Title F 16 Combat Pilot (Second Review) Game Type Flight Simulator Players 1 (or 2 with Link-up) HD Installable Yes (With WHDLoad Patch) Compatibility All Amigas (WHDLoad patch available) Company Digital Integration Submission Seppo Typpö (firstname.lastname@example.org) Profiled Reviewer Review Let's make one thing perfectly clear - this is my personal view of the flight sim I consider in many ways to be the finest on the Amiga. I know a certain fan of Spectrum Holobyte's Falcon sims will probably disagree strongly with this review, and has every right to do so - still, it won't change anything. So, if you can read this review it means it has already passed through the AGDB's high quality standards and has not been censored for expressing my personal opinions, so let's move on... :) Before I start, I want to point out that there's a truly excellent review of F-16 Combat Pilot here in AGDB (written by Tommy Engfors) which explains the game mechanics and other details so I suggest you read that one first. This review will concentrate on the things which I think made this sim special and also point out some of the (very few) shortcomings. THE SPINDLY THINGS... After loading the game, the player finds himself in the squadron crewroom. From this location it is possible to create (or load) a pilot, check his log, check some aircraft data, select missions or continue an old campaign. There are several hotspots in the room which are logically placed - for example clicking on the file cabinet allows all kinds of pilot log manipulation, while the aircraft poster on the wall will reveal the tehcnical data sheets. There were several innovative features which were pioneered in F-16, the most important being the fully interactive campaign mode with the command and mission planning options. To be eligible for command, the player has to complete each type of single mission (there are five different types). The separate training menu allows the player to practice all aspects of the missions from take-off to landing. Even this training part is much more detailed than in many other Amiga flight sims including the (mighty) Falcon - you can select the particular mission or procedure (like landing) you want to practice and fine tune things like weaponry and weather as well as the time of the day. When starting one of the eight available campaigns the player is given a squadron of F16s and a battlefield full of both friendly and enemy forces. The war is already raging, so the first thing to do is to check out the overall situation and deal with the immediate emergencies first - like defending a friendly airfield or other installation from the attack of enemy armoured forces - before starting to plan and execute your own winning strategies. The F16 aircraft the player has at his (or her) disposal are divided into several airfields and are limited in numbers, so great care has to be taken when planning the operations. The nice thing about the campaign is that the enemy forces never rest so the player has to be alert and be able to quickly adapt his plans if some emergency suddenly appears. In one mission I was forced to take off from a base which was already under attack. Taxiing from the hangar to the end of the runway then taking off while war was raging around me (with tanks and explosions everywhere) was simply a breathtaking experience. In another mission I was about to take off when I noticed a dark patch in the cross section of the two runways. I suddenly realised the airfield had been bombed and that there was a very big hole in the runway just in front of me, coming rapidly towards my fully loaded F16! I had no hope raising enough airspeed to take off before reaching the hole, so the only thing left to do was to eject and escape the inevitable 'crash and burn' accident. Mission planning within a campaign is simple to execute - all the player has to do is to select a wingman and point out the target to him - he will then execute it automagically. Whether he succeeds or not is dependent on the strategic decisions the player makes - if you give him a target which is behind several SAM sites there is a strong possibility he will never make it and you lose not only a pilot, but also the plane. After assigning missions to other pilots, the player can select one of them and fly his own mission. One of the really brilliant features on the campaign is that the player never actually flies any missions - he is just able to take control of one of the pilots flying a mission and plan that mission with more detail (like setting multiple waypoints to steer around enemy defences). If the pilot that the player controls dies on that mission. the player can still continue the campaign and fly another pilot in the next mission. Some players might feel alienated with this approach, but to me it is a very clever way of allowing the player to fully concentrate on winning the actual campaign. The single missions are there if the player feels like risking his own life - die on those missions and you lose the pilot, his personal record and also all the campaign stuff related to him. In actual missions F-16 Combat Pilot excels in the 'details' department. Before the mission the player can check out the weather conditions and define the payload (weapons, fuel, additional equipment) before entering the cockpit. The missions always starts from the hangar and the player has to taxi to the runway in