iF-22 Raptor

snap226_1The early 3D skies weren’t friendly.

Riding the bumpy wave of first-generation 3D-accelerated flight sims was Interactive Magic’s iF-22 Raptor, a technical upgrade from their iF-16 Fighting Falcon. The terrain engine in iF-22 is a textbook example of the hazards of early 3D – it’s blurry and indistinct. At low altitudes, the ground features the close-up detail of the French Impressionists. There are no roads and cities are represented by a few scattered houses. The objects themselves don’t mesh well with the blurry terrain.

The solid cloud and smoke effects make for some… interesting graphics. Destroyed ground units seem to sit under giant gray balloons. Missiles and damaged airplanes trail long willowy veils that make them stand out nicely against the smear of terrain below. Whereas lens flare is a trendy lighting flaw to model these days, iF-22 opts for glare: from certain angles, most objects are solid-black blobs devoid of detail. Between the blurred terrain and the simulated glare, this sim will induce squinting like no other such game.

Since the real F-22 was still in the works, a lot of guesswork is went into creating this sim. Most information is displayed in bright Fisher-Price colors on MFD’s. The F-22’s radar is apparently capable of flawlessly ID’ing and returning detailed information on any blip with a simple mouse click, even targets outside the radar’s sweep. It even pinpoints all missiles, radar or IR guided, complete with a solid line tracing the missile’s route to its target.

The effects in iF-22 are bit... off.

The smoke effects in iF-22 are glitchy.

One problem with this sort of simplicity is its lack of flexibility. For instance, there’s no way to focus on a distant area, so it’s difficult to make sense of clustered targets. A single universal zoom applies to all MFDs, making it impossible to zoom in while maintaining an overview of the area. And ironically, although the MFDs are the only source of information about damage to your plane, they’re liable to fail if a missile so much as gets close to your plane. It’s hard to believe the F-22 doesn’t have a “christmas tree” of lights representing the status of the plane’s systems as a back-up. Instead iF-22 gives you lotsa buzzers and warnings.

The cockpit is fully interactive, which is a nice touch but it’s no substitute for hot-keys; many useful commands can only be accessed by dragging the mouse around. The communications suite looks good, but is largely for show. Communication with the ground and control tower are just fluff and only the simplest wingman commands are available. Without more advanced commands or a more flexible sensor suite, you have no way of knowing whether your wingmen are flying with active radar, much less any way of setting up advanced maneuvers.

snap175_1AWACS has been nicely implemented, however, changing the whole dynamic of the game by giving you a wide view of the area without compromising your stealth. The sky is dotted with friendly and enemy aircraft, particularly over the Ukraine campaign where the Russians put up a fight for air superiority. The ground is littered with enemy units, dozens clustered together at a time. This widespread activity, coupled with iF-22’s dynamic campaign, saves the simulator from its stew of control, engine and avionics problems.

System Requirements: Pentium 75 MHz, 8 MB RAM, Win95

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