F-16 Fighting Falcon
Here we have yet another flight sim from Digital Integrations. F-16 Fighting Falcon (also known as iF-16 Viper or simply iF-16) brings a few incremental advancements to the genre, but in the end it’s much too deeply rooted in HIND‘s gameplay options, battlefield mechanics and limited engine to really push the envelope.
As a simulation though, things aren’t half bad. The F-16C is nicely represented here – flight mechanics, avionics and weapons systems all factor into the game, and the beefy manual goes through everything in good detail. The cockpit controls are all wonderfully represented and the game is high res enough (640×480) that all the instruments are readable at a glance. The Multi-Function Displays can be realistically cycled through several modes, the radar mostly works as it should, your plane’s scan pattern is limited and the included weapons are all finely implemented. The bottom line being this isn’t a throwaway sim.
But looking around your cockpit and situational awareness in general is problematic when engaged in a dogfight. While the game’s excellent padlock view makes tracking bandits easy, the fixed camera angles used to simply look around the cockpit is much less fluid, and the keys used to turn the camera up, down and sideways are awkward at best. Worse yet, you can’t zoom in on your HUD, a real drawback when fine tuning your aircraft for a few Gatling bursts.
The inclusion of the LANTIRN (Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red System for Night) and its inherent complex functions is the real saving grace to this sim, and it makes night missions quite a lot of fun, though challenging as night flying tends to be. You’ll have a broad selection of some twenty weapons, including heat-seeking and radar-homing missiles, guided and unguided bombs, dumbfire rockets, and the option to attach reserve fuel tanks or an ECM pod, a defensive device designed to counter enemy radar. All in all, the weapons behave as they should, with lots of subtle variables programmed into the simulation. Take the altered missile performance experienced at higher altitudes, or how the shockwave and debris resulting from bomb blasts damage your aircraft when you drop them too low.
So what’s the issue if it flies well? For one thing the graphics are woefully outdated. The engine is based on the same one powering HIND (1996), which itself was used in Apache (1995). Although texture mapped and sporting an optional 3dfx mode, Fighting Falcon is nonetheless lackluster and simplistic in its visual presentation. It’s hard to tell your altitude simply by looking outside – the terrain textures do a poor job at conveying scale, and the landscape is exaggeratedly blocky. The lush Korean forests look pretty good, but Afghanistan, Cyprus and Israel all use the same desert-themed texture package, and fare considerably worse. Explosions and smoke effects look really basic as well.
On top of it all the canned missions are pretty stringent and don’t cut you much slack if you continually fail missions. The twenty or so training levels are nice but lack any sort of hands-on help to guide you along, making long brushes with the manual unavoidable. In the end this is a pretty serious if not very pretty simulation of the F-16 aircraft. Although bringing few actual innovations to the genre, it is nonetheless an easier and sorta fun if visually castrated Falcon 4.0. A good stepping stone if you’re really keen on learning the inner workings of the F-16.
System Requirements: Pentium 90 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, 32 MB HDD, Win95/DOS 6.22
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