order to take-off. After getting clearance from the tower it is time for full throttle and the start of the mission. The F-16C used in the simulation offers several advanced electronic devices. The Up Front Control Panel (UFCP) relays information about navpoints, airfields and tracking data from Early Warning Radar (EWR) which means the player can switch between navpoints, keep track of the location and direction of the closest friendly airfield, and most importantly, the movements of enemy aircrafts. There's a lot of information to absorb but once mastered the system is a powerful tool for monitoring your environment. With the aid of this equipment, finding your way to the target and back to your home base (as well as engaging or evading enemy fighters or gunships) becomes slighly easier. Attacking ground targets can be done traditionally (picking up each target manually one by one) or by using a handy gadget called LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation & Targetting Infra Red for Night). Since land targets are generally a group of buildings (all of which have to be destroyed) or a tank platoon spread out around the battlefield, a device which offers things like automatic target recognision and night vision capability is very handy. The LANTIRN pod allows the player to wipe out multiple targets in rapid succession - which means whole enemy bases can be destroyed from a safe distance - eliminating the need to fly over the target and exposing your plane to deadly AAA fire. Did I mention night missions? Another feature F-16 Combat Pilot pioneered, the night flying is a highly atmospheric experience. Flying in a pitch black sky and looking through the HUD which reflects the LANTIRN night vision in shades of green offers a level of excitement very few Amiga flight sims can offer. F-16 Combat Pilot has a certain emphasis towards ground attacks. In order to succeed in the campaign the player has to systematically destroy a certain number of enemy ground installations and weapon systems. Air combat is all about achieving air superiority - most dogfights are done BVR (Beyond Visual Range) with missiles. For dogfight fans this is disappointing but then again the majority of dogfights with modern weaponry are fought this way. It is still possible to sneak upon a enemy fighter but this is seldom needed - only helicopter gunships really need this 'up close and personal' approach. For dogfight fans sims like Red Baron or Falcon are probably better choices - while F-16 Combat Pilot even offers a special two-player dogfight mode its real merits are in the interactive campaign part and the missions against ground targets. Returning from a mission, there are several ways to bring the plane back to the ground (preferably to a friendly airfield). F-16 Combat Pilot offers a fully working ILS system which can be used to land the plane manually. Lazy pilots can switch to autopilot and watch it fly the plane to touchdown (the player still has to do the braking and taxiing to the hangar). Landing damaged planes is possible - there is a comprehensive GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) help from tower which will talk the player down. Unlike many other sims belly up landings are also possible (I have managed to do that successfully a couple of times). The post mission briefing is very comprehensive. The amount of enemy equipment destroyed (by the player or wingmen) is reported as well as the friendy losses. In the campaigns the strength and morale of both sides is also shown which nicely describes the campaign's status and allows the player to analyse how well his strategy is working. ...AND CHECKERED DOTS There's plenty of nice features in F-16 Combat Pilot. The extensive practise options and single missions (with the ability to fully control weaponry and weather). The interactive campaign is wonderful - the complete freedom to create your own winning strategy and then fulfill it with your squadron is a rare treat in Amiga flight sims. The level of detail this sim offers is staggering - the realistic implementation of navigation and weapon systems as well as other nice features like LANTIRN, GCA landing and the ability to repair damaged F16s after each mission leave little in the wish list. The presentation of the game is twofold. Navigating through the game is very easy through the easy to learn icon driven menu system. Still pictures and cockpit graphics are clear, well drawn and detailed (especially the cockpit, which is one of the best seen in Amiga flight sims). The actual 3D graphics are very detailed and move at an adequate speed (although the frame rate is never really as smooth as it should be). The colour palette used for the 3D parts could have been better - the bland colours and heavy use of dithering makes graphics look somewhat uglier than they should (a better palette alone would have helped to counter things). The sound part is quite limited, with the hiss of the engines, warning beeps and realistic gunfire and explosion sounds - but it does its job adequately. While sims like F/A-18 Interceptor take care of the lightweight part of Amiga flight sims, F-16 Combat Pilot takes care of the heavy-weight part. There are very few Amiga sims which can challenge its realism and depth (B-17 Flying Fortress, Tornado, JETPilot and the Falcon Mission Disks come to mind). - It is a true Amiga classic for the real flight sim enthusiast.