Popular Futurology Has It That The air wars of the future will no longer be fought by men but by remotely-piloted machines (although there will still be men operating those controls, so popular futurology had better learn to clarify itself before it pokes its head round my way again). If that is indeed the case and the next time America invades... er, 'polices' some third-world country with large oil reserves, it's with the help of an elite team of speccy geekoids sitting in their bedrooms, connected to the world's defence network by a 28.8 modem, I can think of no better training tool than F/A-18 Korea. It's that realistic.
I remember when...
This high level of realism is probably due to the fact that the actual F/A-18 Hornel aircraft is now getting on a bit and subsequently has a lot of features that just don't exist in modern jet fighters. For instance, the radar is a huge and cumbersome beast with all sorts of scanning modes and adjustable options - none of your computerised, auto-targeting, information-displaying F-22-style gizmos here. You have to work at detecting other aircraft, and it's probably this level of effort that makes the game feel so very real. I'm sure that every cockpit button in F-22ADF is accurate to the last millimetre, it's just that F/A-18 Korea makes you aware of how hard a pilot's job really is.
Luckily, the game's designers have thoughtfully included a very good manual. Written by an ex-US Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot, it takes you through the detailed ins and outs of Hornet operation with remarkable clarity and user-friendliness. It's one of the best manuals I've seen since Falcon 3.0 and details everything from take-off and landing procedures to advanced air-to-air combat manoeuvres. It works in conjunction with a series of training missions that, while not as numerous and comprehensive as F-22ADFs, combine to give you a feeling of confidence when you finally set off on a proper mission.
Pull up. Pull up! Pull up, dammit!
There's yet another area of flight sim life that F/A-18 Korea opens up to you - that of the rapidly converging flight model. Most of today's modern fighter jets are now designed with ease of use as a main criteria and as a result, there seems to be very little difference in the way certain planes handle. The F/A-18, however, is a heavy, sluggish bird and the developers have done a fine job of making you aware of this. It also comes as something of a welcome relief after having been deluged with an army of flight sims where flying the actual plane can seem almost too easy to be real. As such, the game feels more challenging and more rewarding to play.
Here's a war I made earlier
Before I start putting a downer on this unashamed love-in, I'll just mention the mission editor. It's been a long time since I've played a flight sim that allows you to create your own missions and scenarios from scratch (providing you base them in Korea, of course) and I'm now beginning to realise what I've been missing. The editor is both easy to use and staggeringly detailed, allowing you to create simple one-plane joyrides or huge multi-aircraft tactical headaches without getting frustrated by the interface. There's one exception to this in that there are no cut and paste commands for the quick creation of identical flights, and this can be a pain as you add more and more patrols. But on the whole, this is first-rate stuff - it even put me in mind of the late, great Stunt Island, albeit without the 'comedy' factor.
But it scores less than f-22 ADF... And here's why. Despite having a lot to recommend it, a few questionable areas remain. For one, the mission structure. While the aforementioned editor retains some level of longterm interest, the actual missions feel very self-contained. Again, just as with F-22ADF, there's no ongoing campaign framework to deal with, so every time you take off it's as if you're starting off in a completely new world.
And because you can feel the mission editor at work in each mission, that 'real-world' impression is lost. Games like F-22 ADF and Joint Strike Fighter manage to create an illusion where you feel like you're just a small part of a 'living world'. In F/A-18 Korea, however, you are the centre of attention, which lessens the overall atmosphere and reminds you that you're playing a game, nothing more. And when you consider how staggeringly detailed the rest of the simulation is, it only adds to the disappointment.
I also have a slight quibble about the graphics. For the most part they're great, and low-powered machine owners will be pleased to hear that if you don't turn the 3Dfx options on, this game will actually work on your PC. And while the graphics aren't up to the quality of F-22ADF(or JSFeither, for that matter), they're still a big improvement on the likes of A-10 Cuba! or SU-27 Flanker. However, designers Graphic Simulations have fallen into the age-old trap of lavishing all the detail on the craft and somewhat ignoring the other objects. For instance, some of the buildings are almost laughable in their plainness, although the terrain textures are particularly nice and the lack of too much detail does tend to keep things moving along smoothly. You can sort of tell this used to be a Macintosh game though, and the next title would be well advised to really go to town with the accelerator cards - an engine of this quality combined with the graphics of DID would indeed be a joy to behold.
Cleared to land
Basically then, the reason why F/A-18 Korea doesn't score as highly as F-22ADF is that while the simulation of the plane is in most ways better than DID's, at the end of the day, the overall game itself is rather disappointing. If I happened to be one of the speccy geekoids mentioned at the beginning, training for a real war, the scores would probably have been reversed. But I'm not. I'm a speccy geekoid playing a game. And in my book, that's what really counts.
Download F/A-18 Korea
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP