|Ratings (This is only here for archive material. No longer used.)|
(Publisher's Note: This rating system was originally written in 1998 and updated until 1999.)
All reviews will be rated on a scale of 30 to 100. Note that 100 is really only a theoretical position and very few sims will ever achieve such a score. A sim that achieves an overall rating of 85% or more will be a candidate for our "Top Pick" award as noted by the medal on the right (we reserve the right to make exceptions.)
Explanation Since graphics may be the toughest rating to assign at the moment, let's begin there and compare some recent simulations to get a sense of direction.
If we rated Team Apache on a beauty only scale, with the best out there defining 100, then it would rate an 85. MiG Alley might rate about the same since though it is a much later release it lacks the spectacular effects of Team Apache. JANE'S USAF, being virtually state of the art, would weigh in around 90, as would Flanker 2.0. Falcon 4.0 might come in at 80.
But if we factor in a weighting for other graphical features (object detail, cockpits, landing gear up or down, pieces flying off aircraft when hit, special effects), then Team Apache might move up to 90 while USAF might move up to 95.
Other items must also factor. EF2000 was above and beyond the rest of the crowd when released, but the frame rate was quite low as was Falcon 4.0. This has to factor into the graphics rating.
The Learning Curve scale also needs some explanation. What will an average simmer have to invest in this simulation in order to be able to survive (not necessarily excell) in the simulated environment with cheats off and a moderate difficulty level?
Terms: "Average" Sim Buff
Who is the average sim buff? I take this to mean someone who has been participating in military simming for a year or more, and who has invested in some good equipment: a joystick and throttle, and a decent computer system (PII 300 with 64 MB or better and a GOOD hardware accelerator).
An average learning curve for a good modern simulation should probably be around 8 to 10 hours. This doesn't mean one can't have fun in two hours; in fact with the number of cheat and difficulty toggles in modern sims this might even be typical. But increase the difficulty to moderate and turn the cheats off and modern military sims require some stiff time investments to achieve a high degree of competency.
Gameplay will evaluate "depth" and "flow" in the game, and involve such issues as "suspension of disbelief", known to some as "immersion" and "realism." Gameplay includes the overall feel of the environment, interactivity, use and involvement of other tactical elements like wingmen, FACs, AWACS and artillery, etc. The campaign and mission depth are examined here.
The "fun" question will have impact here, as will issues of mission structure and game flow. Game flow includes briefings, debriefs, intel and pilot records.
The "Core" Rating: Target Audience
Our "core" rating is a scale to give the player some idea of what kind of gameplay experience to expect. In general, the "core" rating reveals how "hardcore" of a player the game is designed for. Factors may include maximum challenge, perceived realism (especially weapons, FM and systems modeling), control-use difficulty, and complexity of AI. Ratings will usually be given in a range, unless the sim in question does not offer any difficulty adjustment settings.
Note that although games representing advanced technology military equipment may indeed model every option the vehicle has, a streamlined, accessible, and player configurable design will tend to merit a wider rating spread since the game can appeal to a wider audience. Allowing the user to choose levels of realism in flight model and avionics and level of challenge allows even novices to enjoy a high end simulation.
The core rating also allows us to compare apples with apples, since we are not measuring every game against an objective, real-world standard. We will rate according to the developers target audience. In this way a mid-core game can be recognized for overall excellence as quickly as a very serious military simulation.
Base Measures for the Core Rating:
100 - Complexity in the hyper-extreme. The game offers every conceivable option to every possible use of on-board technology, and at this level, nothing is spared. The player workload can be expected to be at least as heavy as his real-life counterpart. Expect to spend weeks mastering the various options in sensor systems, fire-control computers, and navigation systems. Specifically targeted to the literal meaning of the word "simulation".
90 - Extreme complexity. Games like these typically model almost every single mode, control, and option that the on-board equipment makes. Only a couple of the most abstract options are excluded. Expect to spend several days getting accustomed to the myriad controls and options, and longer to put them to use effectively. Janes Longbow would rate a 90 on the highest settings in the Azer campaign but would stretch as low as 50 on easier levels.
75 - High complexity but maximum challenge is less than the most hardcore sims. DiDs F22: ADF, iMagics iF22 and iF16 are good examples here. One needs to learn a variety of systems but actually handling the aircraft and targetting is not as complex as in Janes Longbow on high realism.
50 - Medium complexity. The game models the vehicle's selection of weapon systems and manuevering controls with respectable authenticity. Sensors and on-board computers are highly streamlined for simplicity. There may be a significant number of keyboard controls and options, but they mostly control activating major systems. Jet Fighter III is a good example, or DIs Hind and Apache.
25 - Low complexity. Platform avionics are vastly simplified so that the learning curve is quite low. Novalogics Comanche 3 and F22 Raptor are good examples.
General Comments on Scores
100 - Historic. A rare rating representing breakthroughs that will likely set the standard for years to come. Perhaps one simulation in a year will achieve this rating, perhaps none will.
90 - Unusual Excellence. There are some "firsts" here that have pushed the envelope, and the overall quality is consistently high. A blemish or two, an occasional bug might appear, but they don't detract from the experience.
80 - Superb - Still above average, though there should be many sims with this rating in any given year.
70 - Good, but moving towards average. The game is a solid example of the better games out in this category, but will not attract much praise and there is not new ground being broken.
60 - Average - The achievement here is not noteworthy, and in fact many simulation buffs will be disappointed. This is an effort which is behind the times.
50 - Dull - The game is typical of past sims in this category.
40 - Worse than dull - The sim is well behind the times in this category without any major saving grace.
30 - Ouch - This rating speaks for itself.
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