Lock On: Modern Air Combat page 11

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Mission Editor

Here is one place this sim still has it over all the competition, hands down. This is still the most functional and detailed mission editor, ever. It is so simple that a neophyte like me can design detailed missions. The game still takes place in the Black Sea, especially the Crimea. The small ex-soviet republic of Georgia is also on the screen, and the map can show the Turkish coastline, though there are no visible signs of civilization on it and the Black Sea shows as an inland lake-the Marmora Straits aren’t there, and neither is Istanbul, nor are the other Black Sea nations.

"You know, there is a lot about LOMAC that screams SEQUEL! And this is one."You know, there is a lot about LOMAC that screams SEQUEL! And this is one. It is very apparent that the groundwork is being laid here to add to the theater map in the future. The useable built-in areas of the map have realistic distances and placements of towns, cities, and terrain features. It is with the click of a button that you can add anything from the game’s stock of targets…er…SAM sites, ships, military vehicles, other aircraft to the map. You can designate buildings to target as well, when you zoom in on a city the presentation is similar to a U.S. Geologic Survey map. It lacks the panache of the Jane’s games’ “recon photos,” but it gets the point across for mission planning and is just as functional, and far easier to use.

You can get to other parts of the game like the comprehensive encyclopedia of the units you’re placing (this alone is worth the price of admission) with the touch of a button too, as well as to the pilot logbook where you can create and store pilot personalities for your squadron.

The list of units is long, and similar to the earlier sims in this series. I would have liked to see some more of the ships and SAMs actually known to be in the theater, though. The naval assets aren’t the same as the ones known to be in the Black Sea; for example, the Russian “Kara” and “Kynda” class cruisers aren’t in the game. A RIM-65 launch.The sole survivor of the “Kynda” class has been the fleet flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet for years, and one of the only two “Kara” class ships left has also served as flagship in the past. We do have the “Krivak-2,” which is in the Black Sea, but we also have the Neustrashimy destroyers, both of which have been in the Baltic since their 1994 commissioning. And we don’t have the FRAM II Gearings and the Knox class frigates that Turkey operates. Further, the list of SAMs is too short; I’d have expected to see SA-2 and SA-3 systems, particularly in Georgia, along with the present-and-accounted-for SA-6, SA-10, and SA-11 systems (the most lethal radar SAMs in the ex-Soviet inventory). But I will say this: LOMAC and the Flanker series before it is the ONLY flight sim family that has EVER got surface-to-air missile complexes right. They’re way more than a bunch of launchers and one radar. The Blazhnov team understands that no SAM complex is complete without its search system as well as its tracking radar, and they are the ONLY ONES that GET IT on this. Not Falcon, not any of the Jane’s games, not one of the legion of others has EVER got this right, to my immense disgust as a dedicated air-defense-suppression fanatic. So the ones that ARE there are DONE RIGHT. It is an awesome sight to behold, too. You nail the HI-PAR on a HAWK battery, or the search radar on that lethal SA-10 system, and you blind that battery at distance. You can swoop down on it like a playful kitten jumping on a bug in the living room, then. It is excellent. Jump in that Su-25 and go raiding, if you want to really play Wild Weasel. This is the sim to do it in.

SAMs aside, the list of military vehicles for the Soviet bloc, and the NATO forces, is…just amazing. If it rolled in the last ten years, ever, and is in an army’s inventory, it is here, in painstaking detail, for your viewing and bombing pleasure. Nowhere, ever, has a flight sim rendered such minute detail in military vehicles. It’s simply outstanding. Their treads roll, folks. Their wheels roll, too. Radar antennas all rotate the way they are supposed to. Weapons elevate, track, and traverse. Artificial intelligence is amazing. You can set up AI battles in this mission editor, folks, and then pop some popcorn, sit back, hit “fly,” and watch it like a war movie on Turner Classic Movies. All you need is John Wayne to make it perfect. You can run naval battles, almost like in Jane’s Fleet Command from a few years ago; it would take very little revision for this team to bring out such a title. On the Allied side are the Ticonderoga and Perry classes, along with the inevitable Nimitz class aircraft carrier. Naval combat in LOMAC - the Admiral KuznetsovOn the Russian side, the incomparable Moscow class battlecruiser, the Neustrashimy, the “Krivak-2,” of course Admiral Kuznetsov, and the Grisha and Tarantul missile boats. Recently, I watched Moscow, all alone, just slay two Perry class frigates at distance with SS-N-12 missiles, and while that was happening it swatted two F-5s like flies from the air with SA-N-6 missiles. This baby will spank your fleet if you let her get too close. The missiles are so detailed, too-the SS-N-12’s even drop off boosters after launch! It’s like watching something from Jane’s Defence Weekly. I’d love to see British Type 42 and 22 destroyers, or the Arleigh Burke destroyers added, along with the “Karas,” “Kyndas,” the Sovremenny class, and the other missing Russian ships, and the Turk navy brought up to strength. But what they do have is beautiful in its detail and flawless in its execution.

AI aircraft are present from every NATO nation. You will wish they were player-flyable too, because they are so detailed, and their weapons suites are that authentic. British Tornadoes sport BL-755 bombs and ALARM for air-defense suppression. French Mirage 2000-5’s carry Mica IR and active radar missiles, the Super-530 SARH missile, and Magic 550s. The F-16A of all the Low Countries is in-game and mission capable. So is the F-16C of the U.S. and Turkey. The Canadians are with us in their CF-18s, with several actual and beautiful paint schemes. The F-4E is flying with Germany and Turkey and of all the AI aircraft, this one DEMANDS to be player-flyable one day-it is amazingly detailed. You’ll see C-130s, F-117s, B-52s. And on the Soviet side, obscure aircraft like the Su-17M4 ground-attack aircraft, the MiG-23 and 27, Aeroflot-painted IL-76s and the A-50 AWACS…the list just goes on and on. And the AI here is not dumb-it’s on IL-2’s level. You can select several levels of AI ability in the mission editor and at its higher levels the AI is most deadly indeed. This is another place where it is apparent the team concentrated its scarce resources and you will be glad they did-LOMAC has potential to live a long time, thanks to its ease of mission building and its good AI. A garland for the mission editor, which also lets you build your own scripted campaigns fairly easily too. Though the manual is not too helpful in deciphering it, this tool is almost self-explanatory through the drop-down menus and I learned how to navigate its Flanker predecessor on-the-fly. I’m a total ditz in mission building; if I can do it, you can too.

IL-78 An-26B
S-3B MiG-31

You can even pre-set weather in the mission builder, with winds at varying levels an at varying speeds, and decide if its sunny, or raining, or snowing. The versatility is endless. With the loadout editor and the fact that the files driving the loadout editor are open for hacking with WordPad, one can customize her favorite aircraft almost to suit her every whim. It’s really marvelously full of potential for the user.

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