Lock On: Modern Air Combat

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a game by Eagle Dynamics SA
Platform: PC (2003)
User Rating: 6.5/10 - 8 votes
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See also: Flight Games
Lock On: Modern Air Combat
Lock On: Modern Air Combat
Lock On: Modern Air Combat

We haven't heard much from Russian developer Eagle Dynamics lately, not since the utterly fantastic SU 27 Flanker 2 was launched four years ago. But the pioneering developer has finally come back with a corker -Lock On: Modern Air Combat.

The developers have stuck to their tried and tested format - modern jet combat over Russia, this time between the former USSR and NATO - and old Flanker players will spot three identical aircraft from the series: the German MiG-29A, Russian MiG-29A, and MiG-29C along with the SU's themselves: the SU-25 Frogfoot, SU-27 Flanker B and SU-33 Flanker D. There are, however, two new aircraft. The American fighter F-15C Eagle and the much loved, but very ugly A-10A Thunderbolt II tank buster (better known as the Warthog).

Foxtrot Zulu Milkshake

The game is a high-end sim for the seriously hardcore flight simmer, with over 200 different options and commands as your disposal. But if this appears a tad ovenwhelming (and it can be) then the game can be scaled down for the most humble novice and still be lots of fun.

Graphically it's good - on a par with the high standards set by IL-2 Sturmovik. However, as most modern jet fighters tend to use 'stand-off weapons (ie air-to-air missiles), it's not often you get really up close and personal with other aircraft. This is a shame, as all the craft have been done to a high standard.

Ground objects - ships, tanks, buildings etc - also look great, and the water effects are top-notch, although you'll need a reasonable PC, a good 3D card and lots of RAM to really crank the graphics up.

Flying Colours

The developers have made full good of 3D effects, with cannon fire leaving wispy trails of smoke that don't look like the 'black candyfloss' seen in other games. Fires from burning tanks look, well, like a tank on fire, and hitting the afterburners will create a heat haze. Either that, or my monitor's packing up.

The maps within the game are fairly diverse, with around 36 different missions within the game. Each mission has a unique brief, goal and hostile targets, and some of them are very tricky. Not only is the enemy Al pretty smart but each aircraft has its own unique set of benefits and flaws. For example, the tank-busting Warthog can take a huge amount of enemy fire and still keep moving, while the sleek F-15C Eagle drops like a brick when hit by a bit of stray shrapnel. Of course, you can always run away in your F-15 - an option not readily available to the slow-moving A-10A.

Based on the code we've been playing, Lock On looks good and plays great. The only question mark lies over the genre itself. Until recently, the flight sim market was DOA. Can Lock On do for the modern combat flight sim what IL-2 did for WWII dog fighting? Probably not, but at least it shows there's life in the old birds yet.

Download Lock On: Modern Air Combat


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Rick Astley T Pau; Strawberry Switchblade; jet combat flight sims - words associated with a bygone era. But one of them is making a comeback. No, not Strawberry Switchblade, but the jet combat flight sim. And, just like every other fantastic flight sim of late, it's been developed in Russia.

The action centres on the Black Sea region and, in a nutshell, pits NATO forces against the former USSR. Although you're limited to flying one of just eight aircraft, there are in fact over 50 different Al-controlled planes in the game. At the time of going to press though, the official developer line was that "the list of flyable aircraft is frozen for the initial release". However, it did also say that the "addition of more flyable aircraft is being given serious consideration". Hmmm.

Unlimiting Factor

Thankfully, the limited number of aircraft doesn't detract much from the game and there's a load of things you can do in flight - other than just blow things out of the sky. Flying the F-15C or A-1OA, you can refuel in mid-air from the KC-10, as well as do the same with the Russian Su-33 from the IL-78.

You can also just fly about admiring the view - the 100,000 square miles of terrain contains 16,000km of roads, 2,400 km of railways, 20,000km of rivers, 180,000 buildings, 15,000,000 trees, 21 cities, 500 bridges, well... you get the gist. But all this stunning eye candy is very taxing on your hardware. We played the game on a P4 2.4GHz with a GeForce FX5600 and it struggled to get anything over 20 frames a second. Hmmm again.

But the main reason for playing Lock On is combat. Lots of combat. And here it delivers -which is both a good and a bad thing. You see, there's two schools of thought on combat flight sims. There's the one that likes to get up close and personal, and there's the one that likes to see a small dot on the screen and fire off a long-range missile (imagine playing Call Of Duty by radar and you'll be close to what I'm talking about). Lock On belongs firmly to the latter school. That's not to say you can't get in close and use the cannon - the A-1OA Warthog was designed to do just that -it's just that modern air-to-air combat doesn't work that way. Try and bounce a pack of F15s and you'll have ten Sidewinders up your arse in no time.

Lock On is one of the best modern jet combat flight sims about - but it's also one of the only modern jet combat flight sims about. It looks good, the flight models are good, physics and ballistics seem accurate and there's a diverse range of things to kill. But you rarely get the adrenalin rush associated with WWII flight sims such as IL-2 Sturmovik or WarBirds III. This is no slight on the developer, it's just the way of modern air combat.

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