|Total Air War
by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Digital Image Design set out to redefine the combat flight simulation genre in 1997. After their award winning simulation of the EF2000 and its ongoing improvement with 3d acceleration and the TactCom enhancements they set their sights even higher. F22: Air Dominance Fighter and Total Air War would integrate the tactical battlefield in a comprehensive new stealth fighter simulation.
In December of '97 DiD released F22: ADF. Virtually every area of game play was expanded or improved beyond EF2000. The graphics component improved terrain, objects, effects and damage textures and even added multiple cloud layers. Lighting effects aren't up to Longbow 2, but missiles glow, explosions can be spectacular and flares at night are impressive.
Between EF2000 and F22: ADF maximum resolution moved from 640x400 to 800x600 in Glide. Viewing this spectacle on a 19" or larger monitor is quite stunning. Direct3d support expanded greatly with the release of a later patch. Voice and comms were vastly expanded, so much so that there is little comparison to EF2000 in this area and the experience has become much more immersive, providing the ability to listen in on other flights while you fly your F22.
ADFs avionics were finely detailed, bringing us the best yet in an F22 simulation. In-flight refueling was also improved and was the best yet represented until Janes F15 arrived on the scene. ATC was also beyond the standard until the release of F15. ACMI was modelled in detail, in spite of some small requests for improvement.
Even though the missions in ADF were scripted, the environment was very active and "felt" dynamic (at least until you had flown the same mission a half dozen times). Air and ground action abounded, showcased beautifully by the Smartview system which was upgraded to supply voice interaction simultaneously. Finally, the AWACS component was an entirely new direction for this level of simulation design, adding a component of immersion not previously seen in the genre; a percursor to the Theatre Commander mode of Total Air War.
Its no wonder, then, that DiD scooped TWO Top Games Industry 'Oscars' at Milia d'Or Awards Ceremony in Cannes, France in February for F-22 Air Dominance Fighter. F-22 ADF secured the 'Best Simulation' award and went on to win the 'Grand Prize Game' award. It was the first time the Award for Best Game was awarded for a simulation at Milia. Milia d'Or 98 saw a record attendance, with over 8,000 participants, 2,800 companies and more than 50 countries represented.
TAW: the Second Coming of ADF
Second Comings are becoming commonplace in the computer gaming industry. Not all are worth the price of admission. But Longbow 2 was an exception, adding 3d hardware acceleration, vastly increased object and terrain detail, dynamic lighting, a fully dynamic campaign, new vehicles to fly, two seat multiplayer ability, and tactical command via the mission planner. Total Air War may not be quite the same value, but it moves us far beyond the limitations of ADF.
In spite of the beauty and breadth of F22: ADF, the lack of dynamic campaign AI and mission planning locked us into a battlefield that was too predictable and sometimes left the player attempting to beat the script rather than the enemy. Moreover, the separation of Total Air War into two products meant the loss of mission planning capability, including the ability to choose one's loadout. We get these basic abilities back in Total Air War.
As a package TAW is fairly comprehensive, including a Custom Mission Designer, ten different Campaign scenarios, and ACMI facilities. The largest disappointment may be for the multiplayer crowd, since TAW does not include the ability to fly coop missions in the campaigns.
In addition, air to air training has been expanded to include a new set of scripted missions, called "dogfighting." The dogfighting options include 1v1. 1v2, 2v2, and 4v4 against a variety of adversaries. Meanwhile, Custom Combat is much more flexible than ADFs "Quick Combat" arena, allowing you to configure a mission to your liking against a huge number of air, ground, or naval targets.
Go to Part II
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Last Updated September 15th, 1998