|FALCON 4 BETA CAMPAIGN REVIEW
by Dan "Crash" Crenshaw
The briefing had called for 500 feet at 600 knots to IP from our last steer point. My wing leader, RHINO, called it lower and we streaked across the Korean terrain at 100 feet.
Business was good. I had plenty of work: keep my wing leader in sight, keep my plane out of the dirt, watch for bandits, watch for SAMs, watch for ground attacks, stay on course Task Saturation was eminent.
I called AWACS for threat warnings, calculated their call and figured I have bandits at about 20 miles at my 10 oclock but not heading for us yet. RHINO pulled up hard at IP and called "Running In" as he rolled toward the target.
Suddenly a puff of smoke from the ground about 1 mile ahead where RHINO was, then another. "SAM SAM" I called over the radio. RHINO pulled up hard and left popping CHAFF all the way. They missed him, but he was out of his attack pattern. I would be the first one in. As I reach IP, I hear (AI) pilots attacking the bandits AWACS warned me about, "Thank you" I think to myself one less problem to worry about.
I rolled into the approach and called "Running In." I didnt want to be over the target long, so I was planning a high-speed pass, in line with the runway we were supposed to bomb. I lined up, this was gonna be easy.
I pickled all 6 of my bombs right over the runway and shoved the throttle into full burner. It was like my pickle switch was the AAA switch as well. They lit me up immediately. I took a couple of hits and my burners dropped to a max of 112%. Damn this was a bad sign. I pulled the throttle back to just under full mil thrust and jinked hard to the right. I was out of the AAA spray as I heard RHINO call "Running In" again.
RHINO made it through without taking any hits all bombs on target. As we egressed he radioed that I was smoking pretty bad and I reported my damage.
We nursed it to our diversion base and requested Emergency Landing, which was granted. I will blame the damaged aircraft, but I didnt get the call sign CRASH for be highly skilled at landing. The landing gear collapsed on landing from a bit too harsh of a touch down, but I slid off the runway and was safe. BDA showed that the airfield had been shut down. All 12 of our weapons were on target.
Welcome to the Campaign World of FALCON 4! The latest beta has shown an amazing amount of progress. Jeff "RHINO" Babineau and I spent most of a weekend putting FALCON 4s campaign engine through its paces in LAN co-operative mode. As you can see from the intro, we were pretty impressed. FALCON 4 will come with three campaign variants based in Korea, each one differing in the amount of territory and resources each side begins with.
Once in the campaign, you get the feeling that a massive war is going on. Many simulations give you an air war, but vaguely elude to a ground war. You occasionally may get CAS missions in these sims, but rarely will you just happen across a ground unit, much less a battle. In FALCON 4, you will catch glimpses of tracers on the ground in the distance. Hunt down the source and you will regularly come across artillery and armor battles. With object density and full details turned all the way up, I have seen many battles of well over 100 units. But be careful how close you fly, the enemy may think you are CAS and fire on you as well.
Also, supply lines are rarely implemented in simulations. FALCON 4 will not only use supply lines, but they will have effects upon the troops. Cut off the supplies to that enemy force that has been harassing your front line, and they will start to diminish in effectiveness. I have been unable to completely cut off an area in solo play yet (I usually leave all that Mud Moving stuff to the guys that are good at in when we LAN play), so I have not yet seen a marked difference. I expect out next full LAN test to give us the opportunity to work on this.
The campaign is real time. You can pause it, or speed it up, but as you play, the world goes on. And I mean a lot of stuff goes on. Just as you can watch ground battles you can see air battles. F-4s and MIG-29s are easy to pick out thanks to the realistic tattle tale smoke these aircraft are known for. I have flown campaign missions as a Strike Package and seen my escort of F-15Cs and F-4 Wild Weasel flights enroute.
This brings up mission selection. Missions are displayed based on a variety of variables you have the ability to select. Each squadron has a specialty, A2A, A2G, general etc., so your mission selection will be dependant on what unit you choose to fly in. You can also pick your PAK, which will tell the mission generator what area you would like to emphasize your talents. It is also used to tell the mission generation system what sort of missions you would like to see in that area and it will build accordingly.
