F16 Combat Pilot (Second Review)

Title           F 16 Combat Pilot (Second Review)
Game Type	Flight Simulator
Players		1 (or 2 with Link-up)
HD Installable  Yes (With WHDLoad Patch)
Compatibility	All Amigas (WHDLoad patch available)
Company		Digital Integration
Submission      Seppo Typpö (groucho@pp.inet.fi) Profiled Reviewer

Let's make one thing perfectly clear - this is my personal view of the
flight sim I consider in many ways to be the finest on the Amiga. I know a
certain fan of Spectrum Holobyte's Falcon sims will probably disagree
strongly with this review, and has every right to do so - still, it won't
change anything. So, if you can read this review it means it has already
passed through the AGDB's high quality standards and has not been censored
for expressing my personal opinions, so let's move on...  :)

Before I start, I want to point out that there's a truly excellent review
of F-16 Combat Pilot here in AGDB (written by Tommy Engfors) which
explains the game mechanics and other details so I suggest you read that
one first. This review will concentrate on the things which I think made
this sim special and also point out some of the (very few) shortcomings.


After loading the game, the player finds himself in the squadron crewroom.
From this location it is possible to create (or load) a pilot, check his
log, check some aircraft data, select missions or continue an old
campaign. There are several hotspots in the room which are logically
placed - for example clicking on the file cabinet allows all kinds of
pilot log manipulation, while the aircraft poster on the wall will reveal
the tehcnical data sheets.

There were several innovative features which were pioneered in F-16, the
most important being the fully interactive campaign mode with the command
and mission planning options. To be eligible for command, the player
has to complete each type of single mission (there are five different
types). The separate training menu allows the player to practice all aspects
of the missions from take-off to landing. Even this training part is much
more detailed than in many other Amiga flight sims including the (mighty)
Falcon - you can select the particular mission or procedure (like landing)
you want to practice and fine tune things like weaponry and weather as
well as the time of the day.

When starting one of the eight available campaigns the player is given a
squadron of F16s and a battlefield full of both friendly and enemy forces.
The war is already raging, so the first thing to do is to check out the
overall situation and deal with the immediate emergencies first -  like
defending a friendly airfield or other installation from the attack of
enemy armoured forces - before starting to plan and execute your own
winning strategies. The F16 aircraft the player has at his (or her)
disposal are divided into several airfields and are limited in numbers, so
great care has to be taken when planning the operations.

The nice thing about the campaign is that the enemy forces never rest so
the player has to be alert and be able to quickly adapt his plans if some
emergency suddenly appears. In one mission I was forced to take off from a
base which was already under attack. Taxiing from the hangar to the end of
the runway then taking off while war was raging around me (with tanks and
explosions everywhere) was simply a breathtaking experience. In another
mission I was about to take off when I noticed a dark patch in the cross
section of the two runways. I suddenly realised the airfield had been
bombed and that there was a very big hole in the runway just in front of
me, coming rapidly towards my fully loaded F16! I had no hope raising
enough airspeed to take off before reaching the hole, so the only thing
left to do was to eject and escape the inevitable 'crash and burn'

Mission planning within a campaign is simple to execute - all the player
has to do is to select a wingman and point out the target to him - he
will then execute it automagically. Whether he succeeds or not is
dependent on the strategic decisions the player makes - if you give him a
target which is behind several SAM sites there is a strong possibility he
will never make it and you lose not only a pilot, but also the plane.

After assigning missions to other pilots, the player can select one of
them and fly his own mission. One of the really brilliant features on the
campaign is that the player never actually flies any missions - he is just
able to take control of one of the pilots flying a mission and plan that
mission with more detail (like setting multiple waypoints to steer around
enemy defences). If the pilot that the player controls dies on that mission.
the player can still continue the campaign and fly another pilot in the
next mission. Some players might feel alienated with this approach, but to
me it is a very clever way of allowing the player to fully concentrate on
winning the actual campaign. The single missions are there if the player
feels like risking his own life - die on those missions and you lose the
pilot, his personal record and also all the campaign stuff related to him.

In actual missions F-16 Combat Pilot excels in the 'details' department.
Before the mission the player can check out the weather conditions and
define the payload (weapons, fuel, additional equipment) before entering
the cockpit. The missions always starts from the hangar and the player has
to taxi to the runway in order to take-off. After getting clearance from
the tower it is time for full throttle and the start of the mission.

