F-22 Air Dominance Fighter

A solid flight model keeps F-22 ADF flying high despite the linear campaign.

The mid to end 90’s had seen a surge of F-22 sims spring up everywhere, from NovaLogic’s action-oriented F-22 Lightning II and Raptor to a more nuanced if visually unremarkable iF-22 from I-Magic. F-22 Air Dominance Fighter, the spiritual successor to EF2000, holds sway as a serious contender by offering both appealing graphics and a solid flight model to yield what is one of the best F-22 simulations out there, improving almost every facet of EF2000 along the way.

As a simulation, the hard-working Brits at Digital Image have done their research, offering a much more detailed look at the aircraft than previous games have provided. While the specific systems of the real F-22 were still under development, DID had done a fine job in presenting a believable and functional avionics suite. Systems including radar, RHAW (Radar Homing and Warning), IRST (Infra Red Search and Track), IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), MAW (Missile Approach and Warning), and active jammers are all modeled.

No amount of detail has been spared.

No amount of detail has been spared. You can quickly zoom in on individual displays.

The EMCON system regulates all of the aircraft’s active devices, allowing the pilot to assume a level of stealth appropriate to the situation. The aircraft’s EMCON level can be manually controlled, but the computer generally does a fair job of handling things with the system set to automatic. The F-22 uses its In-Flight Data Link (IFDL) to enhance stealth characteristics significantly by receiving a large portion of its targeting information from other friendly resources. An IFDL link with an AWACS can provide the F-22 pilot with a strong sense of situational awareness, even with the radar turned off. IFDL data can be enhanced with the use of passive systems such as the IRST.

Identified targets are placed into a shoot list based on your computer’s estimation of how much of a threat they represent. On some occasions, the computer’s judgment is a bit suspect and sometimes its priorities simply do not match your strategy, but most of the time the shoot list is a helpful aid. Even if the list fails to provide you with the target you need, you can manually select (or deselect) a target to add to the list (this tends to be a bit inconvenient in the heat of combat, however).

Communications options are impressive (the game features an incredibly extensive vocabulary) and generally well organized. Wingman control is not as extensive as it could be, but nearly anything else you might need is merely a menu or two away. The game does an excellent job of making radio chatter sound like it is being transmitted over a radio, rather than recorded in a studio. Whether or not this is advantageous is largely a matter of personal taste—it adds a lot of atmosphere, but it is often difficult to understand what is being said without referring to the provided text captions.

You can quickly switch camera unto your target

Lock unto targets with the camera and you’ll virtually never lose track of them.

The view of the cockpit instrumentation will be familiar to anyone who has played EF2000. The standard view is a virtual cockpit (with the option to switch to a wide-angled view), and each MFD can be brought up into full screen. The obvious advantage to such an approach is that it provides the MFDs with sufficient resolution to display data the way it would be displayed on the actual aircraft. A number of niceties can be found on the MFDs, including a full color moving map overlay in the Situation MFD, a detailed fuel systems display, and a multifunctional autopilot display which allows the player to edit autopilot functions and waypoints in mid-flight.

Looking outside the cockpit is as much fun as looking within, and DID has provided a wealth of viewing options in addition to standard amenities such as a workable “check six” and padlock view (both of which are also included). Their “Smart View” system provides the player with the ability to get a cinematic view of any vehicle on the map. Any of the views can be accessed while the game is paused, ensuring that the enemy will not sneak up and bag you while your attention is directed elsewhere.

That's a kill.

Scratch one bad guy.

The “Tour of Duty” option consists of three campaigns of ten missions each, but they are linear “win to advance” affairs with scripted action. Mission objectives are far too strict, and missing even a single target generally means a failure for the entire mission. This limited approach to the campaign is somewhat of a letdown, but the game at least makes up for it by offering a great deal of missions. All in all, F-22 ADF is an impressive product. The lack of a campaign is explained by DID’s focus on Total Air War, which later transformed into a full-blown game. But look past its limited campaign and F-22 ADF is a serious simulation.

System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 70 MB HDD, SVGA, Windows 95

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