by Leonard (Viking1) Hjalmarson
Quick View Ratings
Learning Curve 8 Hrs
Fun Factor 85 Overall 85
Info on Ratings
ADF could be one of the most awaited simulations in sim history, up there with Longbow 2 and Falcon 4, the stuff dreams are made of. This third in DiDs TFX series in quality is FAR beyond the original release of EF2000, which was very buggy and lacked key features that made it difficult to play.
In many ways ADF is a generation and more beyond DiDs second TFX: EF2000. Almost every area of game play has been expanded or improved. In graphics, terrain, objects, clouds, effects and damage are much improved. Lighting effects aren't up to Longbow 2, but missiles glow and flares at night are quite amazing. There are minor graphics glitches like seeing a missile through a mountain and the occasional bit of terrain texture missing. Maximum resolution has moved from 640x400 to 800x600 in Glide (F22 does NOT support D3d at this time). Voice and comms are vastly expanded, so much so that there is little comparison. In fact the comms you will hear from other flights while you fly actually represents what is happening around you in real time.
ADFs avionics are finely detailed, bringing us the best yet in an F22 simulation. In flight refueling has been improved, being the most advanced yet attempted in the simulation world. ATC is here, and beyond even iF22 (yes, there are some bugs in it, however). And boom refueling is modelled, the first sim to do this until F4 arrives.
Even though the missions are scripted, the environment is very active and "feels" dynamic. There is air and ground action all around, showcased beautifully by the Smartview system which has been upgraded to supply voice interaction simultaneously. The sim, like EF2000, has a very immersive feel to it, improved by clouds and effects beyond EF2.
Finally, "Allies and Adversaries" makes this a complete package. This special compilation by World Air Power Journal is a must read for sim fans, with great detail spent on the F22, EF2000, MiG 29M, Su35 and others. Lets face it, including a $15 book with a $45 sim DOES improve the value!
However, in all this there are still flaws, mostly minor but some irritating. Most of the flaws revolve around targetting and weapons systems, unfortunately, sometimes compromising gameplay in serious ways. Lets take a look at areas where ADF needs work; DiD will release a patch early in the new year to address some of these issues.
First, aircraft still explode too readily, especially your own! This despite the fact that a skin-to-skin, missile-to-target anti-air kill is fairly uncommon. Anti-air missiles (SAMs and ATA) are proximity-fuzed and explode near their targets and damage done by shrapnel, augmented by secondary damage caused by the aircraft's slipstream expanding the holes, is what actually kills the plane. That's why there's usually time for the pilot to bail out unless he himself is killed by shrapnel.
Getting information on either the LANTIRN or IRST is a challenge since the manual only mentions them briefly, and LANTIRN zoom works only part-time. (LANTIRN is color because the "2000" upgrade is simulated). Padlock includes targets beyond visual range, making target management difficult and awkward. IR sensing applies through 360 degrees, and changing to manual EMCON from Auto changes sensor range to maximum which is a pain when bandits are within thirty miles or so. Lack of an on screen indicator for the current sensor range is also annoying.
Blast effects are not modelled, making use of cluster bombs and some other A2G ordnance almost impossible. SAM lock and launch occur almost simultaneously, making evasion and survival difficult. The cannon still carries over 1700 rounds (at easy and middle difficulty) adding unnecessary weight, and enemy cannon shells seem unlimited. It isn't possible to jettison internal fuel, and the flight model is weak in the areas of roll rate and high altitude performance. There is no detente for afterburner on TM gear, and no sound cue to indicate that full military power has been surpassed. These SA issues are crucial in a close in fight.
There are also cluster resolution problems. Although you may SEE that there are FOUR Su-35s at 35 miles on your attack MFD, generating a shoot list will only lock one or two. The only way around this is to use view padlock to cycle to the other bandits and add them to your list manually, a cumbersome and frustrating process that usually requires you to pause the sim.
