It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a game. It’s a sim. Microprose has packed quite a lot into its comprehensive simulation of the F16 Falcon. Indeed, they should have. After 3+ years of intense development, Microprose rushed the sequel to its classic into stores just before the 1998 holiday season. Discussions continue to evoke both joy and frustration throughout a cautiously hopeful sim community, as the can’t-live-with-it, can’t-live-without-it theme becomes more and more apparent.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
In no way can Falcon 4.0 be compared to an arcade flight game. There are no exaggerated explosions, no futuristic weapons and no corny AI voices (well, maybe a few). There is nothing theoretical about Falcon 4.0’s weapons, avionics or flight model. Every component of Falcon 4.0 attempts to emulate the real aircraft -- and at a fraction of the cost, I might add! By tweaking a few interface knobs, the game can be dumbed down to an easier level of play depending on the pilot’s flying abilities and social life.
Falcon 4.0 lacks no feature. A few of the big ones that come to mind are dynamic campaign, mission builder, cooperative multiplay, active cockpit, excellent graphics and an accurate flight model. Falcon 4.0 is the first sim to tout all these features in one package. One has to applaud the aggressive development team at Microprose.
What’s the problem, then? The features are many, but not all are in perfect working order. The bugs are too minute and too numerous to mention. Besides, the bugs are rapidly crawling into Microprose programmers’ pesticide. It is true that Falcon 4.0 is getting better all the time, but the casual simmer may want to wait until all the fixes are in. Patch 1.07 is expected in June 1999.
Falcon 4.0 sports Instant Action, Dogfight, Tactical Engagement and Campaign over the entire nation of Korea. The terrain is vast, the weapons are many, the battle is now. In Campaign mode, the pilot interacts in an AI-controlled, real-time air/ground war. In addition to gaining air superiority, pilots must stop advancing enemy ground units by cutting off their supplies, blowing bridges, crippling infrastructure, etc. The outcome of the campaign is affected by player performance.
You won’t see very many sims flying circles around Falcon 4.0’s graphics. Pilots can expect to see a similar look as European Air War, but with much more detail, especially in the terrain and cockpit. The same brown palette tints the screen of both Microprose titles. The widespread interest in Falcon 4.0 so far has yielded several custom cockpits and other user replacement art downloadable via the Internet.
There are a variety of quality sounds in Falcon 4.0. Taking a peek into the game’s sounds directory reveals 11 individual impact sound files, 11 bomb sounds, and tons of cockpit and other sounds. The diverseness is refreshing after flying so many sims with a single sound representing gunfire or bombs or engine noise. The effort to mimic real-life sounds is a big plus.
Minimum: Pentium 166 Mhz, Windows 95/98 with DirectX 5, 32 MB RAM, high color graphics 800x600x16-bit high color, 4X CD-ROM drive, 175 MB free hard drive space, joystick, DirectX-compatible 16-bit sound card
Recommended: Pentium II 266 Mhz, Windows 95/98 with DirectX 5, 64 MB RAM, 3D graphics accelerator (Direct 3D or Glide), 8X CD-ROM drive, 400 MB free hard drive space, joystick with throttle, DirectX-compatible 16-bit sound card
Multiplayer: null-modem serial cable, Windows compatible 28.8kbps modem or faster, or local area network with TCP/IP protocol
I don’t normally get too excited about documentation, but the 600-page manual may be the most thorough in gaming history. Get ready to stay up late at night with a highlighter.
Falcon 4.0 is a powerful PC simulation with boundless potential, but no matter how good it looks on paper, one hesitates to let his guard down and plunge into a sim that isn’t quite ready. Virtual pilots will have to wing it until the final fixes are in. I feel sure that Microprose will not rest until its bird of prey flies high. When the wings of Falcon 4.0 are completely mended, watch out!