F-22: Air Dominance Fighter
|a game by||Digital Image Design Ltd.|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Before We Start, A Proviso. If You have anything that even approaches the description 'low-end machine', don't even continue reading. You'll just get yourself worked up into a drooling mess and have nowhere to release the built-up frustrations except in bursts of meaningless violence. We don't want to add yet more fuel to the 'computer games damage our kiddies' argument, do we? If you have to ask whether or not you have a low-end machine, then you do. That said, there's a proviso to this proviso - see the 'Got a low-spec PC?' panel.
Still with us?
Right, with the above in mind, let's start by saying that F-22 ADF is brilliant. It's far and away the flight sim of the year, and we've only just started. As soon as you get going you can sense a level of quality far above anything you've played before. Not just the graphics (although, as you can see, they are beyond superb), but everything around you. No flight sim has ever felt this complete. Air traffic controllers guide you around the airports, all of which are alive and buzzing with activity. Commercial as well as military aircraft fill the skies, all following their own patterns and flight paths. Everywhere you look things are happening. The world seems busy and totally unconcerned with your own small part in its existence. Until you start bombing the hell out of it, of course. Just like real life, in fact.
Your aircraft feels real as well. Almost every button, knob and dial can be twisted, turned and fiddled with, and if there's a function the real F-22 can do that isn't simulated here, chances are it's an ultra-top secret one that only the US military and Tom Clancy know about. Flight dynamics feel spot on (like I would know), as do the effect of weapons on their targets. There's even collateral damage to worry about - debris from an exploding building can smack into your craft and knock bits off, like the wings.
Players are guided through the beast using a series of training missions, that go from the simple (take off and landing) to the complicated (dropping laser-guided munitions on nuclear installations) to the anal (radio communications). You even get the chance to fly some missions from an AWACS aircraft, guiding the operations of all the planes in each mission, jumping in and out of cockpits as though you were a rent-boy at a dock-worker's convention.
Tiny little things
Do I have any criticisms of the game? Well yes, a few. But they're so damned petty that if I told you what they were it would make me look bad rather than the game. I don't like the text used for radio communications, for example.
The manuals aren't as user-friendly towards novices as they could be. They still don't come close to the classic Falcon 3.0 manuals with their Flight School section that took you through custom-built missions step-by-step and really made you feel as though you were learning something. Not that these are bad or anything, just not as good as Falcon 3.0s.
I've also encountered a strange bug. Again, this isn't really large enough to qualify as a criticism, just something that I felt was worth pointing out (Surely, "making consumers aware of' - Ed). While taxiing at an airfield, I was somewhat perturbed when a Learjet just drove straight through my plane. That's right, not around it - through it. Like I didn't even exist. It's something I've noticed quite a lot. Although you can go through all the proper runway procedures (requesting taxi instructions, waiting for permission, etc), you don't really seem to be there as far as the world is concerned. It's little things like these that take the slight shine off the overall polish.
Oh, and there is one other tiny, little, barely noticeable problem that I also feel ashamed to mention: there are no campaigns or ongoing war scenarios to play.
Campaign in the arse
Here's the thing. F-22 ADF doesn't have any kind of campaign-style missions. It has loads of self-contained assignments, split into 'theatre' tours (zones such as Egypt, the Red Sea and Ethiopia as opposed to bombing runs on the Old Vic, the Adelphi and the Southport Palladium). But nothing ongoing. You don't even get the option of selecting which weapons you can use. Everything is pre-planned - you just have to fly the thing.
DID's defence is that they are developing an F-22 Total Air War add-on pack for the middle of 1998 that will make full use of the AWACS command craft and provide you with one of the most comprehensive 'full war' simulations ever seen in a flight sim. But that doesn't disguise the fact that there isn't one here now. Without it, I'm not sure that there are enough single missions to fill the gap. The ones that let you use the AWACS to control things do provide a certain level of randomness each time you play them, but doesn't make for lasting playability. I want to score F-22 ADF really highly simply because of the sheer excellence of the simulation. But this single missing element is tying one hand behind my back.
So there you have it. One of the best flight sims I have ever played, but lacking in one vital area. DID are always doing this - getting things almost perfect. EF2000 was superb, save for some really annoying bugs. F-29 Ftetaliator was superb, save for not being able to land the aircraft properly. Robocop 3 was superb, save for being based on a shit film that nobody liked. At least they're consistent.