The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
MUD BELOW; REMBRANDT ABOVE
And so to the graphics. The good news? The sky is the best I have ever seen—pure Rembrandt. And the clouds: unlike the "flying bedsheets" look of Flight Simulator 4.0, Eagle III's clouds look good from the outside and realistic from within. The F-15E itself is splendidly rendered from with—when you touch down for a landing, the fully operational airbrake pops up just like the real thing. The missiles come off the rails and smoke off convincingly into the distance. Explosions and ground fires are nicely done; even the tracers arcing up over Baghdad look pretty much like they did in Fabrice Moussus' unforgettable first-night coverage on CNN.
But, oh, that ground detail. The targets—buildings, tents, hangars, bunkers, cranes, oil wells, piers, ships—are well done, but the ground texture is … well … bizarre. Mottled, but in motion, like a heaving sea of confetti. At first, it's very disturbing, but—almost unbelievably—after a while you get used to the ground looking like squirrels darting around under a crazy quilt.
Enemy aircraft are sketchy, but MicroProse has included a feature found on earlier versions of Eagle as well as F-117A Stealth (see Chapter Seven): a view from the enemy with you in the background (even if you're miles away); what in film is called the "reverse angle." In the absence of any useful information being downloaded from your AWACS, just keep punching "F10": if a bogey spots you, "F10" will jump to his perspective of you. Conversely, "F9" (the obverse view) will yield an indication of which direction the bogey is coming from.
Final piece of good news: stereo! At last. The sounds are great throughout, with the exception of the 20-mm M60A1 Vulcan cannon, which—at 6,000 rounds a minute—should rip like a buzz saw; instead it sounds more like a Super Soaker.
As with Falcon 3.0 and Strike Commander, the resource demands are high with Eagle III, but not as high. It will take the fastest processor you can throw at it (in the multiplayer mode, which drags both computers down to the slowest common denominator, I would suggest a pair of 486 local bus video machines), but it doesn't require as much low DOS or high mem (one reason, alas: no VCR feature, no replay, only a news clip mission "summary"). Also, its hard disk "footprint" is much more economical at less than 10 megabytes.
There's an old computer-futzers adage about not buying Release 1.0 of anything, because the first release won't have all the bugs out. MicroProse has had two earlier releases to ramp up to perfection with Strike Eagle III, but this release is such a radical departure from the old—so much more ambitious—that it's more like a whole new sim. It excels at multiplay, but if you're an "island" user (that is, a stand-alone player, without a modem), you might pass it by … or wait for the release of F-15 Strike Eagle IV.