Ever Since F-29 Retaliator Came Out on the Amiga, big posh futuristic planes have been popular subject matter for flight sims. Current planes appeal to buffs who are obsessed with realism - mostly because they roar at twice the speed of sound and can take out seven MiGs at a time. They're also great fun. Then there's the fact that squillions of dollars are spent on military hardware, giving designers the opportunity to deliver plenty of realistic hi-tech action. Hoorah!
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is Uncle Sam's latest baby, combining speed, stealth and state-of-the-art avionics in one big plane. Designed to replace the F-15, the F-22 can cruise at supersonic speeds, it's virtually undetectable to most radars and is manoeuvrable as buggery, thanks to its vectored-thrust engines. This impressive list of features explains why the F-22 is the subject of many sims at the moment, the latest being NovaLogic's F-22 Raptor.
NovaLogic have quite a history of making hi-tech sims. In recent years they've based them around helicopters (the Comanche series), around tanks (Armored Fist) and F-22s (Lightning II). F-22 Raptor has been developed with close co-operation from Lockheed Martin, and it boasts reworked graphics, a new campaign structure and (it's claimed) improved flight modelling and realism.
A bit of meat on the bone
F-22 Raptor has three main gameplay modes - quick missions, campaigns and multi-player. The quick missions let you get straight into the air with the minimum of faffing around, and the first few take the form of training missions, teaching you about the various cockpit displays and weapons systems on board the F-22. These have been very sensibly designed, and the briefing for each mission tells you which keys will come in handy, which cuts down on all that tiresome trawling through the manual malarkey. Once you're in the cockpit, a nice man gives you all manner of handy hints and basically tells you what you're supposed to be doing.
The missions themselves start with simply flying around, and proceed onto using the different missiles and bombs, finally finishing with more realistic combat situations. Once you've mastered these, you can try your hand at the campaign mode, the real meat of the game. The first such mission is set in Angola, where you're involved in a peacekeeping role, sorting out the baddies and generally being a nice bloke. The various cut-scenes that occur during the campaigns are very nicely done, and provide lots of atmosphere. Once you've completed each one, you move onto the next. The rest of the scenarios are set in Jordan, Russia, Columbia and Iran.
Of course, the single most important aspect of any flight sim is the in-game graphics, and those in F-22 Raptor aren't bad - but they're not great either. The scenery's pretty good, with nicely texture-mapped mountains and forests, and distant mountains that fade in convincingly, rather than appearing out of nowhere as is the case in some sims. There's commendable detail on the planes, which have realistic-looking paint jobs and markings. There's also a good set of views, with the obligatory external views of your plane, enemy aircraft and missiles, and a decent virtual cockpit that can be smoothly panned around.
A slug skiing on salt
The usual penalty for good graphics is a crap frame rate, and while F-22 Raptor was perfectly playable on a medium detail setting on a P200MMX (the spec recommended for optimum performance), it wasn't exactly smoothsville either. This isn't helped by the lack of support for 3D accelerator cards. While most people still don't have a 3Dfx card, you only have to see games like Longbow 2, EF2000 and Flying Corps running with one to realise that they can make a huge difference to the frame rate and the general image quality. F-22 Raptor suffers in this latter aspect as well, as the lack of hardware filtering makes everything look a bit rough around the edges. Having said all this, if you don't have a 3D card and you've got a fast PC, F-22 Raptor's graphics are sufficiently decent.
The flight model in F-22 Raptor seems reasonable, which, given the amount of technology on board, means that the real thing is probably quite easy to fly. Unfortunately, the gameplay feels a bit simplistic, and while there are plenty of different instruments, you're mostly limited to just looking at them - there's none of the serious fiddling about that's necessary to complete missions successfully in EF2000. While the real F-22 has obviously been designed to be as easy to use as possible, it seems unlikely that it's only got one radar mode, and only one way of using the autopilot, for example. While these would be fine in 90 per cent of cases, I'd have thought that real combat situations would need a bit more flexibility than this. The weapons on offer are also limited to two air-to-air missiles, guns and one type of bomb. Again, surely the F-22 isn't like this in real life?
F-22 Raptor also loses out in the realism stakes where the campaigns are concerned. There are plenty of missions, and your performance affects subsequent operations, but there's no real mission planning, and although you can move waypoints, you can't add more, or send different flights to bomb other targets, for example. Still, the campaigns are good enough to provide a sense of continuity and keep you coming back for more.
While the overall simplicity of F-22 Raptor makes it easy to get into the air and start blowing things up, it also makes it less of a sim and a bit more of a game. While this might appeal to some, it also means that its long-term appeal is rather limited, and once you've completed the campaigns it's unlikely that you'll come back to it again. Still, if the existing graphics are given a much-needed boost with a 3D card patch, F-22 Raptor could certainly be one of the better looking flight sims around.
Download F-22 Raptor
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The F-22 is the most popular military jet fighter for a game company to simulate nowadays, and NovaLogic has now done it twice. F-22 Raptor is the sequel to F-22 Lightning II. NovaLogic's second effort sports better graphics, better enemy AI, free Internet combat, and a much more realistic flight model. Most notable is the fact that NovaLogic and Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor for the F-22, have teamed up to bring you the first game in the "Lockheed Martin Fighter Series." This was not a bad move by NovaLogic, considering the fact that the flight model in F-22 Lightning II was downright weak. The actual F-22 is billed as being an easy jet to fly and F-22 Raptor, the simulation, reflects that reality.
