Late last week we heard that MiG Alley had gone gold. Jarring news, since there were still some apparent issues.
However, we got a couple of things wrong when a few questions went unanswered. Here is the revised report, with some corrections along the way!
This article, like our most recent previews, takes the form of an "I was there" report. I will periodically interrupt the mission flow to point out particular issues.
My test system is the same as the last report: PII 400 with 128 MB RAM running under 3dfx Banshee in Direct3d. All realism options were set to maximum, resolution was at 1024x768 and I used the Logitech Wingman Force with Microsoft Sound System 80 and Aura Interactor cushion.
MiG Alley: Mission One
Campaign Five, January, 1951
It's January 15th and I am piloting an F86E Sabre on an escort mission flying about six hundred miles into North Korea. On this particular mission I am commanding two flights of four aircraft as well as "Rattler Group," a flight of eight B29s.
MiG Alley Directives
My position as tactical commander allows me to determine the strategic priorities for this phase of the campaign, and you can see where I placed my emphasis in the screen shot above. While Air Superiority and even Close Air Support are important, they are really secondary to choking the enemies supplies.
Comments: Notice that the Route info is quite extensive, including ETA and relative ETA between waypoints. The POSITION selection, however, only gives you a geographical listing, not vectors or coordinates (the latter of which wouldn't do you much good anyway.) As a result, you will not have any idea which direction to fly in for each waypoint other than by using your MAP view and guessing or using the WAYPOINT view and INFO bar.
Prior to flight we went through the usual briefing. I boned up on the tactical picture as well as checking INTEL for the target area. I knew what ground threats to expect and also what airborne threats were likely. Naturally, I also checked the weather and wind conditions! Korea in the winter is hell, by the way. (To see the weather report click HERE and for the target area click HERE.)
MiG Alley allows you to not only arm your own flight, but also to choose the weapons for the other squadron, the ground pounders, and even the bombers! I armed the AAA suppression crew with bombs AND rockets for good measure. (Check out Cobra flight by clicking HERE.)
The AI chose two initial missions based on my directives, and of these I chose to escort B29s to the rail bridge at Sinanju. From the Intel briefing you might wonder if this was a good choice, and in fact you can discard any mission the AI generates and substitute your own. I flew the default choice which may be part of the reason that the mission was rather boring. Why would the NK defend such a useless target?
On the runway at Kunsan I go through a quick visual check of my squad mates as I hear Tower give clearance to Shark LEAD for take off. I spool up the engine and hear it respond, and as it nears 100% I release the wheel brakes and start to roll.
Comment: Why does the AI choose to fly to a low priority, low use Choke point deep in North Korea? It makes little sense. No matter, you can choose your own priorities, which is way more fun by the way.
Click to continue
On the Runway
In the cockpit. I assume that the actual Sabre had some kind of indicator for wheel brakes on or off. There is nothing modeled in the Rowan cockpit to give this indication. Some won't mind, of course. At least they did model flameout, which can be very annoying when it occurs but helps greatly with a sense of reality.
I am soon airborne, and at five hundred feet I begin a lazy turn onto my route vector toward rendezvous with Rattler group. As usual I neglect to throttle back to 80% and I hear my wingman call for me to slow up. Cloud cover is heavy as we rise toward the canopy at twelve thousand feet.
Inbound for Sinanju
My squad mates form up as we swing onto a heading of 300. I check in with Dentist (ground control radar) for a picture and he informs me that there are no bandits anywhere near us. I then ask him for a vector to my patrol area, and he gives me a heading of 350.
Comments: the heading of 350 is completely useless to me. While my patrol area is indeed at that heading way up in North Korea, my first waypoint is actually at a heading of 300 where I will rendezvous with the B29 package and the wild weasel package from Taesong.
Unfortunately, Rowan neglected to give the player any way to obtain vectors to waypoints until he is actually in the air. Vectors are then obtained using the waypoint view key and the INFO bar ("F4" then "I"). Hitting F4 gives you a padlock view of the selected waypoint, and then hitting "I" changes the infobar to VIEW mode, giving you a bearing readout of the view you have selected.
This can be tricky because the waypoint view works on a rotating list. If you hit F4 more than once you will not be viewing your next waypoint, but the second one in the list, in this case the IP in North Korea.
Solution? You must use CTL F4 to restore the default checkpoint in combination with the MAP view. The MAP view shows you the hard wired waypoint location, and thus a direction from your flight in real time. It also lists the waypoint name, altitude and ETA. (Click HERE to see the info.) The clock in your cockpit is coordinated with simulation time.
As I level off at 15,000 feet on a heading on 300, I call to Shark squadron to check in. All my pilots report in, and I notch up my elevator trim for a gradual climb to 25,000 feet.
Notching the Trim
At this point I jumped out to the MAP view to go into ACCEL mode to the rendezvous waypoint. MAP view is an interface that allows you to continue to control and communicate with your flight, the tower, or FAC but cheat using time acceleration features. You can choose to ACCEL on your current heading or accelerate to your next waypoint, then jump back into your aircraft. ACCEL will kick you back into normal time when one of two things happen: you reach your next waypoint, or you encounter bandits.
Comments: When ACCEL kicks you back into normal time depends on the setting you have chosen in PREFERENCES/ACCEL OFF. Your choices are TACTICAL or ENGAGE. The normal setting will be to override when a tactical decision is necessary.
MAP and ACCEL Interface
Choosing Menu item #2 (Waypoints) takes you to a slightly different menu which is designed to give you waypoint information and allow selection of the next waypoint. You can use - and = keys to toggle the selected waypoint.
I flew two missions in the fifth campaign without encountering any bandits. Even the bombers failed to encounter any resistance, but then the action is mostly clustered around the FLOT in the south. The positive side is that MiG doesn't provide bandits on every mission, which is the case in some sims at the expense of reality.
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