Jane’s Advanced Tactical Fighters
Not bent on advancing the genre, Jane’s ATF instead pushes for a cohesive whole.
No revolution here – though first to be officially branded as part of EA’s “Jane’s Combat Simulations” line of products and an impressive package in its own right, Jane’s Advanced Tactical Fighters is in fact an extension of 1995’s US Navy Fighters, sporting the same engine and gameplay. In many ways it’s the same game, but skim the surface and you’ll find some interesting new features as well. Not to be confused with ‘Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters’ (2011), which is pure garbage.
The way ATF represents the HUD, cockpit displays and view options will be familiar to veterans of US Navy/Marine Fighters. For those unfamiliar, ATF may seem a radical departure by way of removing much of the virtual cockpit in favor of pop-up instruments. The pop-up window approach to cockpit and instrumentation might seem an odd choice; it’s a particular taste, and if you’re really into a “you are there” experience, with a full, working virtual 3D cockpit to scan, you may find ATF’s windowing approach a bit too abstract to sustain the immediacy of the in-cockpit design.
On the other hand, this approach leaves way to a fantastic amount of screen real-estate dedicated solely to the action, which isn’t saying this an arcade flying game – it’s not, or at least not without tinkering the game options a bit – but rather it makes combat more dynamic by not encumbering the screen with instruments – most of the vital data is in your face anyway, courtesy of the HUD. With a shorter learning curve and great manual, ATF makes a good simulation for beginners to learn.
One of the areas ATF has expanded and improved on has primarily to do with the nature of the current generation of fighter jets represented in the simulation. The opportunity for post-stall maneuvering, as well as for supercruise and other stealth-oriented combat tactical flying abounds. Night-time missions intensify the stealth capability of all of the included planes (obviously), and the systems available to handle flight and combat at night are improved enough to make playing in the dark much less frustrating than it’s been in the past. One thing ATF does resoundingly well, in other words, is to concentrate its efforts around doing a faithful job of fully contextualizing the kind of combat environment the represented aircraft would be operating in.
The best part of ATF has to be saved for last mention here, though, and that is the plethora of information resulting from the Jane’s connection. Jane’s has been famous – for a long time – for providing one of the most in-depth and up-to-date databases of all the world’s weapons systems. If you’ve ever read Jane’s Defence Weekly, for instance, you’ll find yourself drawn into what you might find a weird world of defense analysis, a perspective on current events that’s definitely a strange departure from the one you find in most corporate newspapers and magazines.
ATF may not be a massive breakthrough on any single front, but like other designs of 1996, it does a number of different, familiar things extremely well and – best of all – integrates them all together in one package. From quick one-on-one missions against the computer to challenging combat missions, to full campaigns, to full-blown multiplayer allied and offensive network play, without dropping the ball in any of those areas. Above all else, ATF sets the standard for offering players a truly complete piece of work.
System Requirements: 486-DX/66 CPU, 8 MB RAM, SVGA Video, 29 MB HDD, MS-DOS
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