Falcon 4.0: Allied Force

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a game by Lead Pursuit
Platform: PC (2005)
User Rating: 7.3/10 - 3 votes
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See also: Flight Games
Falcon 4.0: Allied Force
Falcon 4.0: Allied Force
Falcon 4.0: Allied Force
Falcon 4.0: Allied Force

Here's a question for you. How do you fully review a game with an 800-page manual in two pages? You see, Allied Force - the revamped, updated and hugely improved new version of 1998's Falcon 4 - isn't so much a game as a stringent, no frills recreation of what it's actually like to fly an F-16.

It's a simulation so utterly bent on capturing the realism of real-life, modern-day dog-fighting that it negates presentation, glitz and Hollywood cliches, preferring instead to concentrate on every switch, lever, button and protocol of flying these steel birds, right from the moment you enter your aircraft till the second you land.

Passage Of Time

I'll warn you now, you might despise this game. You might abhor it with every bone in your body for its clinical approach to gaming and its utter disregard for anyone without a degree in avionics and a Masters in patience and perseverance. But then again, you might also love it for precisely these reasons.

Much has changed since 1998. The crippling bug problems have been hugely reduced (though not totally eradicated), while a complete graphical overhaul has meant that Allied Force now looks more 2002 than 1998. Lighting, shading and fogging effects have been infinitely improved, with clouds now boasting genuine depth and reflections that imbue the world with a much greater sense of realism.

Ahoy There!

However, these impressive new effects are sparingly employed, resulting in the visuals looking patchier than a pirate captain's convention. For every new sparkle that lights up the game, there's an unsightly matt-finish eyesore that dulls it. Missiles fizz out from beneath your wings with an anticlimactic whoosh, enemy planes flash by in a low-res haze, while weapon effects are more often tedious than thunderous.

Sound is also a problem. Poor voice-acting and bad delivery cripple the game's otherwise astounding sense of immersion, while the beeps and alarms that signal danger are more irksome than an alarm clock trill on a Sunday morning. The worst aural offender though is your plane's machine gun, which sounds like someone farting through a sock rather than state-of-the-art weaponry.

The Beauty Within

But don't let the visual and aural shortcomings fool you into thinking this is an archaic flyer that's desperately staging a futile mid-life crisis comeback. Allied Force simply spills over with new and improved features, such as its all-new, magnificently dynamic Balkan campaign, which complements the existing, though now also revamped Korean one (see Dead Dynamic', above).

This is where Allied Force's true excellence begins to rear itself from the game's hit-and-miss presentation, and where you suddenly realise that this is a game, sorry, simulation, of such intelligence, such utter authenticity and attention to detail that few, if any other flight sims can match its passion for avionic and tactical perfection.

Flying your F-16 further reinforces this fact. With scalable realism levels to help accommodate newcomers (be warned though, even at 10 per cent realism it's still fiendishly hard), these in-plane antics are so lovingly recreated that you can flip every switch, tweak every setting and utterly immerse yourself in your plane's controls until they almost become an extension of yourself. And if you're going to survive, they have to be.

The game's enemy plane Al is also impressive. On higher settings, computer-controlled pilots paint pictures in the sky with their tailpipe emissions as they weave in search of an opening, their long-distance locked-on missiles joining the dots of the tracer fire spitting out of their machine guns as they close in for the kill. The majority of encounters are decided at a distance though, and with every piece of computerised technology you can imagine at your fingertips, you soon discover that mastering the art of aerial jousting is far more involved than simply meandering through the clouds and diving to the deck, as you seek to gain the upper hand against Allied Force's genuinely lifelike foes.

Plane And Simple

If you can't find the time to study and learn from the gigantic PDF manual, there is a more slimline 110-page version in the box itself. However, if you do dedicate yourself to learning how an F-16 really flies, how it really works, what you can and cannot do with it and forge a genuine love and understanding of the art of modern day aerial combat, then you'll find that Falcon 4.0: Allied Force is a work of genuine excellence and, in its own special way, highly entertaining.

But if you're looking for a combat flight experience of scintillating close-quarter action between mirror-shade wearing stereotypes, replete with high production values and a sheen you could shave in, I strongly recommend you go and hire Top Gun instead and never let this game even enter your PC's radar. Ever! It really is that cut and dried.

When Every Enemy Death Actually Makes A Difference

One of Allied Force's most impressive features is its dynamic campaign structure. Instead of being stuck with pre-defined missions every time you play, you find yourself flying over an ever-evolving battlefield, where every bomb you drop, every tank you destroy and every plane you blow out of the sky goes towards determining not only the direction, but ultimately the outcome of the war, too.

The two campaigns (The Balkans and Korea) both offer plenty of variety and are each divided into three ever-harder chapters. As you fly over the battlefields, you'll really see just how impressive these campaigns are.

In every direction, friendly and enemy forces embark on their own missions, and more often than not you find yourself stumbling across isolated tank columns or sitting duck AA guns, ripe for the picking. Yup, flight sim campaigns really don't get a whole lot better than this.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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