by Leonard (Viking1) Hjalmarson
Click the image for a larger shot...
|Gameplay||Graphics||Sound||Intelligence||Learning Curve||Fun Factor|
The F-16, well-known for its dog-fighting capabilities and high standards of performance and affordability was designed to be small, lightweight and highly manoeuverable, capitalizing on a daring blend of aerodynamic and system technologies. Nowadays, the worldwide fleet of over 3,000 aircraft has surpassed five million flight hours.
Equally potent in air-to-air and air-to-surface roles, the F16 has opened many avenues for tactical air power to the United States and its allies. A total of 250 USAF F-16s flew approximately 13,500 sorties in the Gulf War and maintained high results on missions, attacking Iraqi ground forces in Kuwait, performing as killer scouts, knocking out Scud missile sites and destroying military production and support facilities, chemical factories and airfields in Iraq.
- PPro 180, 32 meg EDO and 256 cache
- Matrox Millenium 2 meg
- 8x Toshiba EIDE CD
- WD 1.6 GB
- TB Tropez
- CH Fighterstick and Pro Throttle
- SUNCOM Talon
- AMD K6 233, 64 meg SDRam, 1 meg cache
- Matrox Millenium 4 meg
- 12x Plextor SCSI CD
- Seagate Cheetah SCSI-3 4.1 GB
- CL AWE 64
- Thrustmaster F22 and TQS, CH pedals
- CH Fighterstick and Pro Throttle
Installation and Sys Req
Some months ago Digital Integration released F16 in the UK. This past week iF-16 finally hit the shelves in North America. Why the delay? The reasons may never be finally known, but rumor had it that further play testing was underway. After a half day with the iMagic release, however, it seems indentical in all but the manual and box.
The box contains 4 items: the CD in a cardboard case, a Control Summary card, the main manual (a few pages longer than the UK version), and a tutorial guide. The main manual is one hundred ten pages, but its brevity is compensated by the tutorial.
The CD contains both DOS and WIN95 installs. Install went smoothly for both, although my AWE64 doesn't seem to like the DOS configuration and doesn't detect properly. I chose the medium install which asks for sixty meg. The medium install leaves out some graphics files, but having fast systems I didn't notice a problem. The large install asks for 120(?) meg. Joystick calibration in WIN95 is automatic, based on your system itself. I had no problems with my CH or TM gear.
Stated system requirements are a 486 DX2-66. I suspect that with all the graphics options off you could indeed get away with this, but I would recommend a P120 or better. A friend of mine installed the sim on a P133 with 32 meg, and with clouds off he is ALMOST happy.
So what about the frame rate? With all detail maxed out INCLUDING clouds I am around 10-12 fps. To me this is acceptable, but barely. Oddly enough, the frame rate is the same for me in WIN95 or DOS. I also tested with DX3 and DX5, and there is no difference. If the sim were DESIGNED for DX5 frame rate would likely be about 30% higher. Note also that your frame rate will improve if you do the large install (100 meg).
Max resolution is 640x480. I suspect that many pilots will turn off the cloud detail OR turn down the terrain detail if they are running less than a P200. No problem, the sim will still be fun to play, and the sky still looks great without clouds. See below for more info on texture choices and frame rate.
I also need to note that on USENET many complained about the WIN95 install with F16 FF. Apparently there are some issues here, especially on older systems. Oddly, K6 owners seem to be free of problems entirely. It could be that the iMagic release will see fewer WIN95 issues: time will tell!
Graphics and Detailing
If you liked HIND you won't be disappointed. If you are coming away from EF2000 you may be. Personally, even though my greatest number of flight hours were logged in EF2 and Janes Longbow this past year, I am not bothered by the graphics when detail is high. Object detail is even better. An outside view of the F16 is about between Fleet Defender and EF2000. The aircraft looks good, with squadron markings clearly visible and weapons details similarly high. Take a look from the rear and see the heat distortion effect of your afterburner.
Terrain detail is surprisingly good. As a step up from HIND I don't think most pilots will complain. Most of your flying will NOT be NOE, and when it is its livable. Moreover, since your SEAD and CAS missions will utilize a nice ground radar and/or LANTIRN, you won't have your eyes on the scenery all that much anyway.
And then there are the clouds! This is the largest point of departure from HIND, with the corresponding graphics penalty. The clouds are best comparable to EF2000. An overcast sky from the runway has me feeling chilled and gloomy. Flying above the clouds leaves me in a peaceful, dreamy state. It really is beautiful and a very nice change from HIND. If you have the horsepower you will want clouds ON, but even without the sky is attractive.
The cockpit itself is very pleasing to the eye, and I like it much better than the one in iF22. It integrates will into the graphical landscape, and its a virtual cockpit so you can slew the views around using F1 to F4, use a snap view system, or use the HeadLock view for air or ground targets. Note: you can't headlock a ground target without having your ground radar switched on, and you can't padlock missiles. More about the padlock and views below...
Preferences in both sound and detailing are quite flexible. For example, you vary smoke lifetime and cloud density, shadows and object visual range as well as textures and shading. All these things will affect your frame rate so you can toy around to get what suits you.
The visual range preference is the most important of the visual detail settings. This option governs how far into the distance you can see from your viewpoint within the world, before distance haze "fogs out" the landscape. If you set this at three or lower you will effectively remove textures from the landscape. At four or five you won't see very far but your frame rate will improve...
