F/A-18 Operation Desert Storm

By the time F/A-18 Operation Desert Storm came out, the engine was already some six-year-old. The sim is a sequel to F/A-18 Korea, which was by no means a bad game. The same can be said of Desert Storm, though the product is held back somewhat by the dated tech powering it, which the developer seems to conceit given the expansion pack price tag. Being so similar to earlier games, one that has played them will definitely feel right at home here.

7_1The sim does attempt to introduce a few new details to the franchise, a detailed Persian Gulf Theater being the most notable. A satellite texture-draping process — which accurately depicts over 200,000 square miles of Iraqi terrain — replaces the previous version’s generic tile system. The result is considerably more pleasing to the eye (from a high altitude, anyway). A new 3D instrument panel has also been pressed into service to replace the old 2D cockpit, and, though it’s neither clickable nor pannable, the enhancement does add measurably to the immersion factor.

One major tailspin is the absence of any ordered campaign structure. With no career options to choose from — and only 30 unconnected missions up for grabs in the single-player menu — the entire “Operation Iraqi Freedom†experience is a remarkably fleeting and sterile exercise for experienced simmers. The weapons details make up for it somewhat, with the modeling of the F/A-18C’s advanced APG-65 pulse-doppler radar, weapons, and avionics. The complexity of these systems has been detuned slightly to make the simulation accessible to newcommers.

These improvements are certainly welcome, but they don’t disguise the fact that Iraqi Freedom is driven by an aging game engine that ran out of jet fuel even before the release of Xicat’s F/A-18: Precision Strike Fighter in 2001. The simple target renderings and underwhelming pyrotechnics are a curious throwback to an era before 3D cards, and is far cry from competing products such as the superlative IL-2 Sturmovik.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win98

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