The good news is, if the aliens ever really attack like they did in Independence Day, there will be a whole bunch of computer gamers with the requisite flying skills to pilot the mothership-destroying F-16s. The bad news is, they will have these skills only because they have been forced to acquire them to get any enjoyment out of the ever-more-realistic flight combat sims on the market today.
Now maybe you're the type who really honest-to-God wants to know what it's like to fly an A-10 Warthog and don't want to bother with joining the Air Force, going through all the haircuts, funny hazing pranks, etc. If so, go to your nearest computer software retailer posthaste and pick up a copy of A-10 Cuba! — you will not be disappointed.
If, on the other hand, you're like me and you don't want to repeatedly get killed because you forget to put your flaps up, or because you didn't quite make a four-point landing, even though you managed to kill 4 enemy planes, then you'll find A-10 Cuba! a lot on the technical side. Remember: it is billed as an "ultra-realistic flight simulation."
Speaking of technical, the biggest hurdle to getting the hang of A-10 was just getting it installed. It seems that several thousand copies of this game went out with incorrect CD keys printed on the label (why use a CD key for a $29.99 game in the first place, Activision?) ... if you are foolhardy enough to install the game with said incorrect CD key, you get to learn a lot more about the Windows 95 registry than you ever wanted to en route to getting your computer to accept a correct CD key. Fortunately, Activision has now released a patch (196 KB) that fixes most of the installation headaches.
486 DX2-66 or better, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive, 40 MB hard disk space, 256 color SVGA video card with 1 MB RAM, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible, mouse. Joystick or flight yoke highly recommended
At this point you're probably thinking that I hated this game—in fact, I didn't hate it; it just wasn't my cup of tea. I think that with a few hundred hours of flight practice, I might like it quite a bit. I'm not sure it's a game per se, or should be sold as such, but it's a strong entry into the flight combat sim market and carries a very friendly price. The graphics are pretty sparse (compared to the likes of SU-27 Flanker or the Jane's Combat line), but this is necessary to insure that a wide range of processors and video cards can keep flight smooth and battles engaging. There is a good range of missions available, and most are quite challenging.
On the usability side, I think there is much in this sim that should be set to toggle on or off at the user's discretion (I refer to the no less than 83 keyboard commands one must remember in-flight to stay aloft and in one piece), but even without such features, it's a good sim for the price. So my recommendation on this one runs like this: make sure you really want to learn how to fly if you're going to buy this one. If you want to be an armchair Top Gun, this isn't the package for you. If you're in doubt and have some free time on your hands, grab the almost 8 MB demo and see for yourself.