F-22 Lightning 3
It’s not much of a sim, but as an action game F-22 Lightning 3 will not disappoint.
If there’s one thing Novalogic is extremely good at it’s offering easy-to-grasp combat simulations that are technically complex enough for the novice player to get involved, but fun enough that even hardened sim enthusiasts could enjoy themselves. F-22 Lightning 3 is understandably lightweight, but it’s not void of any realism or technical subtlety either. Rather, it’s designed in offering just the sort of challenge that beginner jet fighter pilots can master within a reasonable timeframe and still have fun. The 39-page manual (and an extra 20 page tactical guide to aerial combat) is testament to its simplicity – it really does contain most of what you need to know.
Even if you don’t flip the through the manual, the additional interactive flight tutorials covering the basics should get you airborne. Once there, you can move to the actual campaigns and quick missions on offer. These start off slowly and get more difficult as conflicts escalate, with missions involving a mix of bombing, air superiority and escort missions around Syria, Indonesia or Russia. It will be up to you and your AI wingman to save the day, whom you can order around to do simple tasks. Unlike other Novalogic games, F-22 Lightning 3 has a sense of scale by encompassing large forces working in tandem during assaults. This eliminates the common ‘you vs the world’ syndrome.
The flight model is accurate enough to suit these engagements, but is altogether relaxed. You will of course stall and fall like a rock at low speeds, black out when doing violent turns (these can be disabled) or shatter into tiny pieces at speeds exceeding 800 knots (especially when flying at low-level altitudes). Monitoring your controls will yield quite an impressive array of information. Other than the most important data displayed on your HUD, your trusty radar screens track both threats and friendly aircraft, pre-designated nav points and incoming missiles.
The real challenge here is multi-tasking quickly enough to counter each threat as they approach. Screw that up and you’ll eventually wake up staring down a heat-seeking missile. Missiles are faster than you are, but not as agile, so making sharp turns and releasing flares at the very last moment will save your hide. It only takes one direct hit from your own armaments to down enemy planes but the same applies to you as well. In some cases your aircraft might get crippled by an incoming hit but will still be partially controllable.
Your own missiles and bombs come in several shapes and sizes, and you also have the possibility of customizing your plane’s load before taking off the runway. Easily the most exotic inclusion to your armory is the thermonuclear bomb, which you drop from high altitudes to level county-wide areas. They’re pretty spectacular to watch (although you have to clumsily navigate the external camera to get a clear view of the explosion).
Controlling the action is easy. You’ll almost certainly need an entry-level joystick to fully enjoy Lightning 3, and then get a hang of about 40% of the keyboard. Despite it’s semi-arcade pedigree, Lightning 3 has a substantial keyboard layout but a clumsy interface for changing it from the options menu (the same holds for most NovaLogic flight games), making major reconfigurations a prolonged hassle. Once in control and in the air however, you’ll really start enjoying this game for what it is.
System Requirements: Pentium 266 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 480 MB Free Space, Windows 98
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