Part 1 – Overview
Parody rewrite and dedicated prop-simmer point-of-view by Frank “Dart” Giger
Within the past several weeks, SimHQ Staff writers, “Beach”, “20mm”, and “WKLINK” have produced a series of reviews covering various components of Falcon 4: Allied Force ( with more to come in the next two weeks!). We wanted to give you, our members, the benefit of our detailed, in-depth study of this high fidelity jet combat simulation, with our unbiased analysis and opinions. We trust you have enjoyed them and found them useful in the pursuit of your simulation interests.
Somehow in all the excitement, there was another, unpublished review, written by our own Frank “BA Dart” Giger. It was lost, then found, then misplaced, thought to have been destroyed, only to be “discovered” on a coffee table in the lobby of a Motel 6 outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. We had the manuscript flown in by special courier, and present it to you now, uncut and uncensored. Well, kinda…
In the roughly two decade history of PC computer flight simulations, no combat flight sim has garnered more attention than Falcon 4.0. Released by Microprose in December 1998, the story of Falcon 4.0 is one of true inspiration and vision, amazing accomplishments, hard work, tremendous sacrifice, and above all else, excruciating detail.
And yet, with all of that, it remained too damned complex and serious to be flown by any but the most hardened grognard or grizzled-by-scar-tissue masochists. The simulation has its own lexicon, words like “the bubble”, “wall of MiGs”, “The Dance”, and others, such as “Inscrutable,” “College Course,” and “Ph.D.” It also shares other simulation terms that, in Falcon, tend to have enhanced meaning, such as “FLOT,” “goat-rope,” “memory leak,” “dynamic campaign,” “suspension of disbelief,” “disbelief,” “frustration,” and “damned ol’ jet sim, who needs ya, anyway.”
In the six years that have followed that initial release, much of the work that has developed Falcon into the different versions and combinations we see today has been the result of dedicated volunteers and pay add-on makers, many of whom have gotten much better with therapy. People who have contributed their time and efforts to make Falcon better than it was the day before, mostly before they discovered women. To them, the community owes much. A Yoda action figure is in the mail to those I could obtain an address for.
Falcon 4.0 is really two simulations in one. Because of it’s dynamic campaign, Falcon is continually fighting a theatre-wide war, with ground, naval, and air units. You might wish sometimes it would take a little “combat break”, but it won’t. Even while your computer is off, F4 is in there, fighting with itself, moving the FLOT-SAM over the JET-SAM. In the words of Falcon’s Producer Gilman Louie,
“We want to suspend your disbelief and to give you a better understanding of a pilot’s role in a large-scale engagement. The secret to the Falcon series has always been balancing the campaign with the flight simulation.”
For those who did not suffer the attempt at the original, allow me to translate:
“We want you to gasp in disbelief at the insane complexity of this aircraft and to give you a better understanding of why it is that the Air Force sends people to their academy for four years before another two years of intense training before they’re allowed to even think about touching an F-16. The secret of the series has always been our own sense of superiority over the average human being, who can’t reflexively quote the range and frequencies of three different types of radar.”
Astonishing as it may seem, there has only been one commercial release of Falcon 4.0. That is, until now. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force developed by Lead Pursuit LLC and published by Graphsim has arrived. It heralds yet another milestone in the story of what many feel is simply the greatest air combat simulation ever made for the computer. Don’t agree? Well, who cares what you think? You’re wrong, and in your heart, you know it.
Wake up, and welcome to Part 1 of our Falcon 4.0: Allied Force Review series.
We will begin with an overview of this very deep simulation. And if you think you’re in deep now, just wait! The Falcon 4.0 community is well aware of the history and evolution of Falcon 4.0, so we are going to concentrate on reviewing a stand-alone product, as there are many who have not been emotionally scarred by the original. We think our new sideline psychological counseling business will fit in rather nicely.
It is our feeling that, in many ways, this is a new beginning. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
According to Lead Pursuit, Falcon 4.0’s code has been heavily modified, making it more stable, while leaving in all the mind-numbing complexity that has made F4 so beloved to those of us in the psychiatric community. It is obvious that they hope to appeal to the ranks of seasoned Falcon 4.0 veterans as well as new players and those who have not played the simulation in quite some time. Many of them have blacked out their memories of their original attempts at understanding the simulation, which is not uncommon for victims of traumatic events.
