If I had to rank them, I’d say JF-15 has the most dated graphics (although startlingly pretty in Glide), followed by F4, and at the top of the list would be LOMAC. My favorite would still have to be JF-15, and I’ll have to admit a little bias here. Well, okay, more than a little bias. I think the comfort of familiar surroundings is what does it for me.
The likelihood of our military fighting a war in Crimea or Europe is low at this point. The chances of our nation’s forces spending a lot of time in the sand are, on the other hand, astronomically high. Heck, we’re there right now. That being said, the terrains, the setting, the theatre of operations are all very relevant. While it may be impolitic for some, I think that actual events add more in terms of immersion. I think the selection of the Crimea again as a theater hurt the sales of LOMAC. The awesome video work in JF-15 sold the concept to a much greater extent.
Falcon 4.0’s graphics haven’t changed appreciably, either, with the exception of the cockpit. They have, however, added the Balkan region of Southern Europe, following Jane’s F-15 (and others) in using real-life deployments as a basis for a sim. Lead Pursuit’s whole goal was stability, rock-solid stability, but in the attempt, it appears they wanted this release to top anything done previously. The addition of the Balkans was a bonus. Another bonus, one I haven’t yet taken advantage of, is the Hi-Tiles effort. The screenshots I have seen do remind me of the next entry, LOMAC.
LOMAC has the edge in photo-realistic graphics. It is impossible to tell sometimes if I’m seeing a screenshot of the sun shining through the clouds or if I’m actually looking out of the Plexiglas cockpit of an F-15. The realism and detail of LOMAC is really something to behold, and a nightmare to run unless you have a ‘hoss’ of a CPU. I didn’t notice much difference in playability until I upgraded from a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 running at 533MHz to a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 running at a beefier 800MHz front-side bus speed. Then the lighting, the details were all a dream to watch and I often just flew around sightseeing to get the feel of the sim and take in all the visual stimuli around me. I felt cheated, though. With no videos and the rather antiseptic briefings, it was like the glass and leather furniture seen in those really awful loft apartments belonging to a New York publicist.
The user interfaces of all three get the job done, but for overall customizability, I have to hand it to LOMAC. It’s easier and faster than the others for programming my Saitek X45 HOTAS. Customizing graphics options and sound is a breeze as well, much better than the GUI that Flanker 2.5 shipped with. Finding the key commands can be a bit tricky as they’re grouped according to function…sort of.
What is not fun in LOMAC, though, is mission planning. Changing loadouts and waypoints is a solid-gold pain in the neck for the newbie and too time-consuming for this simmer. Jane’s F-15 has it all over the others for mission planning, with its drag-and-drop method of moving ordnance around. So good, in fact, that Jane’s F/A-18 used the same method. Falcon 4.0 used something between the two. It’s easy to customize, but still not as easy as Jane’s F-15.
The Jane’s F-15 radial menu and the mission planning interface are simple, intuitive, and slick. Falcon 4.0 is somewhere in the middle, as easy to use as JF-15, but with more options. It takes a little hunting around, but you can generally find what you’re looking for if you spend enough time on it.