A target heading marker on a target track box as it appears on the HUD could either be a line pointing in the direction of the targetís flight direction as if the marker was a compass rose, or it could be a line related to your own heading (a relative marker heading). If the target is out in front of you and flying directly towards you this indicated line should not change at all if you roll your aircraft. DID corrected the relative heading marker deficiency in EF2000 in their TactCom release so that it behaved like a true aspect angle indicator regardless of whether you were viewing it in the HUD or in the Helmet Mounted Display. F22-ADF needs the same fix.
Other targetting issues relate to A2G engagement. Create a shoot list in the anti ship mission and pass the targets to your wingmen. They will often engage only the top item in the list, forcing you to order ENGAGE HOSTILE a second time (difficult to do when you are now 25 miles further along your flight path and perhaps parallel to or beyond the target). Engaging ground mobiles can also be a hassle, and of course you never know what weapons your wingmen carry!
On the subject of targetting and detection, the RCS of the F22 itself seems a bit large. It seems that DiD, much like iMagic, worried that gameplay could be boring if the RCS was as small as testing has suggested. It would be nice to have the option, as iMagic allowed in their patch, to select a more stealthy RCS.
If you happen to be flying at night you'll find using the mfd buttons can be challenging. For some reason only the active buttons are illuminated, making finding the buttons you need a bit of guesswork. The LANTIRN display is difficult to see at night, and night vision is broken in the AWACS module so you'll have to get by with your mfds and HUD. The MFD map disappears in wide view, as does LANTIRN if you have it selected. Furthermore, the wide vr cockpit view distorts the dimensions of objects and isn't very usable except for padlock. Unrelated, air brakes and wheel brakes are linked in the damage model: lose one, lose both.
A Taste of the Action...
You've just entered a mission where you have to get on the runway with your wingmen, but you aren't sure how to get there. Wait for the tower to give you taxi clearance, and then engage TAKEOFF AP. However, keep a close eye on the process with one finger on the AP control because it will sometimes try to taxi you into the aircraft waiting in line in front of you!
Once you are on the runway you can even let the TAKEOFF AP lift you off. Disengage when you get into the air and switch to WAYPOINT AP if you still want to give the flight computer control. Remember to call FINALS after getting clearance on your way to touch down later so that the ATC knows you are coming in. Its wise to keep one finger on the AP control, however, since there is a bug that sometimes fails to detect other aircraft on the ground meaning nasty collisions!
ALT 7 engages antialias and will take the jaggies off objects like aircraft. Doesn't seem to be any frame rate hit under 3dfx.
For actual bugs, there is a sound stutter that plagues many users (likely related to 3dfx using an interrupt), and gamma settings under Glide aren't applying for many users, making it almost impossible to read MFDS in the virtual cockpit view. (For some reason gamma works for some). ATC has a few flaws and your AP may kill you if you use it on the ground.
Even in the Tours most missions start in the air, giving a detailed simulation an arcade-like feel. (A toggle as in JSF that would allow the player to choose between a start in the air and on the runway would have been perfect). Wingmen don't let you know when they are punching out, leaving you guessing when you need to know. And there is no MAYDAY call, no way to ask AWACS for support.
Wingmen tactics are too limited. iF22 did better here and JSF is miles past ADF. THere is no intercept or vis-ident command, and no tactical manouver is possible without committing to engagement. Strangest of all, there is still no way to query wingman status (JSF models FOUR categories of query, including a group and individual toggle). And though we have plenty of other COMMS options, what does STANDY BY do? (The manual is a bit weak in this area also). And my wingman doesn't tell me when he's ejecting. I need to know without having to try to view lock him.
And what if you are in trouble? Can you call in the troops? You can call HELP if you have a wingman, but you can't ask AWACS to vector in those F22s to the north, and neither can you tell those other Allied flights to leave you alone when you are on the tail of a bandit. I've had distant F22s fire BVR missiles at a bandit after I had spent ten minutes setting up a kill and was only 3 miles away from using my guns.