It was with great anticipation that those of us on the SimHQ review team received our copies of F4:AF. Our review is based on the gold, retail shipping version for the US and played at the 100% Hardcore Realistic Ace settings.
We are, in short, better than you. Indeed, we are all real Viper pilots who have trained for years on the actual aircraft for the sole purpose of flying this sim and thumbing our collective snotty noses at everyone who has not, and will not ever, sit butt in an F-16. Kneel before us and acknowledge our superiority, that’s all we ask in return for telling you how great we are.
F4:AF comes on a single CD-ROM, an easy way of putting you into a state of unwarranted ease. The moment we were waiting for was very sweet indeed as the CD plopped itself in the tray without any effort on our part and an automated installer took over from there. Sweet! 20mm removed his previous F4 installation prior to loading F4:AF just to prevent possible conflicts. What a stooge.
The total install process took about 5 minutes resulting in a hard drive footprint of about 1.23GB. No more dance! You shouldn’t be dancing in front of your computer anyway, it makes you look like a big sissy. You click “finish” and you’re ready to get into the game and configure it to F4:AF’s liking. This does NOT mean “uninstall previous versions,” 20mm. You big wuss! For the US version, F4:AF does not require the CD-ROM in the drive, so you can store it safely away in the cupboard with your hidden chocolate treats until you reinstall. Thank you, Lead Pursuit! It should be the same for other country releases, but we’ll have to see when the time arrives. Many of them have signed onto the ICC, and can never be too cautious. You will need a new logbook (.lbk) and mission (.tac) files, but maybe not. The sweet agony begins.
Included in the new F4:AF directory is a “docs” folder that contains the huge 18MB, 716-page, “Mother of All Manuals” PDF file. Kinko’s sales may take a sudden turn upward in the next several weeks, but maybe not. This manual eclipses even Dangerous Waters excellent manual in content, mainly because the Dangerous Waters manual is included!
Also included in the docs directory is a helpful list of doctors in your area, a line-up card with the usual suspects, a map of Korea and your house, a keyboard layout diagram for many different languages, and the option to obtain not only a Baccalaureate, but a Master’s degree in avionics online from AIU in Atlanta, Georgia, using the manual as a textbook! Now, that’s a manual, wouldn’t you agree? No? Go fly without it then, like it will make any difference as you bore holes in the countryside.
The manual is simply superb. If there is something you need to know about flying or fighting the F-16, you will find it in this manual, and brother, you need to know everything about flying or fighting the F-16. The diagrams, illustrations, and in-game screens captures all supplement excellent text and formatting: If you don’t catch it the first time around, or even the tenth, face it — you’re just stupid.
It’s not the author’s fault, and they are refreshingly honest about the nature of this sim — setup doesn’t even begin until page 298. Jump ahead at your own peril, you simpleton. Lead Pursuit would be wise to consider facilitating a resource to a printed and bound version as LOMAC players had available to them. After all there are millions of dollars to be made in the shipping and handling alone.
Just look at this mammer-jammer manual. What, you don’t know what “ACMI” is? It’s going to be at least a week getting through those five pages. Notice the size of the print on the right. It was invented just for this sim. Falconness Tiny, it’s called, and the font size is actually 7/22nd of an inch, unrounded.
The end of the manual contains a nice section with airport diagrams for both the Korea and Balkan theatres. One thing the Balkan theatre: there will be those that learn to pronounce the names of places properly as part of the “normal” research and attention to every nuance of the sim, and others that will shamelessly Americanize them. Guess which group will be shooting the other down?
“Due-brove-nick,” or “Dubbo-nick?” How you say it will probably determine your score online.
Set-up and Initial Menus
Launching F4:AF you are treated to new music, a new opening video and a very nice, clean menu system to make you think maybe it won’t be so painful this time. Wrongo. It is so clean in fact, that I’m wondering if Lead Pursuit is considering selling advertising space in the big gray billboard area. Alternately, I’m wondering that if I stare long enough at it I’ll actually see a 3D dolphin jumping out of a clear blue sea. Text is bright and easy to read, even for 20mm’s old eyes. Which is good, as staring at the screen, focusing and unfocusing, for half an hour in a vain attempt to see the dolphin hurts after a while.
