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Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator
by Peter "Fighterjock" Waddell

Padlock views are good, though unless you have a monster system it takes a little while to switch back and forth from padlock to fixed view. Best to do it once before the fight if possible, this seems to help set it up and next time it works faster.

In fact Microsoft has pioneered a fixed view padlock system that is one of the most effective yet seen in a prop sim. Once you select your target, you will have additional information superimposed around the object. You can toggle this info on and off according to your preference, but so long as your target is selected it is marked by a color in the tactical window and by a 3d conical arrow that appears on screen, always pointing to the direction you need to pull to bring your target within your deadly crosshairs!

Virtual Cockpit!

If you prefer, you can switch to a virtual cockpit. This view gives better visibility than the full cockpit and less than full screen, but still includes functioning instruments. And as in Flight Sim '98, you can configure multiple windows with the views you prefer to give you a much improved situational awareness.

Oddly, one of the few oversights in the view system is the lack of a friendly padlock. Perhaps this is because little emphasis was put on interaction with wingmen. One hopes that a friendly padlock will arrive in an update, since anyone who's tried to fly with a wingman knows how impossible it can be in a dogfight to keep track of your wingy.


To quote a friend, a military pilot, "When I come up on a bogie in CFS, I get the sense of flying form on someone (which I have done a lot for real), but I did not get this same feeling in (insert other sim here)."

In my book, environment encompasses not just scenery but many things, and is essential for suspension of disbelief. It includes scenery and sound, i.e. things like radio chatter, doppler sound effects, and wind, sun glare and G effects as well as how your plane interacts with the "physical" World. In these departments, CFS again comes out at least as good if not better than most of its rivals.

MS Combat FS

The scenery in CFS is second to none, if you have the hardware to run it. I would suggest at least a PII 233 and Voodoo II or comparable. However, I have successfully run it on my P166 mmx with two Meg, Cirrus Logic video adapter. (Setup tried to put the resolution at 320 x 240 x 16 but this looks like hell (runs at about 10 fps), and returns you to the bad old days of jagged and pixilated lines).

On my 166 CFS will run at 640 x 400 on low display complexity, about 8 fps, depending largely on how many planes you have going at the time. Clearly not the ideal setup. However, add a Voodoo card to the 166mmx setup and you will have a workable system with quite acceptable performance. In 1 v 1 I get 20fps at 640X480. Microsoft gives these specs as minimum:

  • Multimedia PC
  • P133 or faster microprocessor
  • Microsoft Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0 operating system
  • 16 MB of RAM
  • 200 MB of available hard disk space
  • Quad-speed CD-ROM drive
  • Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device
  • Windows 95-compatible sound board
  • Microsoft Direct3D-compliant 3D graphics accelerator card (recommended)
  • Headphones or speakers (recommended)
  • Supports force feedback hardware compatible with Microsoft Direct Input API

Click to continue . . .



My PII 233 with Canopus Pure 3d, Voodoo I and 8 Meg STB Velocity runs CFS quite well at Max complexity, but there are pauses occasionally (mostly at start-up, after a while it settles down). There doesn't seem to be much difference in frame rates between either the Pure 3d, which runs in 800 X 600 and the Velocity 128 when running at 1024 x 768. If anything the STB card runs a bit faster at 600 X 800 but the best thing about the STB is that you can run in 1024 resolution which is gorgeous.

The scenery in CFS bodes well for the coming FS 2000. VFR (Visual Flight Rules) navigation in a flight sim will take a big leap forward on the PC if all the scenery looks as good as it does in CFS. It's somewhat hard to explain in words just how good this scenery looks, and even screen shots are not as impressive as seeing this landscape rolling beneath your wings in real time.

The Game Play.

CFS is somewhat weak in this area when compared to some of the other titles out there. There is no dynamic mission generator or coop multi-player. And while your wingman and others will make radio calls, informing you of bandits or calling for help, you can't issue orders.

However, the missions themselves are great fun, partly because of the excellent flight, damage and ballistics modeling (see below). And there are other things that will keep most people interested, e.g. scenery additions or third party aircraft etc. And who knows what kind of expansions to this world we might yet see? In the meantime, just bring your imagination.

MS Combat FS

AI, Ballistics and Damage Model

Enemy AI is another of the few disappointments I encountered with CFS, though there are some mitigating factors. In Quick Combat, the AI even on ACE level is pretty well a novice to intermediate level pilot. I have no trouble shooting down two of two enemy A/C in this mode every time.

Oddly, this doesn't see to be so true in the single or career missions. however that in the offline single or career type missions. In these the AI pilots seem to be more aggressive and just generally better, and if you don't keep good Situational Awareness (SA) you'll get toasted pretty quickly. Perhaps giving the pilots a clear objective (in programmed missions) has an impact on the AI effectiveness.


Go to Part III

Download Peter's customized Sabre and MiG 15 and fly them in CFS: Sabre vs MiG 1.8 meg.

Part I


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Last Updated November 12th, 1998

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