Great moments in PC gaming: Being blown away by voxels in Comanche

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.  

Comanche: Maximum Overkill

Developer: Novalogic
Year: 1992

We're spoiled by technology these days. With enough money, any developer can basically do anything. In the 90s, we regularly saw magic. 3D. Texture-mapping. And of course, voxels. They fell out of fashion with the rise of polygons, but for a while, voxels—pixels with depth—were beyond incredible. The most famous example of them was Outcast, but the game that really introduced them to the world was the flight simulator Comanche.

Up to this point, flight simulators had to settle for primarily flat terrain with the occasional hill or painted-on texture to try and convince us that something more interesting lay below. That was fine in a plane, but the lower you got (say, in a helicopter), the more obvious it became. Enter Comanche, which used voxels to create hills and valleys and other complex terrain, all using the magic of maths and clever pixels. That organic look was beyond jaw-dropping at the time, offering one of the most realistic worlds that the genre had ever seen. True, today we sniff at pixels the size of dinner plates and the simplistic vistas. In 1992, though, it was the stuff of dreams, even if you didn't care about flying helicopters. One day, we told ourselves, all games would look this good. In retrospect, we should probably have set our sights even higher.