by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson and Bob "Groucho" Marks
A New Breed
USAF is a new breed of simulation. It isn't a Novalogic sim, where all systems are pared down to their functions for quick reference, and the emphasis is on action. Neither is it a Falcon 4.0 or a Flanker 2.0, where each system is replicated in such detail that a huge manual and many hours of practice are required.
USAF stands firmly in the middle, and manages to please many in the hardcore crowd without alienating the novice. The emphasis is on game play and immersion, two strong suits which are helped greatly by a very good graphics engine and some well designed missions. "Groucho" and I have cooperated to bring you an in-depth look at JANE'S latest.
USAF: Mid Core Heaven
The net is thrown broadly by allowing the player to fly some of the most famous aircraft ever built, in some very diverse places. Check it out: Vietnam, Iraq, and and a campaign set in the future as well. Fly the F4, F105, F15 (C and E), F16, F117, F22, MiG 29 and A10. A nice whack of single missions, a powerful mission editor, good multiplayer features, a mission recorder, comprehensive pilot records... have I missed anything?
How about ability to command your wingman or the flight, jump into the action in another aircraft, IFR (in-flight refueling) or use built in voice command? How about a thick spiral bound manual? Dang, this is as good as MiG Alley. USAF isn't quite as serious in its flight modeling, but the addition of modern avionics adds an additional level of challenge for the novice.
For some of you, this is "the other guy's" simulation. But for the weekend jet jockey, this is pretty close to heaven. Wanna fly the Thud in Vietnam? It's all yours. Got an itch to try the Phantom? Check it out. Still pining for an A10? It's in here (a "turbo" version, I think!) You've always loved the F15, but you're not into ground pounding? Climb into the C model here. You've been admiring Falcon 4 but the weight of the manual gives you weak knees? Yep, the F16C and even the F22 are here for you.
The action starts on the tarmac. You aren't alone out there!
Gentlemen, Install Your Jet
Remember when Longbow II arrived on the scene, with a maximum install of some 600 MB? In those days the average hard drive was around 1.5 GB. We've come some distance since then, and USAF arrives on two CDs, REQUIRING 415 MB as a minimal installation. Go for the full meal deal and allocate a full 1145 MB of your drive.
I chose the CUSTOM route, leaving out the Vietnam campaign as a way of testing CD access. This means actually SWAPPING in CD number two when loading the campaign, and that is the only time you will notice any access. Leaving out a campaign saves around 250 MB of your hard drive.
Test system was a PII 450 with TNT2. At 800x600 frame rate has not been an issue with all details to the max. Once loaded up you'll get the usual JANE's multimedia intro, followed by the USAF specific video footage. It's worth watching.
Entering the sim, the interface is a cross between the IAF style and WW2 Fighters. Overall it's relatively clean and intuitive. Your first stop will likely be the PREFERENCES.
My system defaulted to 1024x768 but not all the options were turned on. I made that correction, and then turned off the training aids (Easy Aiming and Easy Targetting were turned ON by default.)
When Tim "Flyboy" Henderson installed USAF, it failed to detect his AMD Athlon 600, instead deciding he was running a K6-3 400. It looks like Jane's have optimized for the Pentium III but have not optimized for the Athlon. Too bad, but maybe this will be rectified in a patch. I've been running under DX7 on WIN98 OSR 2.
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Last Updated November 18th, 1999