People say that there's no advancement in the software industry. I remember, not so long ago, when Psion Flight Simulator was the ultimate in realism. Then came the unbelievable Flight Simulator II from Sublogic, which features the great scenery disks which enable you to fly almost anywhere on the globe, complete with recognisable scenery and realistic flying times. Then came FA-18 Interceptor, a true 16-bit action sim. It features fast, smooth graphics and stacks of playability. A lot of fanatics complained because it was too simplistic in its approach - it was just a matter of point the plane in the right direction and the computer works out all the flap and speed adjustments to ensure you don't dip groundward or lose too much speed or what have you.
Falcon is a simulation of the F-16 and first made an appearance on the IBM PC a while back. It was heralded as revolutionary, incredibly realistic and obtainable by both arcadesters and pilots alike. Then came Falcon AT, which makes full use of the AT's advanced graphics and speed.
Falcon ST is even better.
Before taking off you first enter your name into the pilot's roster and select a rank. There are five ranks to choose from, all of which have a dramatic effect on the difficulty level. For example, 1st Lieutenant gives you an infinite supply of all weapons and makes the plane indestructable - you can't be shot down, and should you accidentally smash into the ground, you just bounce off, and Colonel (realistic flying reactions and destruction ratios).
There are twelve missions, each with different objectives, maps and smatterings of the opposition. You can also set the maximum number of MiGs (Mikoyan/Guryevich-21 Soviet fighter plane) attacking you. None ensures a relatively safe flight, three is for some real man's flying. Then click on Armament to continue.
The F-16 can carry a variety of different weapons, ranging from the common Sidewinder AIM-9J AA-missile to the not-so-common AIM-9L Sidewinder, which has a much more powerful heat tracking system and isn't easily fooled by flares. It can also carry a small variety of bombs. To load the plane, click on the up arrow beneath the picture of the weapon. The groundsman then either tells you that it's been fitted, or if not, why not. Once you're ready, it's onto the airstrip you go.
One of the things that makes Falcon special is its very fast (just spot the MiG fly past), smooth and uncannily realistic graphics. The feeling of distance is quite amazing, helped by the clever use of shadows and incredible detail. The telegraph poles that line the roads, for example, just look like sticks from a distance, but close up they are proper poles, complete with shadows and wires. I particularly like the convoy of trucks that move constantly between two points on the map.
There are a wealth of views to choose from, some are amazingly useful, others are just attractive. You can look around the realistically detailed cockpit in all four directions, as well as look up, above the control panel to give you an uncluttered view of the sky ahead. There's an external view option, which is my favourite, and you can rotate about the plane through 360 degrees.
The aircraft's design and manoeuvrability is apparently spot-on. The cockpit is perfect, right down to the yoke and throttle under the pilot's left and right hands. The enemy is blessed with artificial intelligence, and follows the same kind of aircraft manoeuvres as real Soviet pilots use. Obviously, in 1st Lieutenant mode, it's going to be a little unreal, but in Colonel mode, only the best can keep her up in the air, yet alone fight up there.
There are a wealth of options, from basic stuff like whether to display scenery dots or not, and whether to have bitchin' Betty the computer voice that calls out "Caution" when you're doing something you're not supposed to - like flying with your afterburners full on with your landing gear extended - and things like "pull up" when you're about to hit the ground.