|Novaworld and F22 Raptor
By Steve "Shepard" Martin
The dawn sky had a spooky glow as I fired up my twin Pratt and Whitney F-119s. Hot flames leapt from the nozzles and the state of the art F-22 began to roll down the runway. Within a matter of seconds I was airborne and accelerating fast to 700 knots.
Once airborne, I activated my radar and then switched to the map overlay. There were two groups of fighters on the map: the friendlies, designated by blue and green, surrounded my plane, while the enemies, designated by red, were on the opposite side of the map. Red and Blue SAM circles began popping up as my radar began to recognize threats. Radio Chatter came bursting over both the guard channel and over the tactical communication channel reserved for our squad.
Suddenly the sky lit up like the fourth of July, with smoke trails and explosions blazing. My IFDL link displayed both friendlies and enemies blinking out as their aircraft were destroyed. I concentrated on the tasks at hand and plunged into battle.
The sim I have described is none other than Novalogic's latest endeavor in the simulation market. The company that brought us Comanche: Maximum Overkill, has brought yet another simulation which raises the bar for the competition. What may not seem like the pinnacle in graphics or systems realism will surprise the flight sim fan with one thing which sets it apart from the others: intense and challenging gameplay.
What do people look for in an online sim: realism? Playability? Skilled opponents? F-22 Raptor will surprise many online pilots with solid performance in several areas, and excellent performance in some very critical areas.
Aside from Warbirds and Airwarrior, F-22 Raptor has the ability to handle more simultaneous online pilots than any other simulation on the market. Where other simulations offer the ability to connect 8 people over a Local Area Network, many of them can only support an average of 4 people at the same time over Internet. Just like F-22 when compared to F-4, F-22 Raptor has a definite advantage over the other free online sims by offering a maximum of 128 simultaneous players in 1 of 5 arenas. The connection quality is on par, and in may cases better, than many of the sims limited to 4 players.
Connecting to Novaworld is a breeze. Since Novaworld is operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you will always find someone flying. No longer do you have to gather people to get into a game and deal with IP numbers and newbies. Connecting to Novaworld to fly F-22 is such a pain free experience, there is no point into going into detail.
Another critical area for online games is lag. While there is still some lag, it is usually not bad enough to detract from gameplay. I have flown a lot of online sims and I have seen some bad lag, and F-22 Raptor has the least of any online sim I have flown with the exception of the Hornet 3.0 series. Disconnects are seldom and usually due to individuals with ISP problems. And though every now and then people will disconnect, it does not halt the game nor prevent them from returning once the problem is corrected.
Often times I have heard, "But the flight model is so unrealistic!" I have to say this is not the case. Several key realism factors are implemented and effect how I fly the F-22. Corner speed is critical in a gunfight while engaging an opponentIn my book, a flight model that accurately models corner speed and its advantage has taken the first big step towards a realistic flight model.
Secondly, "Speed is life." Raptor is no exception to this rule world maxim. The wise pilot will constantly worry about how much energy he has, because in an environment where bandits can come from any direction in groups or alone, if you go slow, you are dead.
There are a few areas which could have used some improvements, but since I have never flown the F-22, I can't say for sure how far off the mark they are. Stalling is nearly impossible; landings are a breeze. These are small things that some people may not like, but they do not detract from gameplay.
Another big complaint is lack of 3-D acceleration for F-22. While it may lack the crisp clean textures of current 3D flight sims, the terrain is nothing short of superb. Where Comanche: Maximum Overkill took us into the canyons and river beds, F-22 models some of the best terrain I have ever flown in. Valleys, mountain, mesas, and the volcano provide the pilot with ample opportunities to use terrain masking to maximum advantage. So even without 3dfx graphics, the players have what they really need whether they know it or not: good terrain!
Novalogic's F-22 Raptor has a good flight model, good avionics, and good graphics; combine this with the multiplayer aspect of the game, and you have something special. There is just something about going up against another 20-30 human pilots on the other end and knowing you have to out-think them, outfly them, and just get plain lucky sometimes in order to win the game. Just like in real life, while flying in Novaworld, you will encounter the green pilot, the veteran pilot, and that ace pilot who keeps shooting you down in flames. No longer will you be flying programmed AI which always seems a little lacking, but instead you fly against the most unpredictable opponents you have ever seen: humans.
The human opponent is a double-edged sword for Novaworld. On paper, I am sure 128 players sounds like gold, but in practice, an average of 25-50 people will be flying in a Raptor Air War at one time. This still offers tremendous opportunity for incredible air combat, and in a perfect world this would be the case.
Unfortunately, there always seems to be one person who has to be "King of the Hill". While some people strive to achieve this in an amicable manner, others try to achieve this through notoriety. Recently I have witnessed name-calling and words that would make a sailor flinch. While I will not condemn people for exercising their right to free speech, I do believe Novaworld is a place to concentrate on flying, and not a forum for machismo. What could be the greatest online experience for the money, too often turns into an IRC room full of angry people.
When winds are favorable and people concentrate on flying Raptor, the results are outstanding. Never before has a game created such an unpredictable and dynamic environment. Flying in RAW is almost as good as being there. Radio chatter between squadrons can be heard in almost military precision. People team up to provide mutual protection and escorts. You will see pilots forming up to provide CAP over their bases, or CAS to friendly bombers on their way to the enemy base. The intensity of the battles is incredible when the war hangs in the balance.
While the game is always dynamic in Novaworld, Novalogic is constantly updating the game itself. Recently Novalogic released a new version of F-22 Raptor which implemented several suggestions and fixes requested by the players. In addition to this support for the game, Novalogic has also implemented an automatic update utility that that keeps you current without any effort on your part. In this way players can concentrate on playing the game rather than worrying about updates and fixes.
With an easy to use interface, a flight sim that performs beyond the average, and a place to fly 24 hours a day with people from all over, virtual pilots will appreciate what Novalogic has created for them. When you look at Novaworld and the F-22 Package as a whole, the player is getting a tremendous deal on a simulation and an intense and fun online experience. F-22 Raptor provides a dynamic flight simulation experience that will provide growth opportunity for the novice while continuing to challenge the ace looking to chalk up another kill.
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Last Updated May 10th, 1998