F4 previews could continue endlessly, there is SO much going into this sim. Simply put, there is NOTHING left out. I'm tempted to say that F4 is F15 but with a fully dynamic campaign system. However, that really wouldn't do it justice. Consider:
- you can run it up to 1600x1200.
- D3d, Glide or software support
- it's multithreaded and should be incredible running under NT, especially with dual processors!
- it will be networkable and early in the new year we should see a MiG 29 add on.
- three fully dynamic campaigns
- players can build their own CUSTOM fully dynamic campaigns!
- FULL featured ACMI
- 28 training missions
- coop campaign is the heart of the sim
To my delight, scramble missions will be available in the campaign! If your base comes under attack you will have the option of flying the scramble. This should add a great sense of involvement and urgency to the campaign mode.
Involvement comes in other ways also. F4 will boast EIGHT separate radio channels, the most of any simulation to date. I suspect they are basically giving us exactly what an F16 pilot has to handle, and the ability to filter communications depending on the situation. Naturally, comms will allow us to talk to the tower, the tanker, AWACS and FAC, our wing, flight and package, or broadcast and receive from the whole world. If you take a serious hit you'll also be able to call your location to SAR.
As befits an effort of this magnitude, training becomes very important. Mission 1 will cover basic controls and views. Mission 2-4 are three versions of max G cornering: at corner airspeed, well above corner airspeed, and when well below corner airspeed.
Training Missions 5-7 cover maneuvers from the Split S to over-the-top maneuvers. Missions 8-10 cover navigation and steering, and missions 11-14 get you into air-to-air weapons (seventeen pages of instruction in the prelim manual). Let's take a peek at a single mission to illustrate the depth of instruction here.
Mission 12 is 20MM Cannon (air-to-air) instruction. It opens with some gun sight theory which I suspect is supplied personally by Pete Bonanni .
Missions 15-23 get you into the mud moving regime, and because the F16 is such a capable aircraft you'll spend a lot of time learning and studying for these missions. The Block 52 F16 is HARM capable which will add a great deal of fun.
Mission 24 covers air-to-air refueling. I was surprised that Microprose has actually allowed a separate setup for this one in the config screen. You can choose an EASY, SIMPLIFIED or REALISTIC capability here so that IFR can become quite easy for the newbie or weekend flier. Korea is quite small so IFR isn't a common requirement anyway.
Training mission 25 is SAM evasion. Mission 26 is Offensive BFM, and 27 is Defensive BFM. Finally, Mission 28 is Head-on BFM, a special case scenario with some solid written instruction by Pete Bonanni.
I know that I had previously read in Dan Crenshaw's preview that the TACTICAL ENGAGEMENT module would allow us to build our own full campaigns, but I didn't realize just how powerful this module was. It looks like Microprose is giving us what will be the most advanced tool ever released to the public for mission design! Here are some of Dan's previous comments:
The Tactical Engagement module allows players to set up a mission, with full direction of the ground forces, orders, routes etc. It allows the players to set up the opposition’s forces similarly. Once the mission begins, the AI takes over and the war begins. Anything you are not flying will get run by the AI. Even if you set up successive missions and don't get home in time to fly the next one, it will take off and fly the mission.
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Of course you can always hop out of your current flight, and into the new one whenever you like (except during egress or landing, though you can leave these flights if you wish and the AI will take over). Now you and your AI or human cooperative multi-player pilots must perform your tasks to help ensure victory. If you are very bold, you can fly low and watch what the forces are doing and even witness a land battle.
Furthermore, as is becoming an industry standard, you will be able to make your mission and send it to your friends to see how well they do. Or make an ACMI tape and let them watch the action (tapes are 100K per minute).
The flexibility of this module will allows you do anything from create quick and easy training missions or short sorties, to developing a whole campaign setting. The AI will work with or against you in an intelligent manner.
Note: you can develop an entire campaign setting! If you design larger scale objectives that take many missions to complete you have a new campaign. If the goals are substantial enough and the forces pitted against one another well matched, you have created an entirely new F4 campaign which you can fly on your own or cooperatively with your friends. Success in the engagement you create will depend on meeting the objectives you assign. Like the campaigns supplied by MPS on release of F4, the missions run in real time and will continue to play out even when you are not in an aircraft.
Once you watch a campaign and start to play with the Tactical Engagement section, you will quickly realize you can create a war of the same magnitude as the campaign if you were so inclined. You can use TE to set up competitions with Win Conditions. You can use it to train, or just learn or test tactics (both air and ground). You can make the missions as easy or as difficult as you like, as cut and dried or complex as you want. Solo or multi-player, cooperative or H2H, the possibilities are virtually endless.
The features in Falcon 4 may spoil us for all air combat sims that follow. For example, Tactical Reference in F4 has the ability to access sound files recorded from the various warning systems on the F-16. Every radar type that locks you up has a unique signal, and the RWR on the F-16 will sound its tone depending on that source.
You can learn those tones in the reference section by going to the source so that you will know instantly whether the enemy locking you up is a MiG 29 or an SA 8.
Simply bring up the particular radar source in the reference section and then click on RWR to hear the tone.
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I've been impressed with other configuration features also, like the ability to select padlock realism (3 settings), or the ability to set autopilot realism (also 3 settings). As in many other simulations, you can also select no collisions or no blackouts. But be warned: this is the most realism we have seen yet in GLOC (gravity induced loss of consciousness), and your ability to withstand high g's declines over time. Pull 9gs once and try it again a minute later and the onset of GLOC is quicker and lasts longer!
Some other prescient features include Vehicle Auto-Scaling. This feature dynamically scales objects as they get further away so that you can still see them (if the objects are within the limits of visual distance), thus compensating for the size of your pc monitor (and taking your resolution choice into account).
Without this feature a properly scaled object would no longer be visible, even with real-world visual distances.
Alternatively, you can use a slider bar to set Vehicle Magnification. With the slider at minimum objects are drawn at actual size. Moving the slider to the right increases their size, so that they are easier to spot.