NovaLogicâ€™s first aggressor aircraft sim since the KA-50 helicopter in Comanche vs. Werewolf, Fulcrum provides sim-pilots a chance to fly this top-of-the-line Russian fighter, both across 40 single player missions and in online multiplayer. Not a part of the Lockheed Martin Fighter Series ( for obvious reasons; one wonders why there was never a Mikoyan – Gurevich Jet Fighter Series? ), NovaLogicâ€™s instead made use of a Russian test pilot “to obtain expert counsel regarding the authenticity of the simulationâ€™s flight model, avionics, and overall performance.” So were they successful?
NovaLogic has a long tradition hitting the high-end of the scale in the graphics department, and their MiG-29 Fulcrum / F-16 package of games makes no exception. Players are treated to a very nice looking terrain engine that-amazingly enough-is readable enough to fly at nearly treetop level by eyeball alone.
On paper, the older MiG-29’s suffered from several key limitations – unfriendly cockpit ergonomics, limited range, antiquated avionics and the Russian’s reliance on ground control to paint the battlefield, leading pilots to heavily rely on orders from below. In stark contrast, you’re pretty much left to your own devices here – orders are purely cosmetic, and the addition of a wingman lets you yourself run the show. To a greater extent, Fulcrum flies and plays very much like NovaLogic’s F-16 Multirole Fighter, alongside which it was developed.
Still, we get an impressively well rendered cockpit overall, a strange stew of analog and digital displays that has more in common with the vintage F-14 Tomcat than the Falcon. Although the HUD has been retro-fitted to suit its English-speaking audience, it and the fully functional cockpit instrumentation deliver a good sense of ‘there’. Overall the cockpit environment as a whole is done much better than players would normally have a right to expect out of a “lite” sim. But whereas the real plane was noted for its complex menu-drilling procedures for simple actions, here it’s a much more simplified affair.
As a whole, the flight modelling is pure fantasy. While the game does model angle-of-attack, control authority, and center of mass, that’s about where the authenticity ends. For example, the speedbrake is nearly useless, although a tight turn can shed 600kph in a split-second flying the MiG-29. While real pilots suffer redout at -3 Gs, the simulated pilots in these games can push -6 Gs continuously and peak at -8 Gs (the G-meter appears quite conservative, to boot). You can fly at an unusually high angle of attack, and landing the plane (an entirely optional procedure – missions can be ended beforehand) is much too forgiving. You can just about nose dive at 350 km/h and still touch down safely.
Your campaign moves along at a frantic pace. The missions and the interface are engineered in such a way that players are rarely ever likely to spend more than a minute without shooting at something or being shot at. Once the mission ends, players can restart the mission or go on to the next in as little as one or two keystrokes. Where conventional sims may have long transit times and deep strikes, these games put you so close to the action that you may find yourself launching a missile at a target before your landing gear is up. The downside of this is that players are likely to blow through the scripted campaigns pretty quickly, then finding themselves wishing for more replayability.
A real irony is that despite this arcade-like nature, players will not get into white-knuckle twisting dogfights very often. The missiles are so incredibly potent that combat is usually over on the first pass, usually before even getting into visual range. Just turn on any axis to face your enemies, target them, launch missiles, and dodge their missiles. Still, given the level of detail this lightweight enjoys, it still comes off as a valid distraction most of the time. Anyone with a passing fancy for Russian fighter jets might find interesting bits here and there, but serious enthusiasts will inevitably get disappointed.
System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, SVGA Card, Win 95/98/NT