Falcon 4.0: Allied Force is the definition of depth when it comes to the interactive experience of combat flight. All declassified features of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are fully controllable and functional, you won’t turn anything off or on that doesn’t affect some function of your jet. Your responsibilities range from controlling the flow of your fuel supply to operating realistic air-to-air and air-to-ground radar.
The scope of Allied Force extends far beyond such desired elements, requiring air traffic control commands for takeoff, landing and identifying targets through AWACS before shooting them down. Even more lifelike is the fact that you have to check in and check out with AWACS to complete a mission successfully. You’ll feel the pressure of succeeding with friendly aircraft all around you that will be in line to land in sequence right behind and in front of you after a mission. There’s a full-scale war surrounding your every move, so you’ll hear real time chatter of pilots calmly landing as well as expressing acute fear when their lives are seriously threatened in battle. There are times when you’ll hear all of this in one fell swoop, before you ever taxi onto the runway for takeoff. Every aspect of a campaign is running in real time and that’s the real beauty of Faclon. This creates more interest than any storyline due to the variety it dictates. The same thing never happens twice in any mission, so you won’t be able to adjust your strategy based on where you were last shot down.
There isn’t a respawn in this game. If you get shot down and end the mission, you’ll be put in the cockpit of the jet that was second to you in formation and so on, should you continue the mission once back at the briefing screen. Your squadron loses a plane every time you get shot down, so if you’re in a flight of four, for instance, and get killed three times, you’ll be the only friendly left flying in the area.
There is often much left to be desired from the artificial intelligence of interactive software, but Falcon has just about every AI engine that I’ve seen beat dead to rights. This combat flight simulator features what seem to be real people whom you have to go up against, giving you good reason to choose your battles. Let’s say you’ve identified hostile aircraft and are willing to follow him to make sure he never comes back, but suddenly you notice three dots on your screen as you close for the kill. Those are his wingmen and you’re about to be engaged in a four to one aerial assault. You get a warning that a missile has been launched in your direction. There is a true to life technique for dodging both air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. If you haven’t learned those techniques, you’re about to go blind (lose all radar and heads up display function of your jet) and either eject or be blown to bits.
Flying the F-16 in Allied Force can be frustrating, but it’s one interactive software application that will make you feel as if you’ve accomplished something constructive in the free time you spend with it. The best part of the sim, the depth, can be the most frustrating, but it’s also what makes the replay value of this game nearly infinite if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a fighter pilot, lacking only the desire to risk your actual life.
Training missions require that you dig into your 716 page pdf manual before entering, as none of them hold your hand, but there are plenty of people who were just as new to this at one point as you may be now, and they’re willing to answer any questions you post to the forum. The community is an awe-inspiring aspect of this game. Falcon 4.0 came out in 1998, Allied Force in 2005, but you can find brand new posts everyday on various forums, along with members from virtual fighter wings that post them. If you want to find some people to fly with, simply ask on the forum and you shall receive a reply. I don’t financially sponsor them, but I’ve had great experience with Frugal’s World, so I gladly give them free advertisement through this review.
There is an instant action feature in this sim, but you will need to know, at the very least, how to operate your radar and how to dodge incoming missiles. Then you can fly in and shoot down as many planes as possible. Without knowing how to operate radar or dodge a missile you’ll be lucky to shoot one plane down. It’s basically this flight sim’s survival mode.
Dogfight mode is great practice. Consider it a good thing if you get into a turning fight. If you’re going one on one, it’s best to go guns only to get the hang of it. I would only suggest allowing missiles to be active on both sides if you’re going in two on two. Just like accounts of real dogfights on the history channel, the turning fights can take a while. I once spent half an hour on one. I eventually got the angle, shot down my opponent and felt a sudden sense of pride. You may want to build up confidence by using your F-16 against an F-15 Eagle, as it doesn’t have the same maneuverability as the F-16 Falcon. For an ultimate test of your maneuvering skills, choose your most capable opponent, the MiG-29 Fulcrum. If you want to test yourself against an even more capable, yet American aircraft, you can always try going up against the F-22 Raptor.
Connecting to multiplayer in this app has its issues, but if you type, “Falcon 4.0 Allied Force multiplayer,” into YouTube and listen to the human radio chatter, you’ll realize that it’s worth it to make it work. The most common way to communicate in multiplayer is through Team Speak 2, which is a free download. Multiplayer flights are scheduled and well-organized, rather than just lobbies full of individuals looking to rack up experience points. That mention does the hardcore no justice, however. If you decide to join a virtual fighter squadron, they will test your skills by their own radical standards because, in this sim, radical skills are necessary. I haven’t done this yet, but one of the people I spoke with on Team Speak 2 mentioned a tryout for a virtual squadron and the test would be this: Fly directly into hostile territory, bait a SAM site for the purpose of bleeding it dry without being hit, destroy the now defenseless SAM site and fly home. And the most hardcore part of the test: someone from the virtual squadron would be monitoring his fuel management skills throughout the mission to see if they were up to par. I don’t think a game or combat flight simulator can get more hardcore than that.
Like any respectable combat application, this one comes with a mission builder, used to set up specific scenarios for the purpose of training one’s self for future success in campaign mode. Adding even more realism are the voice command programs available. Although I’ve had slight difficulty with the voice command software that I’ve downloaded, Shoot 1.6.4 is great because it’s free and does not limit how many games to which you can apply it. The profiles folder that came with it already had a profile for the original Falcon 4.0 which, to my pleasure, worked flawlessly with Allied Force. Ordinarily, radio commands have to be brought up on screen with the tab key and then you have to tab through to find the menu you’re looking for. Yes, even in the middle of being shot at by multiple SAMs or any other chaotic scenario. With Shoot, you simply utter a phrase like, “say position” and the tab menus flash for a brief moment before they go away and you hear the pilot you’re controlling say to your wingman, “Falcon one-one, Falcon one-two, what is your location?.” In reply, you hear, “Falcon one-two, Falcon one-one, bearing two-five-zero, Angels twelve,” “Angels” meaning altitude in thousands of feet. It just feels so much more awesome to hear the realistic radio chatter without having to tab through menus and press number keys.
The mod for the graphics in this game (its only downfall), called HiTiles, is unfortunately payware, but the testimonials I’ve been given from the people who decided to buy it make it sound well worth it.
The Falcon series is well known in the world of combat flight simulators, and it is considered the ultimate, but it hasn’t been an easy road. The studio that originally created it was closed, and the vision was kept alive only by various talented modders who would not let the bugs within the game keep it down, thanks to the original source code being leaked. Those events have resulted in Falcon 4.0: Allied Force from Lead Pursuit, a Dallas-based developer whose standards are set as high as those of its end user’s. Many of its employees are the modders who kept Falcon alive. Hardcore virtual pilots have created and continue to update modified versions of the game, such as Open Falcon, which is up to version 4.7, and Free Faclon, which is up to version 5 and acts as truth in advertising as it can be downloaded as a standalone application free of charge through freefalcon.com’s forum. The Red Viper mod is also very popular. These mods, contrary to Allied Force, give you the freedom to fly any jet in the simulator with a good few of the interactive cockpit layouts rearranged appropriately for each plane. The most accurate attention to detail I’ve seen in an alternate cockpit is in the F-14 Tomcat. Some of the cockpits are incorrectly identical to the F-16’s, but that’s to encourage modification by the user. The source code in each modded version of Falcon is wide open for those who wish to try their hand at improving the game. Everything that you’ve read here today, especially that last bit about different mods, make this hardcore flight simulator a prime candidate for immortality in the home computer gaming world.