PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


Once past this "security check," you are ushered into the Commanding Officer's quarters, bustling with desk clerks shuffling papers. Here you choose from a long list of options. Lockheed or MicroProse F-117As. Difficulty levels. No less than nine theaters: Iran (1984), a fictional border dispute between Finland and Russia (1985), the Libyan Raid (1986), a what-if scenario for war with the Warsaw Pact in eastern Europe (1986), a what-if Arab attack on Israel (1989), Desert Storm (1991), a deja vu all over again in Vietnam (1994), and an even less likely war with Cuba (1995).

You also select Rules of Engagement consonant with "Cold War" (mostly secret reconnaissance flights—photographing "enemy" installations: b-o-r-i-n-g), "Limited War" (covert ops, but some "wet" work nonetheless), and "Conventional War" (declared hostilities, but only against selected targsts). Thermonuclear war is presumably unthinkable.

Moving on to the Briefing Room, you check out the specific mission objectives and study a map showing your takeoff point, your waypoints, the primary and secondary targets, and enemy radar coverage and SAM sites. As in F-15 Eagle III, you are free to turn down any mission that doesn't capture your fancy (I'd avoid those that don't offer the cover of darkness).

Then on to the Maintenance Room, where you choose weapons appropriate to your mission. If it's a ground strike, go for the Mavericks because you don't have to pop up to fire them, and being rocket–powered, they'll arrive at the target long before you do, so you won't get pelted with debris. Mavericks are the only weapon here that ever seems to be in short supply.

Finally, you're in the cockpit, which is designed for easy game play, not photorealistic accuracy. It is a very simple, straightforward interface, and making smart use of the HUD and instrument panel can bring you home safe and sound, with "good kills" to your credit. Many of the functions are figments of the programmers' imaginations, but all are in service of the fundamental verities of stealth, if not the actualities.

Key is the—fictitious—EMV (Electro-Magnetic Visibility) scale, a blue bar graph. This is a thermometerlike gauge of your Nighthawk's stealthiness. You can raise your visibility if you go full bore (throttle back to 60 percent and keep your speed under 250 knots), fly high (stay at putting green altitudes), bank sharply (make gentle turns), lower your flaps or your gear (don't), open the weapons bay doors (keep them closed until the last moment), switch on your ECM "jammer" (try to avoid the necessity), etc.

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