Welcome to the Gametap review wiki. I’m Rayven998 and this is my first review here. I hope I don’t bore you too much.
This was originally intended to be a review of F-22 Lightning 3 but I decided to make it a 3-fer as the other two Novalogic flyers currently offered by GT (Mig-29 Fulcrum and F-16 Multi-Role Fighter) are so fundamentally similar, you could almost consider them to be the same game!
Now, you’ll notice I’m using the term “game” here and not “sim”. There is a major difference. If you don’t know what I mean, try comparing Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport to say, Burnout Paradise. You get the idea.
Now, I’m an actual pilot so, this review is going to be kind of biased. Can’t help that, I calls it like I plays it.
At the outset, I totally get what Novalogic was trying to do here: create a flying game that was, at once, realistic enough to interest us “hard core” simmers while, at the same time, keeping it fun and simple enough that casual gamers could get into it. A noble task to be sure. Unfortunately, other companies such as Third Wire with their ubiquitous “Wings Over” series (Vietnam, Europe, Israel etc.) have done it far better.
This is not to say that these games aren’t worth playing. Far from it. All three are eminently playable (albeit, a little repetitive).
You will definitely get you’re money’s worth (so to speak) out of these games. Each offers six campaigns, each consisting of eight missions, for a total of 48 missions. That’s a lot of flight hours logged! Each mission has one or two primary objectives, which must be completed, in order to advance to the next. Once these are done, all you have to do is hit the “E” key to move on. You don’t even have to land! Each also has one or two secondary missions, which SHOULD be completed to get the most points. Each mission also has a “bonus” objective (sometimes impossible to achieve unless you know “exactly” what to do). Completion of all primary, secondary and bonus missions will net you a shiny new medal at the end of each campaign.
The in-game chatter is mercifully cut to a minimum. No incessant “wing-man saying the same thing over and over again” stuff ala Ace Combat. In fact, you’re wingman never speaks at all except to acknowledge orders given to him. You’re control (AWACS) aircraft is clear and concise in giving you precise vectors toward incoming threats and, in most cases, what type of aircraft you’ll be facing. In “Mig-29, you even have the option of having all in-cockpit audio spoken in Russian (with translations at the bottom of the screen). Nice touch.
Speaking of which, wingman AI in all three games is actually excellent! You have the normal suite of commands (attack my target, cover me, form on my wing etc) available to you and, he performs every one of them extremely well. For example: select “engage enemy”. You’re wingman will then automatically take out the most dangerous enemies first. Select “cover me”, and he will take out the nearest enemy targeting you. Just remember that you’re wingman carries the same load out that you carry and he can run out of missiles the same way you can. Ordering him to attack three enemies when all he has is guns left is a good way to get him killed. Lose you’re wingman too many times and he wont be available in future missions! I’m not kidding when I say my wingman has won more than a few missions for me!
The aircraft in all three games are modeled beautifully. Hit the F-3 key to go into external cam mode then hold “ctrl”, and then use the direction (arrow) keys to pan around you’re plane. Sweet. This can also be done with enemy aircraft. Simply target someone, and then do the same thing.
Each aircraft is rated for historical load out. This means that you can only carry what the aircraft would normally carry. No “seventy missiles” or “fifty bombs” ala Ace Combat! And the missiles and bombs are historically accurate to each plane: “sidewinders and sparrows” for the Falcon and Raptor, “archers and aphids” for the Mig.
The graphics in these three games are far from “eye bleed” materiel, but they get the job done. The nuclear explosions in F-22 are especially nice (no, the F-22 isn’t actually rated to carry tactical nukes in real life but this is a “game” after all). As any true “air simmer” will tell you, graphics are far secondary to a good flight model. I mean yeah, it would be nice to see every leaf moving on a tree and see realistic waves lapping the shore. But who has time for that when you’re zipping along at 700 mph, and you’re only concern is that joker on you’re six, throwing missiles and tracers past you’re cockpit!
There is no story mode par say, but each campaign is laid out in exceptionally well-written briefings. They convey perfectly why you are in a given part of the world, who you will be facing and what kind of “kites” they’ll be flying.
