|F4 Setup & Campaign Comments
by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson
After doing some digging around in the Control Customization interface of F4 I thought it would be good to let you in on some of the commands that will be available to LEAD.
F4 is stunning in many dimensions and WILL raise the bar for combat flight simulations this year. While Janes F15 took the command structure beyond anything seen to date, Falcon 4.0 goes beyond even Janes F15. The command structure is not quite final, and some of these commands bring up sub-menus.
Here is the command tree under SHF W : Wingman Commands:
Nine other formation commands follow, and then...
And then under SHF E: Commands to Element
SHF R brings up many of these same commands to issue for the Flight. SHF Q brings up the AWACS contact menu. SHIFT F is FAC check in. SHF A allows comms with the Tower.
F4 General Setup
The options are legion, befitting a simulation that will likely have an extended shelf life and some very worthy add ons. There are four main tabs: Simulation, Graphics, Sound and Controllers.
F4 is obviously designed to scale to a huge variety of systems and skill levels and is the only sim on tap for this fall that will actually support dual processors under NT.
One can select one of three variables under most items on the Simulation tab. For example, clicking on Flight model brings up Accurate, Simplified, and Easy. On the right side of the Simulation Config screen you can toggle all these options ON/OFF:
You can also do a quick configuration by selecting one of five skill levels in the box at top. Choosing ACE gives you the configuration you see in the screen shot above...
The second tab is the Graphics configuration interface. You begin by selecting your video board. I choose DISPLAY for my primary board (Matrox MGA G200) and R3D2 comes up for my Voodoo2 SLI setup.
When you select a V1 or V2 based board you will then have two options in the Video Driver box: Direct3D and a Glide driver. I'm not sure why you would choose D3D over Glide under normal circumstances, but compatibility with Glide might be questionable on some driver revisions.
Click for 1600x1200
Resolution will then be selectable according to the abilities of your video board. With 8 meg on the MGA G200 I can select up to 1600x1200, though my frame rate in the alpha at that resolution is only 5-14 fps (depending on my distance from the ground and the number of ground objects nearby...this is with detail almost maxed out). However, there is still optimization to be done on F4 and this frame rate could still climb considerably by the time of release. At 1152x864 the frame rate is consistently over 12 fps. Glide support for V2 is not complete yet.
By the way, some have downloaded these larger images and complained about pixelation. You have to remember that looking at a 1600x1200 image when your screen resolution is only 1024x768 is going to give you a very distorted idea of what F4 looks like in the higher resolution. I recommend you find a friend with a high res 19" monitor and a video board with 8 meg or more of memory. I know, its hard to find these people yet, but that will be changing this fall!
General Impressions in the Campaign
I want to report some general impressions of campaign action. Even at this early stage the enemy AI appears quite sophisticated; in fact its at least as sophisticated as Su27 1.5 and possibly beyond.
The biggest surprise for me so far was the appearance of individually modeled infantry! I was cruising along minding my own business.... well, yes, I was technically AWOL and out of formation doing some sight-seeing (!!)... when I heard the crack of a rifle and a corresponding "TINK" on my airframe. I paused the sim to scout around the ground targets, and lo and behold I found some infantry!
Since Microprose did quite a nice job with infantry in M1TP2 this shouldn't have surprised me. If you click for the larger image above note that I was running only medium detail and no texture smoothing. Even this low to the ground the textures look considerably better on high detail with smoothing, and once you are up 1000 feet they look very, very good.
As I mentioned I haven't flown each mission by the book, and I've taken advantage of incoming bandits over friendly territory to check out the enemy AI. Its quite impressive. Incoming aircraft with ground attack missions will completely ignore you until you give them your attention. They will then use tactics that are appropriate and sophisticated. I turned to lock up three inbound strike aircraft at about five miles. They promptly dove for the deck, making it very difficult to spot them and with the ground clutter it took my radar a bit to find them in ACM mode.
When I achieved lock and launched on the first bandit at four miles he did a wing over immediately while dumping flares and breaking hard. In the meantime the other two both broke left and right respectively. Wow....
Needless to say I missed! The other two bandits increased their speed and stayed low and continued toward their target. I waited to just over one mile to fire again on my target and scored a hit, but didn't take him down. He was obviously fighting for control and in a cheat outside view I could see his aircraft shaking and bucking and making smoke.
The next time I tried this I thought we were still over friendly territory when I jumped into the mission, but it turned out that we were quite close to the FEBA. I was entranced watching the ground action, and as soon as I came off the deck and crossed one thousand feet to engage an enemy I was engaged by enemy SAMs.
The feeling within the campaign is extremely dynamic. You will have traffic all around you, both on ingress and egress, both over friendly territory and enemy territory. You will find yourself challenged attempting to clearly ID your target before you commit yourself, especially in the case of inbound strike aircraft since they will not act aggressively.
On the other hand, you will get AWACS calls to intercept or warning you of bandits after your tail. BARCAP missions in the north near the FEBA should be especially interesting =) However, if you've grown accustomed to the stealth of an F22 or the extra large loadout of shells on EASY or MEDIUM settings in EF2000 or F22: ADF you are in for a surprise. There is no selection for UNLIMITED WEAPONS in the Falcon 4 campaign, and the few shells you carry disappear VERY quickly unless you sharpen your aim and conserve them carefully for very close range shooting.
For most of us, Falcon 4 will be like no other simulation we have ever flown on the PC. While there are parallels to elements of Falcon 4 in a variety of other simulations, no one simulation has ever brought them all together with this level of accuracy in one package. Falcon 4 will NOT be for everyone, but is destined to be an instant classic and will undoubtedly convert many middle level players (many of the EF2000 and F22 ADF crowd) into hard core fans who will never again be satisfied with anything less.
For more information go to: F4 Index
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Last Updated July 12th, 1998