Reviewed: August 26, 2005
Released: June 28, 2005
Falcon. 4.0: Allied Force is the latest installment in the ongoing flight sim franchise. Created by Graphism Entertainment and developer Lead Pursuit, this series has been a joyous, yet arduous journey for many since 1998. Hailed as one of the best flight sims ever made, this title has finally ironed out the kinks that held back previous versions that required constant patching with clunky updates.
Personally, I have had my share of experiences with flight sims, but I would hardly call myself an expert. I flew quite a bit in WW2online, and IL-2 Sturmovik, but the area of advanced flight is still new to me. I had a brief encounter with Lock On: Modern Air Combat, but felt the fast paced, missile focused action proved boring compared to vintage gunfights. I was intrigued to try my hand at a true PC classic like the Falcon series, and see how the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” dominates the skies.
Like most simulators, there is a wealth of material to digest before you can fully comprehend the game. Thankfully, there are over 30 training missions, which have to be completed in order so you can understand the complexities of the F-16 fighter jet. Do realize that you can turn on many arcade-like functions; invulnerability, easier handling, and unlimited weapons to name a few. This helps cut down the learning curve for the novice pilots out there.
The plane itself is actually computer controlled, taking away a lot of the drudgery of constantly adjusting to wind/thermal variations up in the clouds. The dogfights are a real pain at first, trying to track targets on your radar, get on their 6 (tail) and so on, all the while dodging anti-aircraft fire and other enemy missiles.
After a few hours and some training missions, not to mention some reference from the healthy 600 page PDF manual, I came to realize how amazing the Falcon truly is, and how it is still relatively unmatched today. It’s combination of air-air superiority and ground bombing roles, makes it a very special airplane indeed. This from a plane over a decade old and slated for retirement.
After you get a handle on the controls and whatnot, you can take on the dynamic Korean or Balkan campaigns, or just take a dash into instant action for a quick thrill. The campaign is really interesting and bears further mentioning. Each phase is split into separate time regions, composing around 20 missions total. You can assign yourself missions to take out radar installations, ship convoys or enemy aircraft, just to name a few.
Be wary of your enemy as well, the A.I. here is no slouch, and will often work together with other enemy aircraft to bring you down. I often had to skim below radar levels as well, putting the craft in danger from ground placed “Ack-Ack” or AA fire, from usually non-lethal cannons. It’s a harrowing experience to say the least, when you are the prime target of so many dangerous “toys.”
After each mission you are granted with a detailed report on how you did, who you killed, and if the mission was a success. Each result can have a direct impact on further missions along the way.
Developer, Lead Pursuit also included another genre standard; the mission builder. You can set-up a plethora of realistic scenarios for yourself and others, which adds much to the longevity of this title.
There is also a decent multiplayer mode, to go along with the solid single player experience. Up to 16 players can join up together in a co-op mode and run missions, or fly head-head in intense dogfights. Although I didn’t get on voice comms with the other pilots, that has to be essential to coordinating attack vectors, targets and so on. It was a bit cumbersome trying to get this all across without Teamspeak or Ventrillo, two handy-and free-voice program.
I also highly recommend a good joystick, preferably with a rotatable knob (or hat) for target acquisition (scanning skies from cockpit). I used a Saitek Cyborg stick, and it was passable in most situations, for under $50. If you are a hardcore flight simmer, you probably already have a HOTAS(Hands-On Throttle and Stick) joystick, pedals and thrust control. Something that can run over $100 easily. And if you are seriously into the realism factor, consider getting a TrackIR2, which follows your head movement so you can look around-hands free-as if you were in the cockpit itself. It also works with a few other games as well.
From looking at past screens, it does appear that Falcon 4.0: Allied Force has improved, especially in regards to terrain. You won’t see ultra-realistic buildings, textures and so forth, but the undulating terrain and sparse cities all serve a dutiful purpose. Sadly, the weapons and other explosive effects are a bit of a letdown. Most are over pixaleted and under whelming, and remind me of mid-90s detail.
The plane models themselves are really well done however. The cockpit…man alive, the cockpit is AMAZING. Every little doo dad, switch, control is painstakingly represented here, and all of it can be twiddled with, flipped and so on. Other neat graphical effects like sun glare on the canopy, and wispy jet trails, further add to the impressive work.
The sound package is pretty typical of an air sim here, lots of heavy rumbling from afterburners, screeching of missile locks, and the whirring of your cannons, help accentuate the warfare. Further enhancing the soundscape is the constant radio chatter from air traffic control, wing mates and so forth. I can’t imagine how a real pilot can filter all this noise coming at him at 30, 000 feet, all the while dodging enemy bogeys and anti-aircraft fire. Even the ship’s voice will come on and tell of you impending danger, especially if your altitude drops too low. Overall, nice work here as well.
The very nature of flight sims guarantees months and months of missions where the outcome is never quite the same. The user-generate missions that will come in droves, or the teamwork of flying with real wing mates online. Falcon 4.0 has a very strong and loyal fan base built over the better part of a decade, and they will continue to pump out materials, mods and support, for years to come.
And all of that is just from the players. You can also count on the development team to update and patch now and again, hopefully based off feedback from the community.
It goes without saying that ANY Falcon 4.0 sky jockey needs to snatch this title up. With improved graphics, a wealth of dynamic missions and campaigns, the mission builder and the rabid fan base, Falcon. 4.0: Allied Force is another strong entry into the shrinking sim market. Best of all, this can be had for a modest $30 bones.
Soar into the blue!