by Dan "Crash" Crenshaw
Graphical representations of the aircraft are well done and the cockpits are very close to the actual cockpits. 2D as well as 3D virtual cockpits are available and are unique for each aircraft.
The terrain is bar none the very best terrain in a sim to date. I took a high-speed trip down the Grand Canyon in an F-15C. If the monitor had been bigger, I am sure I would have gotten nauseous. Terrain masking was not fully implemented at E3, but will be. It was very nice to be able to use the canyons and mountains around Nellis to hide during the multi-player dogfights I was in during the show.
While "eye candy" does not a great sim make, to compete in the current market, a sim must look good. USAF graphics stand with the best of them out there. And, if you're worried about needing to upgrade yet again to fly the newest sim out, hold on.
The PIXEL team has used a graphics engine that should allow good graphic quality on the current "low end" machines. Expect a 233Mhz CPU with a good graphics card to be able to run USAF: not at high detail, but better than most current graphics intensive games out right now. And for you "Power System" users out there, 1280X1024 is planned as well, so crank it up and be amazed at the detail.
F22 in USAF
In USAF there is a full recording system that allows full view changes while in playback mode. These files, as well as missions created in the mission editor, are all swappable with other players. It's not really an ACMI recorder, but it will be very useful in analyzing what you did wrong or right in your last dogfight.
The player also will develop an attachment to their in-game persona. Starting out as a lowly pleeb, you will progress through the ranks all the way up to 4 Star General, medals and all. The game keeps a record of your kills, hours flown, injuries, and more.
Multiplayer is planned for 16 players and will include 8V8. Force on force will not be just dogfight either. As in IAF, there will be missions set up that allow humans to defend an area from aggressor humans. Cooperative missions and campaigns are also included with 4 ship flights (a step up from the 2 ship flights in IAF). Campaign is "semi-dynamic" with branching connected scripted missions. (The campaign was not in the demo unit at E3, so I was not able to tell much more about it).
A full mission editor will also be included. When I asked about ground forces interacting, I was told that they would interact and fight each other. Campaigns are planned for RED FLAG missions at Nellis, historical campaigns in Viet Nam (for the F-4 and F-105 junkies) and Iraq (Desert Storm, use the F-117 in it's debute conflict), and a futuristic campaign set in Germany.
In addition to all of these multi-player options, USAF is slated as the first sim to be used in JANES WORLD WAR. An upcoming online environment for integration of multiple sim types. The "Electronic Battlefield" concept has been around for a while, and if anyone has the resources to make it a reality, JANES does. We are not talking about flying only here, we are talking integrating planes with helicopters, tanks, ships, submarines … imagine getting called in for air support because your buddy in France running a tank battle is getting jumped by a flight of helicopters lead by someone in Australia.
Hard to believe? With the advent of higher speed Internet connections and faster CPU's, this may soon become a realty. USAF will be the initial test bed. Look for future titles form JANES to interface with this arena, and may be even some updated versions of past products.
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Last Updated June 1st, 1999