Now you get a mission selection screen that you can view the area, briefing, Take Off time, load out etc, and decide if this is the mission for you. The missions are well described and "briefed". You must also make sure you pay attention to your flights call sign for the mission since all radio information will be broadcast to this call sign. You will hear many bits of information, but if you do not know you are "VIPER1", you may not pay attention to the information intended for you.
You should also note the names for your Escort and Wild Weasel flights so you can keep tabs on your entire package. What if you forget? Don't worry, the working knee board will give you the vital essentials for your mission as well. Missions include every thing from RECON, BDA assessment, STRIKE, ESCORT, SWEEP, BARCAP, etc. If an F-16 can be tasked for it in real life you can do it here.
After you pick a mission, you can change your loadout and steer points. There is no campaign mission generator, which is realistic, but you have some latitude in what you take and how you get in and out, which is realistic as well (at least from the squadron mission creation level).
Once you are good to go, you click on the FLY icon and the time clicks down. You have the option for Taxi out or Take Off position for starting. Pay attention, time will click off faster than real time as you approach mission take off time. You may get a SCRAMBLE prompt if your airfield is in jeopardy. You can accept or decline this mission.
One thing that has lacked in most sims for quite a while is the importance of managing your TOT (Time On Target). You need to pay attention to your TOT and steer point times. Your data link has all of the essential information programmed in for arriving at steer points and on target at the correct time. Show up to one of these points too soon and Wild Weasel may not have already assured the path is clean and SAM hits have a way of ruining your whole day. Show up too late and your Escort may be too far ahead of you to protect you from bandits.
Once you have run a few missions, you can start seeing the results of your performance on the INTEL screen. While there is no true AWACS mode, there is an easy way to simulate AWACS and watch what is going on a boon for multi-play, particularly in a LAN environment.
Just click on the ENLARGE icon for the mission map without actually going into a mission. Then a Right Click on the map gives you options for what you want to see AIR, GROUND, INDUSTRIAL, etc. Once these icons show up, you can right click on each one and get details. You can bring up a wide variety of different levels of detail. This can been mis-used for getting too much information almost. FALCON 4 also simulates the "FOG of WAR", so recon information and AWACS information may not be totally accurate.
During a campaign, you will be able to watch your forces advance or be pushed back, dependent upon the over all performance of your forces. You can watch as you push your way north into North Korea. If you start doing exceptionally well, you may end up with the Chinese, Russians or both entering the war against you as well.
On the "Big Map" you can see ground forces advance and take ground, or lose ground. You can use this information to readjust your strategic options screens in an effort to get into the thick of the mostly hotly contested part of the war. Assign CAS missions in the PAK that have the heaviest concentration of ground battles going on, or Air Interdiction in the areas that are being most attacked by bombers. This will give you more of these types of missions to choose from.
Supply lines will play an important roll. Those forward ground forces that can not advance because of the supplies and reinforcements coming up from the rear could use some help. Take out the bridges and cut off the flow and watch the enemy forces start to weaken and fall.
If your squadron is not getting the type of missions you want, or you decide you want to practice another form of mission, "transfer" to another squadron. Even move to another air field and see what sort of missions you can get that better suit your preference.
I have yet to finish a camapign, and I do not think any of the other testers have either. The amount of effort required to win a war is not trivial, and FALCON 4 has captured the difficulty and essence very well.
It can not be emphasized enough that FALCON 4 is a complete War Generation Module and we are fortunate enough to be able to interact with it and fly missions. The current level of the AI is pretty impressive, and MicroProse intends to tweak it some more.
You have never seen a campaign engine like this before. The realism, level of flexibility, detail, and features are the most encompassing package ever seen in a flight sim. When you consider that future add-ons for FALCON 4 are already planned (HORNET and MIG-29 to start with) with additional campaigns included also, the longevity of a flight sim has never been so promising.
And not only that, but you can also create your own custom campaigns in Korea, and these will also be fully dynamic. Add to this full featured ACMI, and what more could one ask for?
Falcon 4 is slated for release in December. For more interface screens see F4 Campaign Interface Screens. System requirements are these (note that F4 will run faster under DX6):
Minimum System Requirements:
Go to F4 Index
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