MiGMan’s Combat Diary
Falcon 4.0 was probably the most ambitious air combat sim ever attempted, with a full scale war on the Korean peninsula being modelled.
From a problematic beginning - with several patches released before the development team was disbanded by Hasbro - to a glorious maturity with the user supported development, Falcon is an iconic sim.
And the saga is not over yet. In 2001 Hasbro announced Falcon 5.0 with part of the development team being formed from the talented programmers from the ibeta team, a group of enthusiasts who are patching and tweaking Falcon until it satisfies even the hardest of hard core simmers!
The Falcon cockpit had a "photo-real" quality and was fully operable with the mouse. This is a great feature and much more user-friendly than relying on keyboard commands only.
On it's release in December 1998 Falcon 4.0 set new standards in photo-realistic terrain. I remember looking at the preview screens at www.combatsim.com and shaking my head - not believing that such detail could be rendered on a PC.
Image from SuperPack 3
Yet - powered with a 3D accelerator card, the terrain was indeed rendered at lightning speed on my very average Pentium 233MMX PC. What did slow the sim down was the CPU load involved in generating distant, unseen, objects in the campaign mode. But flying at low altitude and high speed generated an exhilarating sense of speed.
I always wanted to join the Thunderbirds... not the best colour scheme for war, but hey, it looks great!
The smoke and atmosperic effects were very special, state of the art in 1998.
Follow the smoke trail back from the F-16 and you can see where 2 missiles exploded, spoofed by countermeasures.
You'd be well advised to go through the tutorials.... and practise... practise.. practise.
Air to Air
Well, after a couple of hours in the Dogfight module, I became a true believer. I first put up a single MiG-29 to fight.
Whap, bamm, wallop. Yoiks, these guys are good!
After a dismal performance ( about 1 - 6 kill ratio! .... that's 1 kill to me, 6 to the MiG) I beat a tactical withdrawal bsack to the menu and set up a MiG-21 Fishbed. The poor old MiG-21 at least gave me a fighting chance. Given a bit of breathing space I then went on to discover how to stall an F-16... a deep, mushy, flat kind of stall where the aircraft settles sedately to final impact and leaves you sitting there like a high-tech frisbee.
Apparently it is possible to recover from this but the answers lay deep in the manual, and I was having too much fun to stop and read it now, so I was reduced to verbal taunts as the F-16 settled into a Korean rice paddy and I reached for the big yellow handle.
Ooops.... i'd better do something clever... ... and soonish....
Air Combat Manoeuvering Instrumentation - that's the long winded name for the flight recorder in Falcon 4.0. This is an extremely powerful tool for analysing and learning from your flights and manoeuvers. Here's an example.
Mission 3 in the Falcon 4 manual sets you up to practice Max G turn at corner airspeed . Corner airspeed is the speed at which the aircraft can turn in the smallest radius and quickest time. For the F-16 that's between 330 and 440 knots and a turn radius of 3500 feet.
The numbers are a little hard to read in my screenshots so here they are:
18 088 FT
21 477 FT
144 386 FT
Turn No.1 looks beautiful - I've rolled out almost precisely at the point of entry into the turn. But that wasn't the point of the exercise! The aim was to sustain the maximum turn rate, Check out my speed - only 153 knots - almost at the stll point and a useless speed and energy state for combat.
Turn 2 was better - I've rolled out at 351 knots - the fighter is still in a high energy state - much more desirable!
In both cases I've not maintained the entry altitude of 20,000 feet either. Not to worry - back to practicing! The point is I can see exactly what I did during flight - what a great way to sharpen up circuits and landings - in fact every type of manoeuver.
Air to Ground
Falcon 4.0 seems to model all the Ground pounding capabilities of the F-16. I loaded an Air to ground training mission and set out to bomb some friendly targets..... as you do!
Cluster bombs away!!
Climbing out with a load on.
There are - how many? - probably thousands of active ground objects in Falcon 4.0. These tanks are kicking up a load of dust as they trundle across the Korean peninsula.
The terrain graphics in Falcon set new standards in 1998. Video hardware had undergone a quantum leap since the project's inception and this was one of the reasons for it's delay. The code had to be rewritten every 12 months to accomodate the latest advances in graphics hardware and Direct X.
These screenshots were taken on Pentium 233MMX.
These screenshots were taken on Pentium 233MMX.