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F22 Raptor

Novalogic has released F-22 Raptor. If you are like me your first question is: why? Is this a money grab? Is Novalogic in hot water? Whats the difference between this and Lightning II? Good questions! First lets talk about installation.

I have a very stable system and seem to be able to run anything on it. Its the new ASUS P2L97 mainboard with Pentium II CPU running at 337.5 MHz (75 MHz bus). Fast and reliable.

However, when I inserted the Raptor CD the light went on and after a minute or so of waiting I got a KERNEL32 error. Eventually I figured out that the autorun install was glitching and I was able to access setup in the NOVA directory and install manually. K, on to the main and the plain!

The main differences between Raptor and Lightning II can be summarized in three areas: graphics detailing, campaign AI, and flight modelling. Furthermore, this is Novalogics first native WIN95 game. Lets take a look at each area.

F22 Raptor

Graphically the sim is much more pleasing than Lightning II. Clouds look much more realistic, and object detail is way up. 3d hardware is STILL not supported. A surprise? Perhaps, but Novalogic has done better with their 2d engine than anyone else out there. Ground textures are smoother, up close and at a distance it looks better. Aircraft are far more impressive in this release and the F22 itself looks almost as good as F22:ADF under Glide. New lighting effects, noticable on the canopy of aircraft, also help in the real and pretty department.

Resolution is limited to 640x480. I was a bit surprised by this, but then realized that the limit is likely due to the 2d engine. Novalogic probably should have included the higher res mode for new PII machines, but inevitably people with P200s would be trying to run at max detail in high res and complaining about frame rates. Anyway, on my AMD233 I can run at max detail and it looks and feels fine.

Novalogic has included some adjustments for those with older hardware. You may also adjust texture distance and choose a performance option for lower amounts of RAM designed to help if you have only 16 meg. If this still doesn't help your aging P120 you can play in a window instead of full screen. There are some advantages to WIN95 after all!

So what about the other changes? The most noticeable is in the flight modelling. The box has a picture of Dave Ferguson climbing into the cockpit of an F22, reason being he was the first man to ever fly it! He also consulted on the development of this model, and apparently they got it right! It does feel VERY VERY different from Lightning II.

Compared to iF22 or F22: ADF however, the sim is aimed at weekend pilots. There isn't a lot to do compared to these other sims; avionics are vastly simplified. Thats not bad in itself, and in fact will appeal to newbies and general lovers of Novalogics work. It means less effort per pound of fun, unless you happen to love immersing yourself in the intricacies of the electronic battlefield. The moral: if you love Longbow 2 and EF2000, you might by pass this simulation altogether.

On the other hand, other areas have also been expanded over Lightning II. The first time I was hit by a SAM my radar went out and I was leaking fuel... Hmm, that never happened to me in Lightning II.... Then later when I tried to land it turned out that my flaps were also stuck. In Raptor you can lose your AWACS link, air brakes, engines, GPS link, etc. This makes for a lot more interesting or trying to fly!

F22 Raptor

More for Your Money?

I've been testing F22:ADF (oh, you didn't know? =) and I have to say that it leaves me questioning the overall value of a package like this one. ADF comes with a 200 page special edition of the World Air Power journal titled Allies and Adversaries. I think there are about 35 training missions. It has three tours of duty (another thirty or so missions) and an entirely separate AWACS simulation component where you can also jump in and fly any F22 in the theatre.

In contrast, Raptor has 20 pre-scripted Quick Missions that act like the training component. The first five are designated as tutorials. The sixth has no enemies or other distractions and is labelled as Basic Flight Manouvers.

There are five campaign scenarios with a semi-dynamic AI and branching structure. Actions taken in one mission DO affect some components of the following missions. For example, if you bomb a factory in one mission and fly over it next time, you will see that it is still destroyed. Are realistic repair and replacement times in place for other aircraft? Not sure... However, unless you use cheats weapons are restricted in supply and some types of weapons wont be available in all missions. And as in a dynamic campaign structure, protecting supply aircraft and convoys is a good idea unless you want to run out of critical weapons!

In order to really appreciate this sim you have to recognize its designed with FUN in mind. Like Comanche 3, it can be a lot of fun! If you toggle realism settings on you will have to play more by the rules, but you will still have simplified avionics to deal with. If you choose the fun option in the load-out menu you can exceed realistic weight limits and load up more weapons. Even a more fully modelled simulation like F22: ADF includes this kind of component in their INSTANT ACTION play, with weapons being replenished automatically every xx minutes as you fly.

Campaigns and Gameplay

The campaigns in Raptor are set in Angola, Jordan, Russia, Columbia and Iran. Like Strike Commander of years gone by there is a story threaded through the sim. If you enjoy the role playing games you might find this a very attractive component. The usual cut-scenes adorn the start and and end of the campaigns, and these really do help set the tone.

Gameplay in general is fine. I haven't spent enough time in the sim to find any glaring weaknesses. My hardware all reacts predictably and enemy and wingman AI in general seems fine.

