|a game by||Pixel Multimedia|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Unlike their WWII counterparts, flight sims based on modern jets usually only model a single plane and do it well enough to convince your average hardcore sim buff that, instead of sitting in his bedroom waiting for his mum to cook his tea, he is, in fact, flying at 100ft over Iraq desperately avoiding SAMs on a vital mission to bomb a baby-milk factory.
Total realism isn't everyone's cup of tea, however, and most people just can't be arsed to learn to fly a 'real' pretend plane, but are looking for the same things as other PC games players: excitement, immersion, decent graphics and all that other stuff that comes under the heading 'Gameplay'.
As luck would have it, Jane's USAFhas this in droves. USAF is a jet sim that allows you to fly several different planes, all of which, with one exception, are used (or have been used) by the US Airforce. The modern ones are the F15, F16, F117, F22, MiG 29 and A10, but there are also two older, Vietnam-era planes - the F4 Phantom and F105 Thunderchief, giving USAF a bit of a historical feel.
Obviously with this range of planes, you shouldn't expect the complete and utter attention to detail provided by the likes of Flanker 2.0 and Falcon 4, but this is no lightweight sim either, and there's plenty for the more humourless sim fan to get to grips with.
I Love The Smell Of Napalm Before Tea-Time
No self-respecting flight sim these days is without a decent set of campaigns and USAFis no exception.
Aside from the obligatory Iraq scenario, there are futuristic Russians-invade-Germany and USA-training-area campaigns and, more interestingly, Vietnam. The Iraq and 'Nam campaigns are a set of missions loosely based on the conflicts in question - fun, but not up with the dynamic action we've come to expect from the campaign engines of games like Total Air War. The futuristic scenarios are more like it, though, and you only have limited resources and pilots to play with.
Of course, no one wades straight into campaigns, and USAFhas plenty of single missions and training to get you acclimatised. The training missions are split into sections: weapons and air combat, and you're guided through each by the calm bedside manner of your instructor. The single missions are pre-scripted or ones that you've designed yourself. This is done using either of the two mission editors - one for quickly setting up simple combat scenarios and another more complicated one that allows you to create your own scripted missions. The campaign and single missions in USAF are excellent, and the enemy's AI makes sure nothing is too easy. But best of all you can jump into the cockpit of other planes and either passively watch, or fly them. Although Total Air Warenables you to do this, you can only fly other F22s. USAF's choice of planes means you can fly any of the planes modelled in the game. Although this is completely unrealistic, being able to jump to where the action is hottest really convinces you that you're part of a much bigger conflict, providing tons of that all-important immersion.
One of the most essential ingredients for any sim is the graphics and USAFs are superb. The terrain looks great, the planes are stunning and the lighting is spot on, so that sunset and sunrise missions give you that glad to be alive' feeling. You'll need a pretty beefy PC to get a decent frame rate, though, but you shouldn't really expect to get away with anything less than a 350MHz CPU for sims these days anyway. Overall, USAFis a great all-round game. While it veers slightly away from the hardcore end of the market, there's plenty here for anyone interested in sims, and the range of planes, lush graphics and well-thought out missions and campaigns make it hard to criticise.