Jane's Combat Simulations: F/A-18 Simulator
|a game by||EA Baltimore|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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There are plenty of flight sims out there vying for the attention of sad non-pilots, and most of them are based around American jets beginning with an 'F. One of the best of these games in recent times has been Jane's F-15, a super-realistic simulation of the US Airforce's scariest strike aircraft. Jane's F/A-18 is the latest sim from the developer of F-15, Skunkworks, and the fact that the excellent Longbow 2 bals from the same stable indicates that this new title is likely to be a corker.
The F/A-18E Super Hornet is the US Navy's latest fighter. It's packed with the latest electronics and can carry enough weapons to kill the entire population of Basingstoke a couple of times over, probably even if they weren't all drinking in the same pub at the same time. Unlike the F-15E from the earlier sim, the F/A-18 is designed to be equally good as both a fighter and ground attack plane, which means roughly equal amounts of dogfighting and bombing. Better still, most of the action takes place from aircraft carriers, with the attendant easy-peasy catapult take-offs and ridiculously tough landings.
The interface in F/A-18 is very similar to that in F-15, it's pretty functional and straightforward and provides access to the different mission types: instant action, single, multiplayer, campaign and training. There's a particularly good starter mission, covered in the first chapter of the excellent manual, where you get to destroy a MiG and bomb some fuel tanks. Obviously, this won't keep you interested for very long, but there are plenty of training and single missions to get you up to speed. Instant action follows the now familiar formula whereby you pick the number of planes on your side, the number and type of baddies, time of day, etc. Exactly what's needed when you can't be arsed to play proper missions and just fancy shooting at things. Ultimately, F/A-18 is not as accessible as Falcon 4, but that's only a minor criticism.
The Real Thing
Of course, there's no point in having lots of interesting missions to fly if the in-game graphics are useless. Guess what? They're not. In fact, they're rather good. The cockpit and systems in F/A-18 are incredibly detailed, and everything's clickable (although you can obviously use the keyboard to do most of it). Instead of the more common combined 2D and 3D cockpits found in most sims, F/A-18 has only a 3D virtual cockpit (although there are zoomed-in views of the individual displays when you need to change something). This cockpit works fine though, especially if you've got the hardware to run at 1,024x768 resolution. The feeling of sitting in a real plane is pretty much as good as you could get without some kind of virtual reality helmet thing, especially when waiting to launch from the pitching deck of a carrier.
The avionics must be pretty realistic, because they're suitably complicated and it's hard to believe that real combat pilots have to cope with anything harder than this stuff in combat. Although off-putting at first, once you manage to get your head round all the controls the sense of achievement and immersion is huge.
The graphics engine itself is one of the best around, and F-15's terrain and modelling have been completely revamped. The sense of speed at low levels is awesome, and spotting the carrier in the distance with the sun shining almost makes you want to write poetry. Clouds and explosions have a similar aweinspiring effect. In short, the graphics are gorgeous.
So basically, F/A-18 is a kind of sequel to F-15, with vastly improved graphics, more dogfighting, more weapons and carrier landings. Oh, and it's got an even better mission editor.
If you like your sims realistic, F/A-18 probably sounds perfect. It just about is.