The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
THE MAKING OF AN ACE
All of which is not to say that Falcon isn't hugely enjoyable. Like Flight Simulator, there is so much to it—in both breadth and depth—that you never get bored. If you find yourself getting too good at one level, you just raise the bar another notch and start all over again. I suppose you could become an ace at the highest difficulty level, but it would take you a year…and probably cost you your marriage, your job, and your sanity.
If you haven't got time for spit and polish, you can dive right into the "Instant Action" mode, which cuts through all the red tape and puts you in the cockpit, already airborne, in hostile airspace. There is no squadron, no wingperson, no friendlies at all. Everything in the air and on the ground is fair game, and the object of the exercise is to get as many of them as you can before they get you (and they will). Unlike the "Campaign" mode, the only rule is there are no rules. And while you won't be earning any medals or promotions, you will score points.
As in the "Campaign" mode, you can make it easy on yourself—or hard—by choosing to go up against raw recruits or grizzled veterans (a nice touch: the photo ID of your enemy changes from a freckle-faced kid to a gaunt geezer), and you can turn off the deadly ground fire altogether. With bombers, fighters, even enemy AWACS, in the sky—and the real estate below crawling with artillery, armor, troops, and transports—"Instant Action" provides a "target-rich environment." Plus you've got unlimited ammo…but every missile you fire reduces your score. Good hunting!
For me, the best part of Falcon is its multiplayer mode. Although it is a bear to set up (far more long-winded than Flight Simulator, not to mention F-15 Strike Eagle III; see Chapter Six), you can go one-on-one against an opponent via modem (2,400 baud or better), null-modem (direct hookup between two computers), or with up to six other players on a Novell network. On the net, you can either all fly for the same squadron or against each other in a winner-take-all shoot-off: last man in the air wins. If war is hell (Patton) and hell is other people (Sartre), then surely it follows that networked is the only way to fight in the virtual sky (me).
And if air combat is why you're interested in flight simulation, you couldn't ask for a better aircraft to simulate modern military aviation than the General Dynamics F-16 Falcon (hyperbolically called the "Fighting Falcon" by its more perfervid boosters). The F-16 was designed for one mission only: dogfighting (although it has proved surprisingly adept in the ground-strike role).