Wingman Mastery in Falcon 4.0
by Dave Pascoe
Part I: How to Improve A2G Kill Rates
The campaign in Falcon 4 is generally acknowledged as the most comprehensive yet created. As such, it is a tough place for newbies and intermediate players to begin because it has a very high learning curve. This series of essays consisting of three parts is intended to help you improve your performance on air-to-ground missions.
If you're new to air combat simulations, the first thing you need to know about this Falcon 4 is that to be successful requires mastery of the aircraft and its systems and weapons. So, if you're not yet up to speed, you're going to need a bit more study and practice before you can put these tactics to use.
I've surfed around the various forums and I see it declared time and time again that the campaign is broken and/or full of bugs. I can assure you that after nine months of working with it, and a half dozen patches, the campaign works fairly well and what bugs it does have are relatively minor. What most people complain about as bugs or brokeness is really the result of their own lack of dedication and practice to achieve competency.
The first consideration toward becoming a competent Falcon pilot is control. The number of commands required to operate this aircraft is extensive. It is not possible to achieve a reasonable level of competence with the keyboard alone because this sim requires too many split-second reactions.
If you're not flying with fully progammable controls, it's time to make that investment. Life will be made a whole lot easier if you choose controls for which at least several F4 scripts have been written so that you don't have to attempt to do the programming yourself.
Training & Skill
F4 represents one of the first, if not the first, truly realistic air combat similuation that melds tactical and strategic air and ground war gaming into one sim. At first, glancing at the campaign map, I thought it was hokey and rather childish looking. It took months of experimentation to discover the awesome depth of this sim, a depth which myself and many others are still discoving nine months later.
The problem most of us have in mastering the campaign is twofold. First, Falcon's fidelity to the real aircraft systems means that a virtual pilot has to know his aircraft and weapons nearly as well as a real pilot. Ask any real pilot and he will tell you that by the time a real pilot is finished with his two years of training he knows just enough to go out and get himself killed. We are talking about full-time professionals here, not amateurs.
Landing with all systems out. Without mastery of systems and navigation, you'll never be able to do this.
Most will tell you that whatever training they get is not enough. The training goes on and on for the duration of the pilot's career. Rest assured that there has never been a wartime ace with only two years training. The need for extensive training is little different with this sim.
Those Pesky Wingmen
This pretty well sums up why there are so many who believe that the campaign still has major faults with the AI. This includes the subject of wingman effectiveness. The difficulty that so many are having with wingmen boils down to a lack of training. Both in the real world, and in this sim, wingmen are not freelancers. They must be at all times under the strict control of their flight leader -- you.
To better understand this, consider that it was Air Force doctrine in past wars that wingmen were not shooters. Their sole task was to provide cover for the leads who were designated the shooters. In fact, during the Vietnam war, they stayed glued so tightly to the lead that it was all they could do just to keep formation. Following Vietnam this was finally realized to be a very poor tactic and was changed.
Yet the fact remains that wingmen are still never permitted to go off and do their own thing. Whether it's a two or four ship flight, it is always a team effort, and the wingmen only take their cue from the lead, usually officers with ranks as high as Captain and Major.
As in real life, that is the way this sim is designed, so you should not expect wingmen to function otherwise. If you do not completely control their actions, they will not perform adequately.
Go to Part Two
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Last Updated September 27th, 1999