The F/A-18E Super Hornet is the Navy’s newest state of the art fighter attack jet for the new millennium. With an even mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities, it is the perfect choice for Jane’s Combat Simulations to replicate as their latest hardcore study sim. Jane’s F/A-18 allows you to fly off a carrier, the Ronald Reagan, to fight against the Russians. Based off the already great but totally revamped Jane’s F-15 graphics engine and interface, F/A-18 adds updated graphics with a sturdy dose of naval aviation. At first I was unimpressed with the idea of using a two year old graphics engine and interface but after I really spent time with this simulation, impressive only begins to explain my thoughts.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Those familiar with Jane’s F-15 from a couple years ago will feel right at home with F/A-18 except that home is not on some land based airstrip as in F-15. In F/A-18, you must take off and land on a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. F/A-18 is the most accurate simulation ever of this aircraft and is extremely detailed; however, the campaign system is not fully dynamic. It consists of three phases that will choose your next mission based on your success or failure of the previous mission. The missions are scripted but there is some randomness as to which mission you might receive and there is an element of unpredictability that can occur within a mission. You can play through a campaign and still not see all the missions so there is some aspect of replayability.
There are four levels of difficulty that you can set independently for both the enemy aircraft and enemy ground defenses. Various flight model and weapon accuracy cheats can be tweaked to give you a large degree of configuring ability to match your skill level. The flight model of F/A-18, just like it’s F-15 cousin, is second to none. Landing on the carrier at night is a hair-raising experience and it will take much practice to be able to catch that elusive #3 wire every time.
There are 16 training missions but they do not do a very good job of taking you through every system and weapon on the aircraft. For example, there is a training mission for air to ground radar attacks and dropping dumb bombs, but when it comes to learning the more sophisticated laser guided bombs, there is no training mission to be found and you must resort to the manual to find your way. F/A-18 also has 20 single missions to choose from, although most of them are really just more training missions. For example, eight of the 20 single missions involve landing or refueling in various conditions. Fortunately, F/A-18 contains a very intuitive mission builder, which is the saving grace of the flawed choice of missions that come with the program. Even if you are not into taking the time to create your own missions, there are plenty of missions available for download on the Internet. There is also an Instant Action option that allows you to easily create a basic quick mission from scratch.
F/A-18’s multiplayer options are a major part of this simulation. Any of the single missions or a campaign mission can be flown in multiplayer and you can go to Jane's Combat.net to find others to fly with. Supported protocols include TCP/IP, IPX, Serial, and modem to modem. You will need at least a 28K modem connection but as with any online play, the faster your connection, the better results you will have.
Jane’s made a bold move when they designed the cockpit in F/A-18 because it is only a 3D cockpit. Most flight sims will offer a graphically superior 2D cockpit that will switch to 3D mode when your view pans around the cockpit such as when you are using the padlock feature. By going with a 3D only cockpit, you have a smoother view system since you are always in 3D mode.
The terrain graphics are similar to F-15 but that is where the similarities end. F/A-18 has incredible clouds, weather effects, and lighting effects. Hitting your afterburners on the aircraft flight deck at night leaves a pretty cool lighting effect and trying to land at night in a lightning storm on a pitching and rolling carrier deck is an incredible experience! After landing, your plane will automatically fold up its wings and park all by itself but unfortunately, you will not find any people running around on the flight deck.
Probably the first thing I noticed is the overabundance of radio chatter. Many times you will hear the radio voices talking over each other so it can be difficult to figure out to whom they are speaking and what they are saying. The authenticity is there. You definitely feel like you are part of something big. Jane’s used numerous voice actors and the results are amazing. For instance, when flying back to your ship to land you must request landing on your carrier. At that point, the Marshal controller will assign you a Marshal. That is a point at a specific altitude that you must maintain until you are ordered to "push" or leave the Marshal stack for your final approach. At ? of a mile, you must "call the ball." Ball is short for the yellow "meatball" indicator on the Fresnel lens that will help guide you to your carrier. The Landing Signal Officer (LSO) will constantly be directing you with course and speed corrections during your approach. All this time, there is other radio chatter going on with other planes in battle so you never get the feeling that you are the only one out there.
Minimum: Windows 95/98, 266 MHz or faster, 64 MB RAM, 250 MB plus 100 MB of space for saved games and Windows swap file, 4 MB Direct3D video card with DirectX 6.1 or later, and a 4X CD-ROM.
Recommended: 350 MHz or faster, 8X CD-ROM, 16 MB Direct3D video card, and 580 MB disk space plus 150 MB of space for saved games and Windows swap file.
As with all of Jane’s products, you get a nice spiral bound manual. The content of this 204-page manual however, is a bit more of a disappointment than what I’ve come to expect from Jane’s products of the past. There is a lot to learn in this simulation but finding what you need to know is sometimes just not there or is difficult to understand. The print is a little smaller and the thickness is a little thinner than usual.
Jane’s F/A-18 is another strong offering from Jane’s Combat Simulations. It is of the hardcore simulation variety and is a must have for any serious flight sim enthusiast. You will need a fast processor in order to run it smoothly with all of the eye candy turned on. If you don’t, you can still turn down some of the graphic options to get acceptable frame rate but be prepared to make some compromises. Serious hardcore military flight sims are a dying breed and I think this will be one of the last ones for a while. Fortunately, it is a good one overall so I highly recommend it!
Download Jane's F/A-18
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP