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Westlake Interactive is one very busy team. Not content with bringing Unreal and the various incarnations of Tomb Raider to the Mac, it has now ported Falcon 4.0 from the PC. To say this game is long-awaited is an understatement – it had a four-year development cycle at MicroProse.
The story-line is pretty standard: the North Korean army is on the move, and the allied forces have engaged them in battle. But before you can even consider playing one of the three scenarios, you have to put in some serious hours behind your screen, for Falcon 4.0 is the most intricate flight sim ever to grace the Mac. The attention to detail is amazing, as is the realism – apparently, feedback from a group of F-16 pilots went into improving the gameplay. Falcon 4.0 exudes quality, from the packaging through to the 576-page main manual, smaller beginner’s guide, large wall map, laminated keyboard layout – and a stonking start-up movie – that leaves you quite breathless.
While there are eight different game options, Instant Action allows you to get straight into the killing zone. Starting out at a level flying height – avoiding the hard stuff of taking off – you can take on a swarm of MiGs in ‘Fighter Sweep’ or take out a bunch of tanks in ‘Moving Mud’. Both are a doddle – as long as you have invulnerability turned on – otherwise the brown stuff hits the fan.
After a little instant gratification, it’s down to the hard slog of going through the manual’s 31 tutorial missions. Depending on how important the little things in life are – such as sleep, food and your family – this will take betweena couple of days and a week. After that, you’re a Falcon 4.0 junkie, ready to take on anything the enemy can throw at you – from a head-to-head dogfight through to a full campaign.
Falcon 4.0 is the crême-de-la-crême of flight battle sims, and a worthy successor to the likes of F/A-18 Korea and A-10 Cuba. It’s very tough to learn, but rewarding none-the-less.
The hardware requirements are stiff, too. While Falcon 4.0 will function on a high-end Performa with a joystick, it really needs a G3 with an ATI Rage 128 graphics card, 128MB of RAM and a spare 600MB of hard disk space. ATI Rage Pro cards – such as the XClaim 3D – are supported, but need OpenGL to be installed plus the latest Falcon 4.0 updater.
With FLY! and Fighter Squadronon the horizon, the Mac flight-sim market has never been more buoyant. But Falcon 4.0 will take some beating – if you have the time, patience and inclination to learnit properly.