When you first execute the sim you will be treated to a very cool animation of two F16 pilots taking on some MiGs. One of the best I've seen yet! In fact animations throughout the sim are very well done, about on the order of those from Janes. When you then select a particular campaign you will be treated to another animation that fits the context. I wont' spoil it by telling you any more... ;-D
Training missions offer two cheat options: Free Fire, limitless weapons; and no crashes. The selection of training missions is about as broad as the ocean between here and the UK, including Conversion, Nav & Recon, Landing, separate missions for every weapon system, formation flying and low visibility flying.
Cut to the chase! If you are an experienced pilot look over the manual, download my TM config files or load up your CH files, skip the training, go to Logs and Create yourself a pilot. Don't forget to choose your call sign! Every flight is logged, and when the mission is over you may choose whether or not to permanently record it. BUT if you crashed and died during the mission the specific log becomes inactive. You can also click on RETRY if you want to fly the mission again, and then the last outcome is discarded. (Note: RETRY isn't available in the campaign).
Now go back to Main and click on COMBAT. Click on CAMPAIGN and select a scenario of your choice: Cyprus, Israel or Korea. I suspect that difficulty in each is about the same, dependent on the difficulty level you selected under Prefs. If you have some solid experience under your belt I suggest starting about level six. Note that the difficulty slider affects enemy "awareness," accuracy, chaff and flare efficiency, dogfighting skill, and acceptable accuracy radius for your own mine laying and recon missions.
So, you select your scenario and in you go! Now you will have a voice and text briefing describing the background and present situation. Click on COMMIT and move to your mission briefing. Again, you will have both voice and text. Click on COMMIT here and you will get to the planning screen.
Interface and Mission Planner
The mission planner is solid and will almost outdo Tornado for detail and flexibility, except that you do NOT have the overall tactical control that you are given in Tornado. Here is a shot from the planner which should look familiar to some of you:
You must enable the planner in the Prefs screen, and then a MAP TOOLBOX appears at the upper right hand corner when you enter. The toolbox offers controls that allow you to study and modify your flight plan, change the appearance of the briefing screen, alter weapon loadout and request a weather report. To select a function you left click with the mouse. Here are some particulars:
- ZOOM: magnify an area of interest. Click and hold the left button while draggin the moust diagonally to define the area to magnify. When you release the button the area is scaled to fit the screen. Or the player can simply click on the the area of interest and it will zoom to a higher detail level at the pointer position. The window that appears may be panned, and you can even fly by specific areas and between waypoints.
- ROTATE: This function rotates the map around the screen center. Useful for orientation during the briefing.
- FIT: Clicking on any map position with the right button centers the map at said position. Useful especially for centralizing your flight plan on the map.
- WAY: This function opens the WAYPOINT window. Wayoints in the flightplan are listed in sequence, beginning with departure point A. Info on any waypoint can be displayed by first clicking on the waypoint and then clicking on INFO. The window will display the x,y map coordinate and altitude, the waypoint TYPE, the planned speed to the next WP, and the estimate time to the waypoint in hours, minutes and seconds.
Clicking on any waypoint button will cause the INSERT and DEL buttons to appear in the window. The player may INS or DEL waypoints with the exception of the first and last in the series. Obviously, you will want to check your waypoints against the latest intelligence regarding placement of AAA and SAMs, not to mention potential CAP flights.
- SAVE: Click here to save changes to your flight plan.
- TASK: Click here to adjust the flight plan of your wingmates. If you have modified your own flight plan you will likely want to change theirs also.
- PAY: This function brings up the weapon payload screen. Loadout can be modified but will remain symmetrical. Once the payload is accepted, weapons with a variable salvo size will be listed, and the player can adjust the number. When complete total aircraft weight is then displayed with the maximum permitted "g" for the chosen payload.
Since you do not have the Command ability given in Tornado, you cannot adjust the payload of your flight members. Unfortunate, since it really can be an advantage to carry a couple of extra IR missiles in exchange for a pair of AMRAAMs...
At your disposal, you will have a full complement of stores that you can load as you see fit (within weight, carriage and supply limits). The stores will include Sidewinders, AMRAAMs, Mavericks, HARMS, GBUs, CBUs, General Purpose and retarded dumb bombs, the CBU-89B mine dispenser and CBU-15 Durandal, rockets, fuel tanks and ECM pods. The radar and HUD work together to give you all of the cues needed to properly deploy these weapons. For air-to-air, you get the standard seeker and DLZ (Dynamic Launch Zone) symbology or your choice of EEGS (funnel), LCOS (Lead Computing Optical Sight) or snake for gunnery. Air-to-ground includes CCIP (Continuously Computed Impact Point), CCRP (Continuously Computed Releas Point), Dive/Toss and Strafe.
What else will you see in the environment? A10s, C130 Hercules, E3 AWACS, F14 Tomcat, F15 Eagle, F18 Hornet, AH1W Supercobra, AH64C Apache, UH60 Blackhawk, and a wide variety of ground vehicles and platforms including ships, artillery and even soliders! As I was panning around the battlefield with the F12 key I came across a solider running. As in Longbow, you will have to be on the watch for small arms fire and even shoulder mounted missiles.
For info on gameplay, AI, avionics, views etc. go to:
Last Updated August 30th, 1997