Falcon 4.0

The second best way to fly an F-16.

After years of development, Falcon 4.0 was released to the public just a few months too soon. It possessed a double personality disorder almost certain to inspire a love/hate relationship with consumers. Still, despite the delays and the flaws, and after some subsequent patching, Falcon 4.0 had truly become a virtual fighter pilots dream and the definitive F-16 simulation.

Between the environment, flight and systems modeling, Falcon 4.0 can stand on its own as a full-featured general aviation sim. The radio alone features two tuners which are independently switchable among six different communications nets as desired. The terrain engine itself is outstanding for a combat sim, offering a remarkable sense of speed as well as graphic detail not entirely unlike Flight Unlimited 2. The flight model feels intuitively accurate, featuring a wide variety of phenomena such as six degrees of inertia and an honest appreciation for the effects of mass and drag. Most airports are faithfully modeled after their real-world counterparts, right down to their individual flight operations procedures, taxiway paths, and parking areas.

3In all, Falcon 4.0 is the deepest, most complex air combat sim yet. True to the real F-16 Fighting Falcon’s multi-role capabilities, Falcon 4.0 offers a wide range of mission types, including fighter sweeps; escort missions; airfield and interdiction strikes; naval strikes; support of ground troops; suppression of enemy air defenses; and reconnaissance. To be effective, you’ll have to learn to use the air-to-air radar (four modes, each with its own sub-modes), air-to-ground radar, HARM and Maverick targeting systems, laser targeting pod, and about 20 different weapons.

If all of that sounds like too much, it’s possible Falcon 4.0 isn’t for you. On the other hand, there’s a good-sized group of gamers out there who drool at the prospect of a sim this complex and involved. For them, Falcon 4.0 will be a dream come true – for everyone else, the designers have included several options for toning down the realism until it’s nearly arcade-easy. A supplemental Cadet’s Guide explains how to play the game at the easiest levels in just 40 pages. For more advanced users, the manual goes through all of the details of piloting the F-16.

But it’s worth learning to play the game the way it was meant to be played – at maximum realism. That’s when its real-time, dynamic campaign system really shines. As in DID’s legendary Total Air War, a session with Falcon 4.0’s campaign begins with a list of missions currently available and lets you choose the one you’ll fly. Unlike TAW, the campaign in Falcon 4.0 includes a ground war that changes to reflect the success of the air war — and it lets you fly co-operatively with friends.

18The campaign also creates the greatest sense yet of playing a small but important part of a huge battle, rather than being Rambo in the sky. You can see and hear the air battle unfolding through radio chatter, and you can often see the results of the ground war in distant explosions and dust clouds. In fact, it’s pretty exciting just to put your plane under control of the Combat autopilot (the same system that handles all the computer-controlled planes), turn on invulnerability, and activate the Action View, which automatically switches between external views to follow the most interesting events on the battlefield.

Falcon 4.0 joins the likes of Longbow 2 and Jane’s F-15 on the very short list of amazingly big, deep, and complete air combat simulations. If you’re a hard-core sim fan with the hardware to handle it, you need this game.

System Requirements: Pentium 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win 95

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