F4 veterans will instantly recognize the format, if not the exact style of the new menus. Selecting each menu brings up further menus that will refine what you are looking for, and then further and further menus, deeper and deeper into the labyrinth that F4 veterans know and hate. A rabbit hole from which few ever return. The setup menu allows you to do things like changing your pilot name, say from “20mm” to “Wussy” and select difficulty settings. By difficulty settings, I mean on the KFC scale — “regular” or “extra crispy.”
To new F4 pilots first let me offer you a warm welcome and give you a little advice: Run away! No, just kidding,come back! Play this sim however your heart desires. Easy avionics and flight model? Go for it; learn what a completely new definition of “easy” is. Remember, you will never, ever, be as good as we are, so it’s all right. Just accept your puny limitations and carry on. Labels, unlimited fuel or ammo? Absolutely, you arcade guys, use whatever cheats you want. Until you fly online against us. Then harsh reality will descend upon you like a 716 page Mutha-Manual dropped from 35 stories up.
Learn at your own pace and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. Or be embarrassed, we honestly don’t care either way. There are four preset skill levels, Ace, Veteran, Cadet, and Recruit, but you can have it your way, any way you want it. This is, after all, Burger King, and you’re in charge of it. Not! For you new players, the answer to your first question is “SHIFT \” …or is that “SHIFT /”? Whatever. The answer to your second question is C:/Program Files/Ubisoft/IL-2 Sturmovik Forgotten Battles/il2fb.exe. The next menu is the GRAPHICS tab, allowing you to change screen resolutions and other simulation graphics settings. Resolutions are 1024×768, 1280×960, and 1600×1200, 16 and 32 bit. There are sliders for Landscape, Object Detail and Special Effects. Heh, “sliders”, that always makes us laugh, it just sounds funny.
Here’s some good news for F4 veterans, that dastardly “bubble” slider has been banished! We actually took it out and tied it with rope to some railroad tracks right before the four o’clock arrival of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Heh, “Choo-Choo”, we like the sound of that too! The “preview” window offers very little insight into how changing the sliders and settings will actually look in the sim, so it is best to just do some experimenting and find out what version of dolphin looks best to your eyes.
The SOUND tab is pretty self-explanatory, the exact opposite of everything else in F4:AF. Pick the volume you want for various types of in-game sounds, such as the engine, RWR, Sidewinder tone, Communications, and so on. Yawn, sleepy, so sleepy.
In the CONTROLLER tab you pick your joystick or HOTAS. You can center the stick, set the afterburner detent, map keys to buttons or remap the default keys. This is nicely done and easy to use. HA, gotcha! It is easy to assume that most current USB controllers should work fine with Allied Force. Easy, but wrong. Oh so wrong.
Ready to fly? Bah, you know better than that! This is F4:AF! No way, mister, are you even going to think about flying yet. Or if you have, you’re back at this screen for a good reason: Your flying sucks!
The TACTICAL REFERENCE section. Yeah, you thought you could ignore the .pdf file, huh? No way, pal, you’re off to explore the reference library. The TAC REF seems very complete with information on all the in-game aircraft, vehicles, and weapons that the player may run across while playing F4:AF. Each entry has reams of information about the selected object and includes a 3D representation and a sound recording of the radar warning receiver audio if applicable. This really is a huge, painfully detailed library of information and one which should not be ignored. Okay, can’t be ignored.
These are just some of the things that will kill you while you fuss with yet another mode
or knob or thing or communication tree / knob / button / mode.
For the rest of our overly long, and frankly boring, review, we could talk about F4:AF things like IA (Instant Action), AI (Action Instant) TE (Terrible Ejection), Campaign (Campaign), AN (Ad Nauseam) and other abbreviations we’d just make up. But why? If you’re still reading this after all the names we called you, you’re not terribly bright. And that’s OK, we like you the way you are.
And you’ll like F4:AF the way it is. You see the implications, don’t you? This is a match made at 25,000 feet AGL. You, dense, at lower altitudes: F4:AF, clear and bright and way above you. But combined, you can do anything. Or at least you’ll think you can. Right up until you see our 20mm tracers flying past your HUD and then you’ll have to remember what TE is all about.
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Read our Interview with Lead Pursuit’s Executive Producer, Joel Bierling here.
More “sick” humor, great prop-sim training and homespun wisdom can be found here on BA_Dart’s page.