Lock On: Modern Air Combat Page 12

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The Fast Battle Planner, Single Missions, and Campaigns

A missile off the rails...The mission editor also hooks into the Fast Battle Planner (FBP), which is a sort-of simplified campaign generator. One sets the broad brush-strokes of a mission with its various options, and then can go directly to the mission editor to refine things. I used this process to build both the missions I wrote for LOMAC week, and I did this with less than an hour’s preparation before clicking FLY for the first time. I can’t get over how easy it is to build your own reality in LOMAC, and for me this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. You don’t have to wait for the gurus to build your world: you can do it yourself! And when the masters get into it, the complexity they can generate is amazing. The game ships with several pre-made single missions and campaigns, one each for the A-10, F-15, Su-27, and Su-25. But these are just starters, to show you what is possible. The real fun is in making your own with these excellently versatile tools. Note the details.Since there is minimal documentation, a great way to figure out how the options work is to open a pre-made mission in the editor and see how the designers set it up.

Doing this in the Jane’s sims led to lots of confusion, because of the editor’s design. There, the games had very layered editors, with lots of almost-hidden details in their pop-up boxes and menus. Not so with LOMAC. It’s all right in your face, and a little experimentation will put you right on top of package creation and tasking, target generation, weather setting, and all the rest in no time. It’s even easier than generating a TE mission in Falcon 4.0, and I find the LOMAC system, particularly pairing the FBP with the standard mission editor, far more versatile.

The Pilot Logbook

Pilot's Logbook. This guy sure has lots of awards.

I’ll end here. LOMAC offers you the opportunity to customize your own stable of fliers, from all the nations represented in the LOMAC world. One can set their country and give them a name, and then the game will track them from the starting rank of Lieutenant or equivalent. It follows your chosen fliers thorough all the mission they fly, as you or as AI, and logs their stats for you so you can see how truly studly-or not-they become. They can be YOU, or they can be your squadron-mates that you select to fly in the mission editor drop-down windows or in the loadout screen in a mission you’re about to fly. As he (there are no women in the custom stable as shipped, but there are in the AI, see below) rises in rank and experience, he gains awards from his own country. But be careful: Dead is Dead. You kill your pilot, and that’s all for him.

You know, here’s the funny part when looking at the custom pilot group: Women are in the game, and proportionally so. AI “Pilot 4” is a woman, at least when flying U.S. Air Force aircraft. I would bet cash that there is a way to customize your stable of custom pilots to get one with a female voice; there was with F/A-18, and if you knew what to do it wasn’t especially difficult. If that’s the same with LOMAC, then it’s another landmark for inclusiveness, and I think it is that way. I’m just not familiar enough with that aspect of it to be sure. I gotta give the team a garland for putting us in the game, anyway. You don’t always see that and it is appreciated from the distaff side of the squadroom.

An aside on this ish, a hot-button for yours truly. Modern combat simmers have actually taken to women in the games; a well-known virtual pilot going by the handle “Baron Max” on this site has opined at length about his AI wingman “Alison, the Killer” in Jane’s F/A-18, and boNes, one of the most prolific and talented F/A-18 mission writers in the F/A-18 community, even had an AI woman as the executive officer in the virtual squadron he writes dramatic pieces about on our forums. Jennifer Mitchell was the first woman I know of to head up a virtual fighter squadron in the IL-2 community, and women were all over the Flanker ladders back in the 1.0 and 1.5 days. In fact, a woman wrote the Gamespot article on Flanker 1.5 that convinced me to buy and try it. More and more women are playing combat games, and sim developers should care if they end up in Quake or Half-Life clans rather than in virtual cockpits. Without including us in the game, you might miss the chance to entice another woman into the virtual skies, and that’s one less copy of the game sold for each of us that’s turned off. LOMAC’s team didn’t go there; not surprising, given the fact that Wagner’s got a history of including us in. I hope we see more gaming women pick up LOMAC and get in the air, rather than wasting time in clan death-matches.

Conclusion

It’s the bomb. Plain and simple. Yes, it has warts, just like any other very complex piece of software. And it’s not going to please everybody in a very diverse group of true-believers like the virtual combat aviation community. You need state of the art hardware to run it, and the documentation and Russian fast-movers need work. But the good far, far outweighs the bad with this title; it breaks new ground in its scalability and accessibility to most simmers. Its AI is among the best, and its graphics and vastly improved voice comms greatly add to the atmosphere and immersion. It is a stable play, and its flight models feel polished and realistic. It has at least one thing that should please absolutely every combat flier, from the air-to-air jock, to the IL-2 style ground-pounder, to the naval aviation enthusiast, to the online war-dog. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t give this one a place on your hard-drive, because from the look of the package, it’s the first inning in a whole new ball game.

Play ball!


Download a pdf of this article here (2.94MB).


Test System Specs

  • AMD Athlon Thunderbird XP 2200+ processor overclocked to XP2500
  • Asus A7N8X mainboard with onboard Aureal AC97 sound
  • 512 MB 133MHz DDR SDRAM
  • Creative 12x CD-ROM
  • Maxtor 40GB main drive
  • Windows XP
  • Thrustmaster Fox2 Pro USB joystick
  • PNY Technologies NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti4600 using NVIDIA v52.16 drivers

 

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