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a game by Digital Image Design
Platform: PC (1993)
User Rating: 7.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Flight Games
TFX Poster
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It's very possible that you may have preconceptions of a game that comes from the stables of Digital Image Design. Remember their earlier games? F-29 Retaliator for instance, which was a hoot to play as far as the explosions and arcadiness were concerned, but which suffered from a rather horrible case of 'suddenly polygons appear out of nowhere-itis'. You'd be flying along and there'd be nothing in front of you. Then, shazam an entire city would pop up. And so on. did designed Robocop, too and, to be fair, it was at least a novel approach to a film license. Unfortunately, it was stronger on imagination than it was on fun. Finally, there was Epic. You must remember that one. Just about everybody was looking forward to it because it was to be the first major flight sim-style space-combat game. It turned out to be crap, however, because did, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the punters would enjoy having the very small handful of pre-set missions set against a time limit. They also included their trademark of suddenly-appearing-out-of-nowhere polygons. Yaaargh!

So, as 1 said before, nobody could blame you if you were expecting some sort of disappointment in Digital Image Design's latest venture, i.e. TFX. And yes, there are some wobbles. There are some extremely silly ideas implemented -ideas which, had they been left out, would actually have improved the game. But more of these silly ideas later, because as a whole, TFX is something of a corker.

Why it's a corker no. 1...

Without using Guru shading, did have managed to make the scenery look incredibly realistic. The game engine works such that the further away something is from you, the more 'diffused' it is (look at the screenshots). And it works whether something is far away from you in the horizontal plane or far away from you in the vertical plane. The upshot of all this is that TFX gives a genuine feeling of'space', which is second to none (not even to Tornado). Play the game for long enough and you'll eventually be able to tell roughly how high you are instinctively, without even looking at the altimeter.

Why If's a corker no. 2...

Falcon 3 started the trend, and it's a good trend. I am, of course, talking about the Padlock View - the view which simulates the turning of a pilot's head, meaning you can keep your eye on the enemy no matter where he is in the sky (or on the ground), did have called their version of the padlock view 'Virtual Flight', and it shites on Falcon 3's original from a great height. It's more akin to the pilot view in Strike Commander, really. Using the shift and cursor keys, you can look about wherever you like: up, down, over your shoulder and so on. Alternatively, you can lock the view onto an enemy target and have the simulated head movements controlled by the computer. As if this wasn't enough, you can simply leave the Virtual Flight option to do its own thing, so that when you roll your aircraft to the side and yank back on the stick, the G-effects bob your head about much like they would in real life. With the lights down low and the volume cranked up, you can't beat this for sheer feel - short of donning a virtual reality helmet and strapping yourself into a giant spinny machine, of course.

Why It's a corker no. 3...

The sound, just mentioned vis-a-vis the fact that you want the volume cranked up, is brilliant, did have pulled out all the stops and have included everything from extreme wooshiness for the missiles and boominess for the bombs, to digitised radio messages from other pilots, awacs and so on. TEX, essentially, gives you the full audio experience.

Why It's a corker no. 4...

The gameplay - which, I'll admit, I was initially quite dubious about - soon gets under your skin (and I mean that in a nice and loving way rather than nasty, spiteful way), did do love their pure arcade games, you see, and they want everybody else to love them too. To this end, you're not allowed to get to the really 'big serious bits' of the program until you've ploughed your way through the little bits at the beginning: the Arcade Section for instance, or the Simulator, or the Training. In other words, you have to kill everything in sight, go for points, so that while you're having fun doing all of that you're learning the controls. Once you've finished these earlier sections, you're then given access to Tour Of Duty (i.e. the full ongoing war career with missions, medals etc.), Flashpoints (a selection of'actually happened in real-life engagements' for you to try your hand at) and finally un Commander (which is where you choose the targets, you set the waypoints and so forth... the whole nine yards).

Why Its a cottar no. 5...

