USAF - First Look
by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson
I consider myself a serious sim player. I have a fortune invested in my equipment. I am a stickler for realism, generally. I don't use cheats or simplified modes when they are available. F4 is STILL on my hard drive ;)
BUT... I like USAF. There, I said it. I feel better already.
Don't get me wrong... standard disclaimers apply. USAF isn't perfect. I'm a bit annoyed at the cowboy atmosphere. The wingman AI needs some work. USAF detected my system fine but detects Athlon systems incorrectly, and crashes most of the time when I exit. Yes, it needs a patch.
But no sim is ever released completely bug free. And it just ain't fair to judge all sims by one standard. The hard core crowd, of which I am one, need to recognize that there are many out there who want and need this kind of simulation. It's a great introduction to military combat sims and it's also a great sim to fly when you don't have time to spend ten hours a week studying manuals!
USAF: Mid Core Heaven
Check it out: Vietnam, Iraq, and and a campaign set in the future as well. A nice whack of single missions, a powerful mission editor, good multiplayer features, a mission recorder, comprehensive pilot records, stunning graphics... have I missed anything? How about ability to command your wingman or the flight, jump into the action in another aircraft, IFR (in-flight refueling) or use built in voice command? How about a thick spiral bound manual?
For some of you, this is "the other guy's" simulation. But for the weekend jet jockey, this is pretty close to heaven. Wanna fly the Thud in Vietnam? It's all yours. Got an itch to try the Phantom? Check it out. Still pining for an A10? It's in here. You've always loved the F15, but you're not into ground pounding? Climb into the C model here. You've been admiring Falcon 4 but the weight of the manual gives you weak knees? Yep, the F16C and even the F22 are here for you.
No matter what you think of Jane's Combat Simulations, they tend to set the pace with each simulation they release. F15 may have lacked a dynamic campaign and front seat/back seat coop, but it was one helluva great simulation. WW2 Fighters similarly lacked wingman coordination and full dynamics, but it is still stunning graphically and as a multiplayer game it's tough to beat. In the same way, USAF is a survey simulation like WW2 Fighters, and nicely defines the middle realism market for jet jocks.
The action starts on the tarmac. You aren't alone out there!
My goal here is not to do a comprehensive review, but to introduce USAF to those who have waited to hear something more from us. This will be the quick tour, covering the main bases and also suggesting direction for improvement, looking toward that first patch!
Install Your Jet
Remember when Longbow II arrived on the scene, with a maximum install of some 600 MB? In those days the average hard drive was around 1.5 GB. We've come some distance since then, and USAF arrives on two CDs, REQUIRING 415 MB as a minimal installation. Go for the full meal deal and allocate a full 1145 MB of your drive.
I chose the CUSTOM route, leaving out the Vietnam campaign as a way of testing CD access. This means actually SWAPPING in CD number two when loading the campaign, and that is the only time you will notice any access. Leaving out a campaign saves around 250 MB of your hard drive.
Once loaded up you'll get the usual JANE's multimedia intro, followed by the USAF specific video footage. It's worth watching.
Entering the sim, the interface is a cross between the IAF style and WW2 Fighters. Overall it's relatively clean and intuitive. Your first stop will likely be the PREFERENCES.
My system defaulted to 1024x768 but not all the options were turned on. I made that correction, and then turned off the training aids (Easy Aiming and Easy Targetting were turned ON by default.)
When Tim "Flyboy" Henderson installed USAF, it failed to detect his AMD Athlon 600, instead deciding he was running a K6-3 400. It looks like Jane's have optimized for the Pentium III but have not optimized for the Athlon. Too bad, but maybe this will be rectified in a patch. Btw, I've been running under DX7 on WIN98 OSR 2.
Go to Part II
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Last Updated October 27th, 1999