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Falcon 4.0

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Gilman Louie

GAME DEVELOPER:MicroProse

GAME PUBLISHER:Hasbro

Copyright 1998, G2 Interactive

Arguably THE most realistic flight simulation ever created, Falcon 4.0 suffers many bugs at the time of release, but fortunately thanks to a “leaked” source code in 2000, the game is now being actively updated and improved by many groups of dedicated fans. The game trivia page at MobyGames describes the trials and tribulation of this post-patched classic:

“After numerous delays, and the acquisition of Microprose by Hasbro, the new management team set deadline to December 1998. Gilman Louie and some other developers of Falcon 3.0 was hired to assist and the game was eventually released with horrible bugs in the code. Several patches were released but in 7th of December 1999, Hasbro laid off the Falcon team. The next major event for the community was in April 2000 when the Falcon source code leaked to the public. Project called EFalcon started. Another team called Ibeta was making realism patches for the game using hex editing. These two weren’t compatible until they were combined in a project called SuperPAK. In May 2001, G2 Interactive purchased rights for Falcon series and is currently developing Falcon 5.”

The Adrenaline Vault’s review explains why every die-hard flight sim fan should play this game: “Falcon 4.0 is the most complex, sophisticated, and realistic simulation I have ever come across, and that list includes the likes of Back to Baghdad and SU-27 Flanker. In order to appreciate this title to the fullest you’ll need to learn a lot, and this applies to sim jockeys as well as novices. Like any modern aircraft simulation, mastery over instrumentation and readouts will be just as important as the ability to fly, and the F-16C has more than its share of instruments to learn. One such illustration of these complexities is the radar system, which is capable of operating in various ranges and gains, in over ten different modes, including: ACM (Air Combat Mode), RWS (Range While Search), GM (Ground Map) and GMT (Ground Moving Target) to name a few. Flying the “Multi-Role Fighter” F-16 also means you’ll need to have command over both air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons systems.

In terms of flight and physics modeling Falcon 4.0 is in a class all by itself. No other simulation to date has even attempted what it achieves. In flight everything is accurately represented: wind sheer, stalls, G-force related blackouts, all manner of spins, and you might even get caught in the engine wash of another plane if you follow too closely. The inclusion of weather effects is as life-like as ever, with fronts moving in and across the land, hovering over parts of the sea and causing havoc during sorties over enemy territory. You can even follow a thunderstorm as it makes its way across the Korean peninsula.

Besides a fully customizable setup screen that allows you to configure realism, graphics, sound, and controllers, Falcon 4.0 includes a logbook to track your pilot’s performance and service history. Much like that found in X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, virtually every time you suit-up and fly, your statistics will be recorded. Taking another que from XvT and speaking of recording, the game also has an ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) system that allows you to record your in-flight performance and even related aspects of the ongoing war. The last gameplay feature that needs mentioning is actually the most important, and is really what makes Falcon 4.0 the greatest simulation ever created, the campaign.

If you’re an avid user of simulation products then I’m sure one phrase you’ve become more familiar with over time is “dynamic campaign”. However, for those not familiar with simulations this may be more of an obscure term. The phrase denotes a series of missions, battles, or wars dynamically linked to one another based on global events rather than the outcome of a single mission. Why other genres such as strategy games and mission based actions games have not taken note, is the topic of my next editorial, but suffice it to say that such a feature is paramount to having a great sim, and Falcon 4.0 has defined the standard. Not only does this campaign simulate an air war such as in European Air War, but it also incorporates a full-fledged ground war, all taking place dynamically, one affecting the other. For the first time the player’s actions will not fully determine the outcome of a battle, yet will still play a significant role in the outcome of the war. There are three different scenarios in the campaign. Tiger Spirit takes place over Northern Korea and pits the Allied Forces against a radical North Korean army. Rolling Fire continues the epic battle, with balanced forces facing off at the border. Finally, Iron Fortress puts you and the Allied Forces against a strong opponent coupled with little time and limited reinforcements.

The beauty of this campaign must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Events transpire in a way that give you the feeling you’re in a war, causing you to feel apprehension before flight, and overwhelming relief after a successful strike. Microprose has really put a complete package together with this title, which includes a robust multiplayer feature. All of the gameplay options, including the campaign, may be played cooperatively or competitively over LAN, modem or the Internet. While there are a few bugs concerning gameplay performance while playing a multiplayer campaign, Microprose is committed to fixing these problems and has already released two patches that fix a good number of glitches in the initial release. The latest patch can be obtained right here. In its current state it is the best simulation ever, with more depth than the Pacific ocean, and it can only get better. I’m certain that Falcon 4.0 will be the renewing faith of simulation fans forced to wait a near half-decade, as well as the source of conversion for those yet to experience the thrill of the true king of sims.

A few minor quirks in the game’s initial release caused a few problems with enemy pilot artificial intelligence. Most of the problems are associated with weapon selection and incorrect communication messages being delivered regarding situational awareness and position. However, these occurrences only happen in rare circumstances and are alleviated with the 1.04 update. The dynamic campaign allows you, as a pilot, to progress naturally but you still won’t want to start it until after you’ve finished the tutorials. The inclusion of complete realism scalability and over thirty training sessions make this a very well-rounded simulation. While this is not a sim for the faint at heart, anyone looking to sink their teeth into a game and have it dominate their life should apply.

In summary the game has great depth in realism and dynamics. Its campaign and scenarios are without equal. It’s the best and most complete documented game ever released, and includes fully featured training missions for the novice pilot. While a number of glitches and bugs in the initial release are worthy of note, they are not significant enough to keep me from awarding Falcon 4.0 the Adrenaline Vault’s highest honor, a five-star rating and a Reviewer’s Choice Award. Falcon 4.0 should be a prerequisite course to flight combat training at the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy. It eclipses Jane’s Longbow 2 and Jane’s F-15 as the best simulation ever.”



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