Falcon has blazed a trail across personal computer virtual skies for years. Spectrum Holobyte programmed all the versions, including this one for the TurboGrafx-16. These guys even create flight sims for the military! That translates into realistic flying, and in this version it's either a plus or a minus, depending on how you look at it.
Flight Makes Right
This challenging game begins as some third rate power is about to tilt the world's geopolitical scale towards chaos by building atomic weapons. You have seven days to fight through their murderous air defenses and destroy their A-bomb factory. Falcon's battle plan calls for 16 missions at a rate of three per day. If the numbers don't seem to add up, it's because the extra days are insurance against your frequent crashing and burning.
No Train, No Gain
Learning to fly your F-16 is a chore. You control your jet from a pilot's first-person, inside-the-cockpit view. Falcon's control panel and its Heads Up Display are based on the real thing. They flash a dizzying array of on-screen information at you, at least 21 different displays. The game controls are less daunting, but there are 13 different button presses or combos you need to know. Studying the manual and practicing deciphering displays takes patience, but either you do that or face fiery death often.
Once you figure out how to use them, your weapons are formidable, effective, and realistic. You arm your ship before every mission with a cool-looking weapon selection screen. Sidewinders, AMRAAM radar-guided missiles, Shrikes, Maverick TV-guided missiles, and MK-82 Low Drag General Purpose Bombs are all set to do your dirty work. The Fuel tanks and the Electronic Counter Measures Pod are non-lethal, but vital.
There's no doubt where the bad guys do their arms shopping. Your competition flies Soviet-made Su-25S bombers, MiG-21 S fighters, and MiG-298 interceptors. On the ground, they set up a gauntlet of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and mobile antiaircraft guns.
Fail a mission, and Falcon plays Taps. It also displays a screen with your buddies flying the famous "Missing Man" formation (guess who's missing?). Master the five Training Missions: Bombing, Intercepts, Dogfight, Anti-Flak, and Anti-SAM. TurboExpress owners can get the best practice of all by linking with a friend for head-to-head dogfights.
Falcon's graphics are a mixed bag with distinct contrasts. Ground-based graphics, such as the Mission Briefing screens, are sharp and eye-catching. The airborne graphics, which are reminiscent of most polygon-based flight sims, are blocky and somewhat indistinct. For a game based on a supersonic aircraft, the sound effects are practically subsonic.
Not for the Birds
Falcon means business, and so should you if you try it. If you're a TG-16 top gun who takes his flying seriously, by all means fly Falcon. However, don't expect to go ballistic over the graphics. If you're just looking for a vicarious, supersonic joyride, try flying friendlier skies.
- When there's a bogie on your tail, speed up then quickly slow down. He'll fly past you and into your sights!
- If Damage is high or Fuel is low, eject and try again. Macho jet jockies won't beat this game.