Another nice touch is the concept of “logistics”. At the beginning of each mission, you have the option of accepting the “standard” load out or configuring your own. Thing is, you only have a finite number of each given missile or bomb. Long range AMRRAMs (for the F-22 or F-16) or SUMRRAMs (R-77s for the Mig) are great. They can take out an enemy from better than 30 miles! Problem is, use em all up and you will be in trouble later in the campaign (in some cases, making it unwinnable).
If you run out of ordinance during a mission, just fly back to you’re airbase, land and you will be fully reloaded. As a bonus, you’ll have all you’re damage repaired (just don’t do it if enemies are near. They just LOVE to kill fighters on the ground. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. J).
Oh boy, where to begin.
The flight model ranges from strange (F-22, F-16), to downright mysterious (Mig-29).
For one thing, it’s almost impossible to “black out” in the F-22. You can do it in the F-16 and fairly easily in the Mig-29. The F-22 has “vectored thrust” technology, which makes it one of the most maneuverable aircraft on the planet! Yet, no matter how hard I pull a turn, not even a hint of “G”. Rubbish!
Now, I realize that Mig-29 is the oldest of the three, but control of this aircraft is just not very good IMO. Take you’re hand off the stick for even a second and the aircraft starts to yaw and turn for no apparent reason and there is NO trim control (in any of the three games)! And no amount of tinkering with the calibration settings for you’re joystick will fix this! I fly a 2003 Beech craft E-66A, a civilian commuter plane and I can leave the stick for up to a full minute and a half before she’ll even start to slew. The Mig-29 is a top of the line combat aircraft and, while I’ve never flown one (and, sadly, will probably never get the chance to), this just ain’t right. The F-16 isn’t much better. You will constantly be hitting the “L” button to keep these aircraft flying in a straight line. The F-22 on the other hand is almost too good. Just point this thing in the direction you want it to go, and just sit back.
There is a quite lengthy blurb in the Mig-29 manual that delineates the fact that, as a Mig pilot, you can use the “passive look down-shoot down radar” mode to target enemies without ever having to switch on “active” radar (something that only Russian Mig-29s are capable of, not “export” models). Yet, this is not modeled in the game. AT ALL! The F-22 also has this capability but, again, not modeled. Enemy aircraft on the other hand are totally capable of using this tactic, and do so at every opportunity.
Another problem I have is that, how dose a poor African nation (or a Pilipino terrorist group) afford cutting edge SU-27s or EF-2000s! And while on the subject, you would think that if a rogue nation or group acquired planes like this, they would at least repaint them. I remember flying one mission in F-16 where I was up against a terrorist group flying Swedish built JAS-39s. When I locked one up and hit F8 to look at the target, is was actually carrying Swedish air force markings! Sweden is a terrorist nation now?
As stated, wingman AI is excellent. The AI of you’re allied aircraft on the other hand is almost non-existent. They should only be looked at as cannon fodder. Wait till they get into it with the enemy. Then, while they’re getting shot down, swoop in and take out the bad guys while they’re attention is elsewhere. Watch out once you’re allies are all gone though. Then, every enemy left will home in on you. And they have an uncanny ability to track you wherever you go. Even behind a mountain!
There are a lot of missions in these games. Problem is, they’re so similar and repetitious that you probably won’t want to do more than three or four at a time before wanting to take a break and play something else for a while. There are the odd anti-ground and anti-ship missions (and the nuke missions in F-22, which are a total blast. Pun intended) to break up the monotony, but these too few and far between.
Now, this might look like I’m saying that these games aren’t very good. This is not the case. If you’re looking for some quick arcade style air to air action and want something a little more realistic than say, Ace Combat or Lethal Skies, then you definitely want to give these games a look. If you don’t go in expecting any kind of real depth or a serious physics engine, I think you might like these games.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for some serious realism, check out Lock-on: Modern Air Combat or IL 2 (if you want to see what flying the old piston engine war birds was like). These are two of the finest combat flight sims on the market today. And, luckily, Gametap has em both!
Good luck and happy flying.