flight simulator

Iron Angel (Ocean) [PC – Cancelled]

Iron Angel is a cancelled sci-fi flight / combat simulator that was in development for about 3 years by Meta Mode Design, to be published in 1994 / 1995 by Ocean Software for PC. This was meant to be Meta Mode’s first game and while it looked promising, unfortunately it was never completed and soon the team vanished without any trace. The only details remaining from this interesting project are from a series of previews published in 1994 in various gaming magazines. It seems Iron Angel was also shown at ECTS 1994 but we did not find any footage yet.

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In a preview published in PC Gamer (august 1994) we can read:

“From the people who brought us TFX (that’s Ocean, not Digital Image Design), comes an even more futuristic flight sim, with the action taking place both above and below the Earth’s atmosphere as you battle to save the world from Armageddon (again).

What’s so special? Well, have a look at the screenshots. Although this is Meta Mode’s first game, it’s already clear they’re no donkeys – it moves as impressively as it looks. Strike Commander and the forthcoming Inferno could have some serious competition…

If you’re into flight sim in any way, shape or form it’s going to be difficult to turn a blind eye to a game which promises not only mind-blowing visuals but an innovative campaign structure across over 150 missions.

Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald had known each other for years before, but decided to get together in 1991 to write a PC game because they weren’t impressed with what they were seeing in the software shops. So they had an idea, took it to Ocean, who liked it, and away they went. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

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Well, three years on, and Muir and MacDonald, alias Meta-Mode Design (as a game design duo, they’re probably the smallest team working on the PC today), are now all set to unveil the fruit of their collective labors, Iron Angel – a futuristic flight combat game that nestles snugly between the simulation and arcade goalposts. But despite comparisons that are already being drawn between the likes of TFX and Strike Commander, Meta-Mode isn’t pushing the issue – the game was conceived long before most of these youngsters arrived on the block, so they can hardly be accused of plagiarism.

Set in the year 2025, Iron Angel has its front a little more into the future than Ocean and Digital Image Design’s impressive TFX. You’re cast as a pilot in the United Nations Space Force, at a time when the Cold War has re-emerged more threatening than ever before.

Four main superpowers compete for control of the globe, with a sophisticated SDI system protecting against nuclear attack. But a new breed of fighters, capable of destroying the SDI satellites, has made nuclear war a threat again, so the UNSF is set up to keep a lid on the things above and below the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Iron Angel, an ultra-sophisticated high-altitude fighter, is the UNSF’s main weapon, flying against opponents ranging from the relatively primitive F-16s and MiGs in service today to the superior ships flown by the largest superpower, an alliance of giant corporations.

Iron Angel’s main hook is its settings – a mix of sci-fi fantasy and reality. “This is a world where you’ll still see conventional planes, but the technology has improved” says Muir.

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Meta-Mode vision of the airborne military of 2025 includes aircraft whose cockpits have been replaced by gyroscopic cradles that turn inside the plane to counteract the effect of G-forces, landing claws that enable an aircraft to land down on the site of a mountain, and even fighters that can fly underwater! But there’s more to this than just futuristic fancy. Muir becomes animated when he talks about the game’s structure and design. “I’m not impressed by the mission structure of most conventional flight sims, I get bored of just flying from waypoint to waypoint, hitting a target and coming home again. We’ve tried to make Iron Angel as different to that as possible. The closest thing to it is F/A-18 Interceptor on the Amiga, which really broke new ground when it first appeared. We’ve got about 150 missions and they can take up to two hours to complete, which will give you an idea of how involved they are. the gameplay’s much more strategic, you’ll be using your wingmen a lot – like in X-Wing. And we’ve got plenty of hidden extras, like enemy reinforcements if you hang around too long”

After three years in development, Iron Angel is still only 80% complete, so the Meta-Mode boys will have to pull their fingers out to get the job done in time for Christmas.”

Unfortunately it’s unknown if they ever completed the game before its cancellation and Ocean never gave an official statement about its demise. For sure the Iron Angel looked awesome for its time, and it could have been a revolutionary combat simulator, with players able to use planes, cars and mechs – all of them in the same game.

Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald seem to have worked on just a couple of other games, before to also vanish into nothing. If you are in contact with Robert or Alan and could help to preserve more info, images or footage from Iron Angel, please let us know!