Gameplay and Controls
F-22 Raptor is extremely easy to fly -- for some flight sim addicts, too easy. There are two basic throttle positions most players will use most of the time: Full Military Power and Afterburners. The power is needed because of the extreme speed bleeding in sharp turns. For example, I took the F-22 up to a level flight, 30,000 feet at 660 knots maintaining full afterburners. Staying at the same altitude, I made a 360 degree turn as sharp as possible. Once I completed the circle, my airspeed had dropped to 175 knots! Since not many of us have actually flown a real F-22, I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions. F-22 Raptor's ordnance choices are also simplistic and few. There is the standard 20mm cannon and two types of air-to-air missiles: the AIM 120C AMRAAM Radar-Guided Missile and the AIM-9X Sidewinder Heat-Seeking Missile. There is only one type of air-to-ground ordnance: the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) bomb. This is a satellite-guided fire-and-forget bomb that rarely misses. The damage to the aircraft causes various systems malfunctions. There are 13 systems you can damage that directly affect the system and your aircraft. For example, fuel system damage means your fuel will deplete at a much faster rate. Aileron or elevator damage will make your plane difficult to control, and so on.
F-22 Raptor consists of five linked campaigns of seven to nine missions each, six single training missions, and 14 regular single missions that did not find their way onto the campaign script. That makes for a total of 61 missions that feature a wide variety of air and ground strike missions. The campaigns take you to all parts of the globe, and conveniently, all different types of terrain: desert, jungle, snow-covered mountains, etc. F-22 Raptor features "Dynamic Campaigns." This means if you blow up a SAM sight in one mission, it stays destroyed in the following missions. Each mission within a campaign can also be played as a single mission. The missions are, however, a load of fun. The controls are very responsive and simplistic. For example, lowering the landing gear also automatically lowers the flaps. Unfortunately, there is no mission builder incorporated into the game. When all the campaigns and single missions have been completed, you'll be done.
The enemy AI and your wingman's AI are quite good. Most missions require you to utilize your wingman's ordnance as well as your own. One good thing is your wingman is usually nearby so if you get an enemy on your six, you can call for your wingman for help and he will immediately respond.
The first thing I noticed in F-22 Raptor was the beautifully rendered terrain and that it was accomplished without any 3D video acceleration. Whether you are over snow-covered mountains or a lush jungle, both the terrain graphics and the object graphics are visually appealing. As with other NovaLogic flight sims, there is an extreme colored lighting effect, most notable is the heavy bright red shading of the terrain and sky during sunrise and sunset missions -- too much if you ask me. The clouds are not very well done. Every mission has a thick cloud cover between 25,000 and 40,000 feet, regardless of how clear the day or night is. For example, when taking off at night I could see the stars; however, when I got up to 25,000 feet of altitude, the stars would fade out to go through the cloud layers. Once up to 40,000 feet, the stars would come back into view! One other bug I found was that below the cloud cover, you could see the sun or moon. Once above the cloud cover, they vanished.
The sound quality is exceptional. F-22 Raptor supports 5-channel Dolby Surround Sound. Most noteworthy is the thundering booming sound of kicking in the afterburners. The guns and missile shots are all very realistic and sound the way they should. The chatter from your wingman, enemies, and the control tower are all very clear and audible.
Definitely the best element in the game is the free and unlimited Internet play. NovaLogic has created novaworld.net where anyone with F-22 Raptor and an Internet connection can easily get setup for free multiplayer gaming. Free Internet and LAN/IPX server software is included with the game, so there is no need for any third party software. Novaworld runs very smoothly and if it wasn't for the real live pilots shooting you down, it would be difficult to tell you're online. The game also supports two player games via serial cable or modem connections.
Novaworld offers a choice of 3 game types: Deathmatch, GunsOnly, or Raptor Air War. Deathmatch puts you in an imaginary circle 80 miles across where the only purpose is to shoot without getting shot by other online pilots. If a player runs out of ammo or gets low on fuel, he can land at any airfield to rearm and refuel, but damage cannot be repaired. If you accumulate a lot of damage, it is sometimes best to ditch your plane so you can start again with a new F-22. The winner is the first to chalk up 10 kills. If a player is shot down, he will lose one kill from his total kills. GunsOnly is just that; it makes for some close online encounters. Raptor Air War (RAW) assigns each player to a side and the player decides to be a fighter or bomber. As a fighter, you get eight heat-seeking missiles; as a bomber, two JDAM bombs to drop on the enemy base. The winning team is the first to destroy its opponent's base.
Required: Windows 95, a Pentium 120 MHz (200 MHz recommended for optimum play), 4X CD-ROM drive, 16 MB RAM (32 MB recommended), mouse, joystick, and DirectX 5 (included on the CD)
Windows 95 throttle and rudder pedals are also supported. F-22 Raptor is designed for MMX, and NovaLogic claims you can experience frame rates up to 40% faster with an MMX machine although it is not required.
Despite the fact that NovaLogic teamed up with Lockheed Martin to produce this simulation, it is definitely not a sophisticated or detailed flight sim. F-22 Raptor is a lot of fun, but for better or for worse, the flight engine realism is questionable. With the help of Novaworld, this game is a necessity for pilots who like to test their skills against others on the Internet. I also recommend it for those who wish for a simple-to-fly F-22 flight sim. Gamers looking for a detailed and realistic game should look elsewhere.