There are three planes available to you: one real one and two pretend ones. Okay, so the pretend ones aren't actually 'pretend', but they don't officially 'exist' yet. And we all know what that means, don't we? Yes, it means that they may never get to exist. So let's call them pretend and have done with it, eh? Oh, and if you want to know what the three planes are actually called, and what they're all about, then here goes...

The European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)

Due to be introduced in the late '90s, the efa is in the same weight class as the F-16 Falcon. Indeed it's already been dubbed the F-16 Plus.

The Lockheed F-22 Superstar

The F-22 is to be the usaf's largest fighter ever. It has internal weapons bays and is extremely low profile when it comes down to radar signatures.

The Lockheed F-117A Stealth Fighter

Yes, yes, yes, I know you know that this is the real one rather than one of the pretend ones. It's already had a whole MicroProse game to itself, after all.

Why it's a corker no. 6...

The clouds are excellent. Clouds in nearly all other flight sims are two-dimensional horizontal polygons. Flat as pancakes at the end of the day - even when they're stacked on top of one another and sort of'fade' your view as you fly into them. In TFX, however, we are talking the sort of clouds that are seriously woolly; just like sheep. Cloudbase, as you'd expect, is flat. Get to the top, however, and did's brilliant use of polygony circle thingies and grey shading make for an altogether 'fluffy' experience. It's worth mentioning (while on a purely aesthetic part of the review) that the sun-glare effect is equally stupendous. Aim directly at the sun in TFX and the whiteout is so bright it actually makes you squint... and then slowly you start to get a headache... and then -when you're eventually forced to look away because your temples are throbbing so badly - you find there are loads of little white spots jumping around in front of your eyes. And then you begin to feel nauseous. And then you keel over onto your back, and the ambulance has to be called out, and you end up on a ventilator, in a coma. (Well, it's nearly that good, anyway.)

Why it's a corker no 7...

The sheer size of the landscapes is spectacular. If you thought Falcon 3 had a large playing area, then think again. In TFX you get to choose from Eastern Europe (yes, Bosnia et al). North Africa, East Africa, a large chunk of the Atlantic Ocean (with ships and islands) and pretty much the whole of Central America. And the very, very brilliant thing is that all rivers, roads, hills and so on, are accurately mapped. According to did, if you take out a bridge when playing the game you can be sure that the very same bridge exists in real life and is in the exact same location.

And on and on and on...

The reasons why TFX is a corker list could go on indefinitely. But you remember I mentioned that there were some incredibly stupid things implemented? Well let's check out a few now. (1) On the weapons arming screen all you want is a small cursor arrow: point at weapon, drag weapon across to plane. Easy. Was this good enough for did? Nope. Their cursor is actually a small rotating aeroplane (the eea). They probably thought this looked very 'flash'. It actually looks very tacky, and doesn't respond to the mouse movements as well as a simple, plain, little white arrow would. (2) When changing views you get the in-between frames bunged in at no added cost. (Like in the arcade game Virtua Racing). It looks neat, admittedly, but if you're in the middle of a dogfight such time-wasting niceties (the transition takes about five seconds) can get you killed. (3) The most annoying thing of all: on the efa and the F-22, there's a facility whereby the plane's autopilot takes over and pulls you out of dives if it thinks you're getting a bit low. But what if you want to get a bit low, uh? What if your whole raison d'etre is to let your load off, inverted, at 33 feet? At first I thought you could turn this 'life saving' effect off, but having ploughed through the documentation and having pressed just about every keyboard combination available, it looks as if you can't. Bummerus extremus - and that's putting it mildly. Still, this major groan and the two smaller moans aside, we do get back to the fact that Digital Image Design have finally come good. TFX represents excellent value for money, and will keep you playing for months to come. A final note, though, is that to really get the most from the game you'll need a 486 DX33 or better. Oh, and you're also going to need 4Mb ram. Toodle pip!

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System requirements:

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

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