Ever get that feeling of wasted potential when you stumble upon a complex flight sim that falls purely because of some foolhardy design flaws? You get that a lot with F-16 Aggressor, a potentially good Falcon sim that doesn’t allow you to change the controls, so don’t expect any of that fancy shmancy button mapping privileges you get with 99% of other flight sims. On top of that it will only detect basic sticks in XP (anything with multiple axes simply doesn’t register), relegating just about every interaction you have with the game through the keyboard.
To be fair, F-16 Aggressor is by no means a terrible game, and as an entry-level sim it definitely shines. Aggressor isn’t about the Air Force squadron which role-plays the enemy during wargames (the squadron is aptly named Aggressor). Rather, it takes a Strike Commander sort of turn. Players are mercenary pilots who’ve been hired to take out anti-government rebels all across the continent of Africa. Lots of canned missions are spread across four campaigns, ranging from bombing raids to close air support. The enemy won’t be restricted to former Soviet hardware, as they’ll take to the air in F-15s as well as Su-27s.
While the African setting is vibrant the story itself is never truly developed, barely offering the excuse needed to move the campaign along in a very business-as-usual manner. While the mercenary angle does allow you to win money by completing assignments, your hard-earned cash is more a way of keeping score, as you can’t spend it on repairs or ordinance upgrades. In their plight to deliver a solid flight and avionics suite, the guys at General Simulations seemed to have forgotten to spruce up the game. But beginner pilots, whom this simulation is aimed at, probably won’t mind the simplified campaign.
The avionics and flight modelling offer the right amount of challenge to those wanting to learn the F-16 without subjecting themselves to a brutal learning curve. Played on the maximum realism setting – the ONLY available setting – you risk losing consciousness when performing hard maneuvers, as in real life. When you get shot down and plummet to the ground, you have barely a few seconds to eject before the massive G forces knock you out cold. The cockpit environment is surprisingly well rendered and dynamic – sharp and readable when played on higher resolutions, you can zoom in on individual instruments and screens, toggle between several authentic MFD modes or switch through various navigational and weapons-related HUD modes. Awesome!
Although realistic up to a point, the game has been noticeably simplified. Landing is quite easy with or without ILS, as you can almost slam the plane into the tarmac without braking the landing gear. The AI is notably dumb and won’t put up much of a fight. Indeed, much of the challenge as a beginner is coming to grips with the odd targeting and camera system. The cockpit camera is notably rigid – there’s no padlock view inside and checking your surroundings via the external camera feels sluggish. If you’re lucky the game detects your stick’s hat switch.
But on the whole this is an enjoyable and pretty technical entry-level flight sim, although much of it is hampered by the limited controls. Amateurs wishing to familiarize themselves with the F-16 Fighting Falcon will find plenty to learn, yet the final product could have been so much more.
System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 50 MB HDD, Win 95
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