Empire Interactive
F/A-18 Hornet

F/A-18 Hornet

When I first heard that this Sim was being converted from Mac format I did not hold out much hope for it, but how wrong I was! If you are enthusiastic about realism in your Flight Simulations I suggest you read on.

f18ss1.jpg 2kAs the title suggests, this is a sim based on the F/A-18 strike-fighter aircraft. There are 36 missions in the Persian Gulf and 8 Red Flag missions in the Nevada desert, there are also lots of flight training missions to get you used to the aircraft. The 60 page manual might just as well have been photocopied directly from the actual avionics training manuals, it is really detailed; this is because all the avionics in the sim are very authentic and to put them to their best use requires a bit of knowledge about the systems. In addition to this manual there is an Adobe online document on the CD that has more information about actually flying the aircraft and weapons delivery. A keyboard reference card is also supplied, this shows the physical keyboard layout on one side, and key listings on the other.

f18ss2.jpg 5kThere's no Gouraud shading or Bilinear texture filtering here, instead of all that flashy stuff a polygon based rendered graphics engine is used to provide an ultra fast flight experience. This may sound like retro graphics, but it's not as bad as it sounds. The hills are not all shaped like pyramids, they are in fact rounded off, as are the small height variations of the landscape. Atmospheric effects such as haze, cloud, and sun glare are all included. This graphics engine also allows some very crisp visuals to be displayed, with no pixel blocking that you get with many of the textured sim's when you get close to an object. Speeds of up to 20 frames per second in 1024x768 resolution can be expected.

The flight dynamics are the jewel in the crown of this sim. They are so accurately modelled that I will go out on a limb and state that they exceed EF2000, which up until now I have considered to be the best. This flight model allows you to position for a carrier landing with seven degrees nose up and keep the flight path indicator positioned on the wires by small adjustments to the throttles. The angle of attack indicator, sink rate, flap position, attitude, and power setting, all gel together for an accurate representation of landing an aircraft.

f18ss7.jpg 3kIf all this sounds a bit heavy going, then you could take advantage of the multimedia training classroom which has over 90 minutes of flight and combat instruction. The training is carried out in Hawaii, and if you feel inclined to do so, the airliners that are taking off and landing at a nearby airport can be used for target practice. With training completed you can start a tour of duty. A complete tour consists of seven missions, each one chosen from a group of four. My first missions were eventful to say the least, mainly due to the enemy A/I, which proved to be very challenging. This can be altered in setup options, the weapon effectiveness and skill of both sides can be adjusted.

f18ss3.jpg 5kAs mention earlier the avionics are very realistic and you will need to spend a few hours learning about the four ground radar modes and the four air modes with four sub-modes. Once the radar is mastered it proves to be valuable tool for weapon delivery. The radar MFD is always in view when flying in the head-up mode, as is the stores and engine management MFD. If you look down into the cockpit there is the Horizontal Situation Display (HSI) and standby instruments, oddly the Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) is also in the head down mode, which I did not approve of. RWR contacts are displayed on the HUD by means of a line showing the relative bearing of the contact, this is good for quick reference but does not give any range information. To get range you have to go head-down to look at the RWR scope, this can't be done in a dogfight when you are preoccupied dispensing chaff and flare, trying to get a target lock and position for a firing solution, the HUD may tell you that an aircraft contact is in your six o'clock but without looking down you can't tell how close it is.

f18ss5.jpg 3kThe HSI can display navigation info such as Tacan beacons and waypoint positions with ETA's. A colour moving map can also be selected and zoomed in or out. Throughout the flight, radio messages can be heard from your wingmen and other friendly forces, keeping you updated on the situation. You can also transmit commands to your wingmen for engagement and formation positions. When on the ground you can contact the tower for runway info, and when returning to your airfield you contact the approach controller and he will vector you to the base. For carrier operations the Landing Signal Officer is available for a full talkdown service, giving advice on position and speed.

In addition to the LSO there is a "meatball" visual aid, this is a red light that moves above or below a fixed green line to show if you are positioned correctly on the glideslope. All the runways have VASI's for glideslope positioning.

f18ss6.jpg 4kWeapon loads for missions can be selected from standard air or ground load-outs, or you can setup your own preference. In addition to the usual weapons that are normally found in flt sims, there is a nuclear device that is only available for the last mission of the tour of duty. You don't want to be too close to the impact area when it detonates, and if you look at the rear view the mushroom cloud can be seen billowing upwards. A feature that I liked with the electro-optical Maverick air to ground missile was that you can lock on to a moving target such as a ship or scud launcher, and it will continue to track until impact is achieved.

If during the course of a mission you happen to get the gear and flaps damaged, providing you can limp back to base, a gentle gear-up landing can be made on the runway and you will still get a credit for the mission.

For network play, four players can connect via Dial-up, TCP or IPX networks. There is a special network play area setup in the Arizona desert.

Summary

f18ss4.jpg 5kBecause the F/A-18 is so nice to fly, I found that half the time I did not bother with missions, instead I would just fly around doing practice landings at the carrier, or formation flying with anything that I happened to come across.

The main reason for giving a high score is the fact that it feels just right when in the air. I don't consider the absence of complicated textures to be significant when all the game's features are taken into consideration. I hope we can expect some extra missions in the future.

Score - 9/10

F/A-18 Hornet by Empire Interactive
Specs O/S Processor RAM Graphics CD-Rom Soundcard MMX Direct3D
Required Win95 P90+ 16Mb+ SVGA x4 speed All major cards No ?
Tested On Win95 166Mhz AMD K5 48Mb 2Mb Matrox Millenium x4 speed SB AWE32 N/A ?

Mark Arnott for Game Over!

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