F22 Raptor

However, the graphical strength of the sim is marred by the virtual cockpit. The cockpit in iF22 is sharp as a pin, but looks out of place against the sky and terrain. The cockpit in F22: ADF is perfectly readable, even at 640x400, and integrates perfectly with other details. The cockpit in FA18 Korea is one of the best out there, and the virtual cockpit also integrates beautifully into the rest of the environment.

In Raptor you can access full screen MFD displays as in EF2000 or F22:ADF, but the cockpit is blurry and indistinct. You can't read the displays and the padlock shakes around too much. Maybe Novalogic will provide some adjustments in this department.

Briefings in Raptor are.. brief! But you do get a look at the map and waypoints. You can adjust waypoints and loadout, but that is the limit of mission planning. When you complete your mission you will see the Mission Stats screen where your performance is analyzed and points awarded. At the end of successful campaign missions you are also awarded a medal, and if you don't like your performance you can also choose to replay if you like.

Wingman control is quite limited, but one would expect that in a sim at this level. The "W" key brings up a menu with these options:

  • wingman cover
  • evasive manouvers
  • wingman engage
  • wingman attack my target
  • break right and engage
  • break left and engage
  • engage my target's attacker.... this command allows you to assign your wingman to defend a friendly aircraft
  • escort my target... in case of an attack
  • cover me
  • wingman patrol home base.. RTB and CAP

Thats not a bad list for a simplified game, but the wingman sounds like he is sitting in his living room watching TV. There is no canned sound and no static, and generally little emotion. As in Comanche 3 and Armored Fist II good use is made of radio comms, and your wingman may interact with you even more than you'd like. You'll also hear everything from cries for help to pleas for mercy. While sound quality in general is good (Dolby surround again) engine sounds are all but missing from the sim. You hear the engine spool up and then fade totally away. An odd omission that really detracts from the atmosphere.

I also managed to find a bug. I ejected shortly after leaving the runway and then heard myself making a proposition to the (female) driver of one of the transport aircraft I was supposed to be escorting. Fine and dandy, but its usually hard to use the radio when you are drifting earthward after hitting the silk!


If you are into LAN play you will be disappointed. In order to connect Raptor in this way each player must have their own copy. Considering that the package is slightly value challenged already this wasn't a great decision.

Multiplayer options are managed by WIN95 Direct Play and includes modem, serial and IPX LAN. KOTS is here, and you can rearm and refuel by landing on any runway. But you can't eject nor can you pause the game. You can access chat with T or use SHF T to communicate privately with your squadron (see below).

Raptor Air War is a team play scenario included in Raptor. RAW features two squadrons at war with an AWACS in the air for each squadron. Each player must choose an A2A or A2G loadout. Fighters get eight Sidewinders plus cannon and bombers get 2 JDAMs plus cannon. Object? Destroy the opposing teams base. The AWACS component adds more interest : if you take out the other teams AWACS they lose data linking and have to rely on radar.

Finally, the CD includes a service called Novaworld, which is Novalogic's free multiplayer Internet server for Raptor running deathmatch and RAW scenarios. In a conversation with NL personnel they are claiming up to 32 players, though their goal is much higher. With a new faster server coming on line any day now these games could be expanding considerably! Both RAW and deathmatch games can be joined in progress.

I tried this out yesterday for an hour and found setup to be quick and simple and the game itself quite fun! There are some good pilots out there, and a lot of mediocre ones. You will notice a line for squadron and for password in the multiplayer menu... this can be used on-line to create your own squadron. Just share your password with those you want in your squadron, they enter it and away you go!

What is especially interesting is that Raptor is the first installment in a series called the Lockheed Fighters Series. With its official ties to Lockheed-Martin Novalogic may benefit in substantial ways as they move toward a virtual battlefield environment. Novalogic is planning additional sims that will join with the Raptor world. No information is available on this yet, but good candidates are the F16 Viper and the Joint Strike Fighter. Who knows, maybe even a B1 bomber? Flying joint multiplayer missions with such aircraft could be a LOT of fun.

On the other hand, maybe Novalogic will design an enemy fighter to join the multiplay arena. The Su-35 or Su-37 would be great candidates, and then we might see more of the next generation weapons like the Novator AWACS killer or the LOCAAS system.

Novalogic also confirms that a 3dfx update is in the works. Time frame is sometime Q1 98. This was inevitable considering multiplayer goals and that the competition has universally moved this way. And there simply is no good excuse not to use 3d hardware any more...


If I were going out today to buy a fun and easy sim with lots of gameplay, and it didn't matter to me that the missions were more or less scripted, would I choose Raptor? Probably not; I think I'd pick up Comanche 3. It has more atmosphere. It FEELS more real yet is still a quick learn.

However, if helicopters are not your thing, or if multiplayer IS your thing, and you don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of detail offered by something like Longbow 2, RAW is worth checking out.

Novalogic builds simulations for the casual sim crowd. This is definitely a light sim, recommended for kids and weekend flyers, though Comanche 3 might be a better choice!

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Last Updated November 27th, 1997

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