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Echelon By John "Award" Del Percio, June 29, 2001
Developer :Buka Entertainment
Publisher :Bethesda Softworks
Release Date :June 2001
Demo Available : Yes - Download
Table of Contents

· Introduction
· Closer Look
· Facts
· Final

Flight Systems Damaged

For all its perks, Echelon does have several flaws which detract from the experience a bit as well. The primary flaw is a simple matter of difficulty. While you can quite easily dodge enemy attacks usually (if you're a good enough pilot), it's quite difficult to protect targets you're supposed to be escorting in many missions. One mission, fairly early in the game, specifically stands out in my mind. You're supposed to be escorting a tank column to its destination, when a SFG field pops up and you're ambushed by at least two wings of enemy fighters with guided missiles that really have a craving for your convoy. Worse, is if you don't eliminate them in time, the ground turrets will eat up your convoy. It doesn't sound too bad, though, does it? But don't forget what I said about SFG fields. Your HUD goes dark and you lose your plasma cannons. You're essentially blindly fighting an enemy in which you run out of ammo before you can get the enemy. I did manage to defeat the mission eventually, somehow, though I think it was mostly a matter of luck, as I didn't change my tactics.

Is it dead?
I've got him!
Ohh, smoke!
Smoldering away...

Another such flaw is simply the fact of disorientation. It's extremely easy to roll over your craft and lose direction, or to try to hover and actually be moving a bit, but worse, you may be headed for something and the ground pops up pretty much out of nowhere. I'm sure it was in the design, and you can learn how to avoid it from happening, but it can be extremely frustrating to continually die by running into a ground or mountain that you didn't even know was there. I found myself hitting ground in here far more than in other flight sims. It may have something to do with the fact that in most flight sims you're actually in the air. In Echelon, usually your enemy hides just above the ground. Fortunately, though, if you have a bad habit of doing this, you can disable ground collisions, or just give yourself infinite armor until you get the hang of it, though you won't take damage from enemy fire, either.

Hiding out
The scenic view
Desert fun
Which way is up?

That brings me to another flaw. Sometimes you have to travel large distances to get where you're going in which you simply turn it on autopilot and go have a snack. This wouldn't be so bad, and in fact, is very realistic, but when you keep failing your mission or getting killed, it's really annoying to sit there on autopilot flying over the same lake or mountain ranges eight times a day.

The final flaw is that the radio chatter is a bit too realistically garbled. You can't hear a darn word they're saying half the time (this combined with the fact that, like any flight sim, numbers were pre-recorded and barely fit together, so you get a very garbled sounding "This is Base one!...threee?...niiine!") The lack of comprehension would not be so terrible, since it also prints the text on the bottom of the screen, but it disappears too quickly, especially if you're in a battle when they update your objectives. Sure you can check that any time, but then you're vulnerable to fire. Then again, perhaps that's what the long voyages to your next waypoint are for?

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