The F-16C used in the simulation offers several advanced electronic
devices. The Up Front Control Panel (UFCP) relays information about
navpoints, airfields and tracking data from Early Warning Radar (EWR)
which means the player can switch between navpoints, keep track of the
location and direction of the closest friendly airfield, and most
importantly, the movements of enemy aircrafts. There's a lot of
information to absorb but once mastered the system is a powerful tool
for monitoring your environment. With the aid of this equipment, finding
your way to the target and back to your home base (as well as engaging or
evading enemy fighters or gunships) becomes slighly easier.

Attacking ground targets can be done traditionally (picking up each target
manually one by one) or by using a handy gadget called LANTIRN (Low
Altitude Navigation & Targetting Infra Red for Night). Since land targets
are generally a group of buildings (all of which have to be destroyed) or a
tank platoon spread out around the battlefield, a device which offers
things like automatic target recognision and night vision capability
is very handy. The LANTIRN pod allows the player to wipe out multiple
targets in rapid succession - which means whole enemy bases can be
destroyed from a safe distance - eliminating the need to fly over the
target and exposing your plane to deadly AAA fire.

Did I mention night missions? Another feature F-16 Combat Pilot pioneered,
the night flying is a highly atmospheric experience. Flying in a pitch
black sky and looking through the HUD which reflects the LANTIRN night
vision in shades of green offers a level of excitement very few Amiga
flight sims can offer.

F-16 Combat Pilot has a certain emphasis towards ground attacks. In order
to succeed in the campaign the player has to systematically destroy a
certain number of enemy ground installations and weapon systems. Air
combat is all about achieving air superiority - most dogfights are done
BVR (Beyond Visual Range) with missiles. For dogfight fans this is
disappointing but then again the majority of dogfights with modern
weaponry are fought this way. It is still possible to sneak upon a enemy
fighter but this is seldom needed - only helicopter gunships really need
this 'up close and personal' approach. For dogfight fans sims like Red
Baron or Falcon are probably better choices - while F-16 Combat Pilot even
offers a special two-player dogfight mode its real merits are in the
interactive campaign part and the missions against ground targets.

Returning from a mission, there are several ways to bring the plane back
to the ground (preferably to a friendly airfield). F-16 Combat Pilot
offers a fully working ILS system which can be used to land the plane
manually. Lazy pilots can switch to autopilot and watch it fly the plane
to touchdown (the player still has to do the braking and taxiing to the
hangar). Landing damaged planes is possible - there is a comprehensive GCA
(Ground Controlled Approach) help from tower which will talk the player
down. Unlike many other sims belly up landings are also possible (I have
managed to do that successfully a couple of times).

The post mission briefing is very comprehensive. The amount of enemy
equipment destroyed (by the player or wingmen) is reported as well as
the friendy losses. In the campaigns the strength and morale of both sides
is also shown which nicely describes the campaign's status and allows the
player to analyse how well his strategy is working.


There's plenty of nice features in F-16 Combat Pilot. The extensive
practise options and single missions (with the ability to fully control
weaponry and weather). The interactive campaign is wonderful - the
complete freedom to create your own winning strategy and then fulfill it
with your squadron is a rare treat in Amiga flight sims. The level of
detail this sim offers is staggering - the realistic implementation of
navigation and weapon systems as well as  other nice features like
LANTIRN, GCA landing and the ability to repair damaged F16s after each
mission leave little in the wish list.

The presentation of the game is twofold. Navigating through the game is
very easy through the easy to learn icon driven menu system. Still
pictures and cockpit graphics are clear, well drawn and detailed
(especially the cockpit, which is one of the best seen in Amiga flight
sims). The actual 3D graphics are very detailed and move at an adequate
speed (although the frame rate is never really as smooth as it should be).
The colour palette used for the 3D parts could have been better - the
bland colours and heavy use of dithering makes graphics look somewhat
uglier than they should (a better palette alone would have helped to counter
things). The sound part is quite limited, with the hiss of the engines,
warning beeps and realistic gunfire and explosion sounds - but it does its
job adequately.

While sims like F/A-18 Interceptor take care of the lightweight part of
Amiga flight sims, F-16 Combat Pilot takes care of the heavy-weight part.
There are very few Amiga sims which can challenge its realism and depth
(B-17 Flying Fortress, Tornado, JETPilot and the Falcon Mission Disks come
to mind).  - It is a true Amiga classic for the real flight sim enthusiast.

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