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Flying Aces [32X/Saturn – Cancelled]

Flying Aces is a cancelled flight simulator / shooter set in the first World War, that was originally in development by Rocket Science Games for the Sega 32 X in 1994 / 1995. As we can read in GamePro #68 (thanks to Celine for the scan!), the gameplay was depicted with live action FMV and included multiple views from both inside and outsite the aircraft.

Only few screenshots remain from the 32X project and when the Sega Add-On was already dead, it seems that RSG tried to port the game to the  Saturn (scan from Cd Consoles #4), without any luck. Neither version of Flying Aces was ever released.

Unfortunately, while some Rocket Science’s games were critically acclaimed, none of them did particularly well financially, and unable to secure additional funding, RSG was forced to close down in 1997. [Info from Wikipedia]

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VX Vampire XDV-7 [N64 – Tech Demo]

VX Vampire (aka Vampire XDV-7 or Ultra Copter 64) is a flight simulator that was planned to be ported to the Nintendo 64 by Paradigm Simulation / Entertainment. Previously Paradigm worked on realistic flight simulation for space, military and aviation clients, but  in 1994 it was contacted by Nintendo to aid in the creation of one of the Nintendo 64’s launch titles, Pilotwings 64. It seems that VX Vampire was originally one of Paradigm’s military simulators, that they though to convert to a more “arcadish” game to enter in the mass-entertainment market.

In 1995 Nintendo / Paradigm send some screens of Vampire XDV-7 to magazines (that you can see preserved in the gallery below), claiming that the Ultra 64 would have been able to achieve similar level of graphic details. In reality, VX Vampire was running on the Silicon Graphics Onyx Reality Engine, the same engine used for the Magic Edge Hornet Simulator Hardware, a technology much more advanced (and expensive) than a normal Nintendo 64.

When Paradigm had to finish Pilotwings 64 in time for the release of the N64 in june 1996, they probably had to shift resources to Nintendo’s project and the VX Vampire XDV-7 port went on-hold. In the end Pilotwings 64 was a critical and commercial success for the developer, causing the simulation and entertainment divisions of Paradigm to separate and focus on their respective products. The newly independent Paradigm Entertainment continued to develop for Nintendo’s 64-bit console. [Info from Wikipedia]

Some years later, Paradigm Entertainment announced Harrier 2000 / 2001 for the Nintendo 64, a new flight game that sadly was never released. It’s possible that their plan to port VX Vampire XDV-7 changed when they understood that it would have been too difficult to convert an Onyx simulator to an N64, so the project evolved into a new, different title: Harrier 2000.

Thanks to jorcyd and Celine for the contribution! Scans from Cd Consoles #4, Console Plus #49 and Edge #29

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Videos (@ 04:10)

 

After Burner [X360 – Concept]

In 2005 Juice Games had an idea to develope a “next gen” Flight simulator / Shooter, probably for the soon-to-be released Xbox 360. To easily find a publisher and funds they tried to pitch their flight project to Sega, as new game in the After Burner series,  but without any success. As the After Burner pitch was unsuccessful, Juice Games decided to use an original IP for their Flight Shooter and the project became Stormbirds for the Xbox 360 and PS3. In the end Stormbirds was canned by THQ, Juice Games’ publisher.

Only few concept arts remain to preserve the existence of this project.

Thanks to Hey Hey for the contribution!

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SimCopter 64 [N64DD – Cancelled]

SimCopter 64 is a cancelled Nintendo 64DD remake of the original SimCopter developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts for PC in 1996. It’s unclear if this version for the 64DD was going to have some substantial differences from the PC one, as happened with SimCity 64. As we can read on IGN, SimCopter 64 was officially canned in 1999:

Sim Copter 64 was even previewed at a very early stage at the Tokyo Game Show. Onlookers were not impressed with its foggy, first-generation graphics and the game’s US release was soon cancelled in favor of a Japan-only release for the disk drive system.

Since then, Nintendo has again delayed the debut of the 64DD to later this year and Maxis, apparently losing faith in the viability of the title on the DD, has abandoned the project completely.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution! (Scans from Console Plus #79 and Mega Console #44)

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Video (Nintendo 64):

For comparison, a video from the PC version:

 

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