" type tutorial - the kind that's found in the manual of many PC air-combat sims.