All this points to the need for more interfacing with the AWACS. It would also be greatly helpful to have an indication if AWACS already has an intercept on given bandits. So if I place my cursor on a bandit that is already accounted for perhaps a fine line could extend from the bandit towards the friendly that is to engage him. If no intercept we could request one. If none available we could decide to do it ourselves. rcs
While overall the avionics layout is solid, I'm confused by the sensor range logic. My sensors go from ten, to forty, to fifty. Why is there no twenty mile range? And why no five? When I'm in close that additional range scale would help me sort out who is where if my IFDL is still working.
Finally, all missions are scripted and there is no mission editor. And success for individual missions is linked to particular targets, sometimes leaving the player with a Russian roulette feeling.. "am I going to hit the right one this time?" This again leaves the tactical involvement wanting. If missions had been evaluated by some combination of particular targets and random kills they would have been more playable.
In other missions such as the second in the Red Sea Tour one must wait until fired upon to return fire. However, it seems as though this applies to individual aircraft in two ship flights. And even though two bandits can be on your tail locking you with radar, if you turn and fire on them before they have fired on you the dreaded MISSION FAILURE message will pop up. And once you order your wingman to engage you have to call him off IMMEDIATELY after his kill or he will go on to fire on someone who hasn't launched yet and ... MISSION FAILURE. This means keeping a constant eye on your wing WHILE dodging missiles, and also being certain he has killed his present target.
In fairness, ADF is the first part of a larger package called TAW. DiD had two options: wait to the spring of 1998 to release the entire package, or split the product into two parts and give us much of the package now. Throwing "Allies and Adversaries" into the pot was a nice perk to compensate for the split. The risk, of course, is that those who loved the dynamics of EF2000 would be peeved by this approach and accuse DiD of releasing an incomplete simulation.
But who defines "complete?" Is FA18 Korea incomplete because it lacks a dynamic campaign? Is F22 Raptor incomplete because it lacks a dynamic campaign, avionics, and a mission builder (is there anything left?) It could be argued that ADF is a tremendous value compared to either of these, and neither of them has an AWACS module, ACMI and a full color journal!
Personally, I'm glad that DiD chose to split the product into two to allow for an earlier release. The flaws are unfortunate, but DiD will release a patch. In the meantime I'm glad to see ADF now for two reasons:
First, because its an amazing piece of work and whets my appetite for TAW. I've waited almost a year to see this project hit the sky and I can see the potential in ADF. If DiD have the will, they can compete with the giant killers of 1998: Su27 2, FN2, F4 and F15.
Second, this early release gives an opportunity for the kind of feedback that can make TAW a classic in the ranks of Falcon 3. There is plenty of room for growth and expansion here. With the addition of a truly dynamic campaign system and integrated ground war, and a Theatre Commander component with multiplayer options, TAW could be around for a long, long time. I guess this begs the question: where does it go from here?
After the improvements and fixes listed above, I hope that DiD will consider adding low level turbulence, ground effects and maybe even a wind model. F15 has it, and JSF has it, so why not? It adds to the sense of immersion.
New weapons and new enemies would also be very cool. The Novator anti-AWACS missile mounted on a Berkut S-37 would be a wild addition, as would LOCAAS, WCMD, and JSOW. Why not model some of these state of the art weapons and systems in a state of the art simulation?
Finally, a new hardware option would make perfect sense given the imminent arrival of WIN98 with its multiple monitor support. Can you imagine playing TAW in the AWACS module, with one monitor dedicated to the gods eye map view and AWACS controls, and the other dedicated to the smartview camera or an in cockpit view? If you have seen ADF you know exactly what I mean and you know that this would be an incredible addition to the sim.
ADF is a good value that needs some tweaking to be great. And as part of a larger package it gives me confidence that genius is still resident in the halls of Digital Image Design, placing them in the ranks of the truly great simulation producers in the world today. After playing with ADF I feel like I have tasted the forbidden fruit, and I'm hungry for more! I am eagerly awaiting TAW; 1998 will be a great year!
Go to F22: ADF Review Part I
More screen shots please! Screens Page One
Download my TM configuration for F22:ADF
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Last Updated December 29th, 1997