Jetfighter V: Homeland Protector

16Some looks and no brains equal a mediocre flight sim.

As was the case for most of the series, JetFighter V: Homeland Protector is a simplistic, newbie-friendly, and mostly unsuccessful attempt by Denmark-based InterActive Vision to inject some fun back into aerial dogfighting. Reducing the learning curve for first-time simmers is one thing, but Jetfighter 5 has been so completely emasculated by its lack of realism, challenge, and gameplay depth that even rookie aviators will cry foul.

As with the earlier Mission Studios games, Jetfighter 5’s campaign numbering 32 missions is set on the West Coast, where a North Korea–aligned terrorist organization has managed to import a hot and nasty shooting war onto American soil. All of the hockey story is narrated through painfully amateurish radio chatter and briefing screens. But few of the game’s hard-scripted missions last more than five minutes, and after the first half-dozen it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish one from another.

You begin every sortie in the air. After destroying a set number of enemy MiGs and/or tanks (and easily spoofing their missiles with some timely counter-measures), a “Mission Successful†message pops up and you’re on to the next one. Get it wrong and you’ll have to do it all over again. But it’s not hard to get it right, even if you’ve never played a modern jet game.

Three Lockheed Martin fighters are featured — the F-16 Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — but you’ll really be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Each has the turning performance of a DC-3, and the stealth characteristics and advanced avionics of the F-22 and F-35 are inexplicably ignored. All three planes come with a magic 360-degree radar screen that can locate air or ground threats from all directions.

22It gets worse. The difficulty level isn’t adjustable, you can’t interact with your wingmen in any way, and the enemy pilots are the most absurdly predictable drones that you’re ever likely to encounter in a combat flight sim. Furthermore, enemy tanks are routinely placed in nice, tidy rows for you to tear into with your AGM-65 missiles — the only significant danger here is that you’ll run out of ammo before your mission objectives are complete. There’s also no career-tracking of any kind, so don’t expect to see any medals or promotions.

Also supplementing the lackluster single-player game is a no-frills Mission Builder utility and a LAN-only 16-person multiplayer component. But people who enjoy lightweight aerial combat are better off replaying older flight games like Novalogic’s F-22 Lighting 3.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, Win98

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