|F22 Lightning III
by Steve Martin
Novalogic recently released F-22 Lightning III as the latest in their Lockheed/Martin fighter series. Novalogic continues their tradition of ease of access for novice players, fun for all and massive multiplayer air combat via Novaworld.net. F-22 Lightning III is the third of Novalogic’s F-22 simulations in as many years, its predecessors being F-22 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor.
Having played all three simulations, I have seen Novalogic break sound barriers and constantly improve this product line while keeping the cost reasonable. While the F-22 series has always been a little light in the realism department, the general gameplay and look has greatly improved through the generations. F-22 Lightning III has some definite hits, and also some near misses, but overall is a pleasing and well-executed simulation.
Starting with the basics, the interface and menus are on par with previous Novalogic simulations. All menus are straight forward, and keyboard and joystick customization is all easy and straightforward as well. I did have some difficulty with the custom programming and my Thrustmaster FLCS (Steve's setup is #2 listed on our Download page.)
My solution was to simply revert to using Thrustmaster’s own programming utility to customize my stick according to my personal preferences. The joystick mapping in Lightning III will not support multiple levels of button programming, so I used my custom programming utility to get my stick dialed in. Other than this small joystick issue, the rest of the menus functioned normally.
Gameplay and Avionics
The Single player games consist of several missions over a series of campaigns. After completing several of the missions and crossing over a campaign, I was a little disappointed at the lack of a cutsequence.
Gameplay is generally good except that the AI remains a bit weak. I found the AI pilots too easily dispatched with both AIM-9s and AIM-120s, usually with only a single missile. I could not find any kind of difficulty slider to ramp up the computer AI difficulty. Such a slider would be useful and could lower the quantity of enemies while increasing the quality. Unfortunately, the most challenging tactic that the AI used was to send massive flights of enemy fighters at you while the other fighter group shot down the package you were assigned to escort.
The Wingman AI has all the basic commands such as “break right and engage”, “engage my target”, “escort my target.” There were a few wingman commands that were new to me such as “Engage my target’s attacker” and “Patrol Home Base.” The Wingman does a decent job supporting you, but unless you tell him otherwise, he’ll fly on your six in close formation regardless of nearby bandits.
F-22 Lightning III introduces some new weapons that were not present in the previous F-22 simulations. The BLU-109, the AGM-88 HARM, and my personal favorite, the B61 Tactical Thermonuclear Bomb. These weapons and the ability to mount weapons on external hardpoints indicates a step in the right direction since the real F-22 is capable of external mounts as well as using all of the weapons available in the simulation. Players will love using the B-61! It’s a blast…literally!
The Avionics are good and actually are viewable in padlock mode. You can also view any MFD close up by pressing the appropriate key on the numpad on your keyboard. The MFDs that you’ll use the most are the Attack Display, the Status Display, and the NAV display. The Attack display is very useful in an area with multiple bandits. The attack display will tell you which bandits you have already designated and launched at.
But budget cuts seem to have impacted our troops. I have noticed that sometimes the missile indicators disappear, or do not show up at all. Sometimes you can see the missile indicators for your wingman as well as other members of your flight. The absence of the SHOOTLIST from the previous F-22 is definitely missed.
While some people may not have used it much, you’ll find yourself wishing the Shootlist was available when there are several groups of bandits and you keep cycling through the wrong group of targets. The shootlist allowed you to isolate a group of targets and only target that group while cycling targets, in Lightning III, I found the best thing to do, is put your target group in your forward radar cone and press “BORESITE TARGET” and then cycle targets. The Navigation display comes in handy to augment the command steering cue. (the tadpole).
Go to Part Two
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Last Updated June 30th, 1999