PC REVIEW: FALCON 4.0 ALLIED FORCE

When it comes to flight sims the holy grail has always been the patched and systematically upgraded version of Falcon 4.0. Since 1998 this game has been infamous among fans as one of the greatest games that never was - but could have been. After countless patches and other fixes over the years it has become more and more playable as its potential is almost visible on the virtual horizon. Getting the game to this level is not for the faint of heart as it requires many hours of trial and error and a dedication that I, and the majority of gamers, just don't have.

Falcon 4.0: Allied Force was seven years in the making and it looks as though Lead Pursuit finally got it right - with the help of many fanatics. This is the game that Falcon 4.0 should have been. It's the kind of sim that others will be compared too for years to come.

Getting your hands on the legendary Viper requires many hours of practice. There are seemingly endless combinations of controls. This classic fighter plane is excellent in dogfights as well as bombing missions. It can carry a large payload and it can also perform some incredible aerial gymnastics when carrying less weight. The cockpit looks incredible and is almost exclusively activated by the mouse. A HUD makes things a little more convenient by acting as a partial interface so you don't have to look down and get lost in the control panel every time you want to make an adjustment.

It seems that all of the controls are as accurate as one could expect. You can expect to do a lot of reading and referencing in the manual but it's certainly worth the effort once it all comes together. The level of control is fascinating and the various missions assure that you'll have to use most of plane's features.

The cockpit sounds like a zoo with different bleeps, blips, buzzers and radio chatter enhancing your visual references. Voices come through the radio giving you information pertaining to your location and hinting at installations that are included in your mission. Air traffic controllers will communicate with you and give you hell if you land without permission. Push a wrong button and you'll hear an annoying buzz. It's one of the few times that you'll actually rely on a soundtrack and sound effects for control cues.

The plane is computer controlled. It's so unstable that it requires continuous external processing to keep it flying in a straight line. It's fast, accurate and versatile. To avoid radar and surface to air missiles you will find instances where you have to fly low to the ground. The plane can be incredibly stable in such instances and you can feel the effects of the computer as it nudges the plane into position with micro-adjustments every few seconds.

Even beginners can get the basics down and be up and flying in short time thanks to the internal computer which makes the plane easier to fly than most sims. There are 30 training missions which will help you learn how to incorporate all of the controls. All of these training missions have to be completed in order or you won't be able to go any further. Later you can choose missions at your discretion. Certain parameters can be adjusted to dumb things down for beginners until they get the hang of things by selecting unlimited weapons, unlimited gas and invulnerability.

One aspect of the Viper that isn't imaginary is it's propensity to aid pilots in a "deep stall." That happens when the plane is pushed beyond its envelope or is driven at too low of a speed. The plane will try to point the nose in the optimum position to regain control. In the case of going too slow you'll have to override the computer and try to jerk the nose manually into position. It's kind of like riding a dolphin on steroids.

Experienced pilots will appreciate the real-time dogfights that will test their skills against some of the most agile enemies to ever take to the skies. The battles are intense and are guaranteed to make you a better pilot. Just seeing what the enemy is capable of will push you to the limits of your ability during each fight. I must have played this game for 15 hours and I'm still only scratching the surface. The manual is over 600 pages.

Multi-player modes are an excellent addition. Although I didn't feel as though I was skilled enough to take on another human opponent at this time, I would welcome the challenge after I invested more of my life into this game. There's a co-op mode which facilitates up to 16 players. Perhaps I'll see you there in a few weeks.

Falcon 4.0: Allied Force is easily the best flight and fight sim ever created. And I don't say that lightly. It's not easy but at least if you make the effort you won't be plagued by buggy programming. All of this and at a price that even a low-paid videogame reviewer can afford.

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System: PC
Dev: Lead Pursuit
Pub: Graphsim Ent.
Release: July 2005
Players: 1 - 16
Review by Ken
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
4.5