Hangsim soars on the PC

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Reality, anyone? Launch Hangsim.

Ready to dive into the world of hang-gliding and ultralight aircraft? Hangsim, from Wilco Publishing, is a much cheaper and safer way to learn the fundamentals than heading for the airport or hillsides.

The manual is short [34 pages], but it is densely packed with aircraft specifications and tutorials for first-timers. The tutorial on understanding air currents and gliding is very concise, yet written to be easily understood.

As a simulation, Hangsim delivers realistic flight dynamics, thermals and a variety of aircraft to try. Seven different hang-gliders, paragliders, regular gliders, and ultralights are included. Keyboard and joystick commands allow the simulation rate to be adjusted, for those of you who are impatient or want to experience gliding at mach-speed.

If you just want to enjoy the view, the photo-realistic scenery looks great. It’s made by superimposing cartographic images over a 3D-terrain model. The scenery images are on a 3-meter per pixel scale, which means that the scenery looks incredible at high resolutions and normal gliding altitudes, but don’t expect to see any grass, buildings, or terrified people as you make your landing.

On a P-233 with a Matrox G-200, I had frame rates of 25 at 640×480 and 21 FPS at 1280×1024.

The only disappointing aspects of the simulator are the lack of force-feedback support and the low-fidelity engine sounds, which will surely be considerations for future versions. There are noticeable pauses as new scenery bitmaps load into the 3D accelerator, especially with slower machines; however, new scenery doesn’t need to be loaded very often at hang-gliding speeds.

Some of the photos which were "stitched together," which makes the scenery not quite match in color balance or contrast, and produces a noticeable "line" along some of the landscape where the image seams overlap. The good news is that you aren’t limited to the landscapes that ship with the product. You can create additional scenery and gliders yourself. Some nice examples are at http://go.to.hangsim.com

Several adventures, challenges and competitions are included to help you build your skills. Sure, you can shoot down other gliders with your handy rocket launcher, but this simulator will have more appeal to the serious glider enthusiast than the die-hard gamer. If you’re not interested at all in GPS, cloud aspiration, or catching that perfect thermal to make it over the next hill, this simulator is probably not going to get you excited.

On the other hand, if you want a feel for the challenges and excitement of real-life sailing, this one is a real treat! It earns 3 and one half GiN Gems.

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