By Brandt Ryan January 18th, 2000
I have been charged with writing a review for Jane's new combat simulator "F/A-18"--not an easy task considering it will be my first written review. Please forgive me any mistakes--I will do the best I can, and will try to be as objective as possible.
Although I haven't written a review before, I have read plenty, and am aware of the common mistakes. Let me just say that this review is completely mine, and has not been influenced by any other person or Corporation.
Those Magic Moments
Jane's seemed to have one thing in mind when they made this sim: to make the pilot feel like they are an integral part of an air campaign. As opposed to spending all of their time making you feel nice and comfy INSIDE the cockpit, they seemed to focus their efforts on what goes on OUTSIDE the cockpit, withoutleaving you behind in the systems realism arena.
There has been a lot of uproar and belly aching on the message boards about the virtual cockpit--and I agree, it takes a bit to get used to it--but once you do, it works out fine. Because so much is going on outside of you (as it would in the real world), Jane's wants your head to be on the swivel; thus their decision to go 3d cockpit only. It's not the prettiest thing in the sim, but boy does it work.
I for one like the tradeoff of function for appearance, though it took me a few hours in the sim in order to appreciate it. It's sort of like the terrain in the sim -- it ain't that pretty up close, but it serves its purpose perfectly. Let me restate this all important point: if you can get past the cockpit looking a little below par, there is nothing stopping this sim from setting some new benchmarks. The functionality of the cockpit is exceptional--so don't judge a book by its cover.
Core Rating (90%)
Jane's has once again designed a product that appeals to a wide audience. On one end you've got the capability to configure all the settings for the novice, including flight model, AI, fuel, and a plethora (yes, I said "plethora"!) of other options. It is NOT USAF, but nevertheless in the mission critical areas there are numerous cheats and go-arounds, like automatically targeting your primary target.
On the other side of the coin, if realism is what you want, you can certainly have it, as that is what the designers had in mind when they made it. The weapons systems (more than ever before in quantity) are exhaustively modeled.
Understanding and developing to the point of proficiency will take many hours, even for the veterans. Take the HARMS options for example; there are three different modes by which to employ the HARM, one of which is such that if you are in any other mastermode, no matter what you are doing, or what weapon is selected, if you are threatened by AAA or a SAM, the HARM is automatically pulled up, and ready to fire.
Of course, during critical times (five seconds to pickling LGB on primary target) you can overide the HARM from being pulled up by a simple push button. This is the sort of thing that makes the hardcore crowd drool. This sim was so close to getting a 100% core rating from me--but a few less important details aren't present in a few of the weapons systems and FLIR pods, so I couldn't justify it.
The comms are quite extensive, see below. We're talking a new benchmark in this area. Now on to the gameplay.
Go to Page Two: Gameplay
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Last Updated January 18th, 1999