MacSoft, publisher of such Mac gaming staples as Quake and Civilization II, has a knack for unleashing products that tax Macs to their very limits. Last year’s Unreal, for example, was happiest with 80MB of real RAM and a G3 processor. This year, MacSoft has upped the ante with Falcon 4.0, a modern F-16 flight simulator thatto look and play its very bestrequests a fast G3 processor, 3-D-acceleration hardware, and several hundred megabytes of hard-disk space. Woe is you if you attempt these dangerous skies with significantly less-powerful hardware.
The word hefty applies not only to Falcon 4.0’s system requirements but to its manual as well. The tome’s 600-plus pages hint that this flight sim is not to be taken lightly. Falcon is currently the closest thing Mac gamers have to piloting a real fighter jet and, as such, is as choked with electronic readouts and advanced weapons systems as the manual is with arcane acronyms. Users should therefore plan on spending days poring over the manual and running through the 31 training missions.
Complex though Falcon 4.0 may be, that complexity comes with rewards. To begin with, under hardware acceleration, the game is gorgeous. The morning and twilight skies are properly hazy; missiles leave realistic contrails; and until you drop your fighter close to the deck, the rolling landscape looks like the real thing. Regrettably, without hardware acceleration, the game’s graphics are chunky, and unless you have a very fast Mac and lots of RAM (meaning a 300MHz or faster G3 and 128MB of RAM), performance suffers with all the graphic goodies switched on.
According to fighter pilots who frequent newsgroups, Falcon 4.0’s flight modeling is realistic. For us ground dwellers, this means that although the plane flies smoothly, landing can be trickynovice pilots should expect to damage a lot of landing gear and lose several planes along the way.
Falcon 4.0 comes with just about everything one should expect from a modern flight sima large theater of operation (the Korean peninsula), three campaigns choked with dozens of missions, network and Internet play that supports mano a mano dogfights as well as up to four 4-player teams, and a mission builder that allows you to create your own missions. What it doesn’t come with is a three-ring binder for the documentation, a handy feature in the PC version of the game.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Falcon 4.0 will push the limits of both your Macintosh and your piloting skills. Casual flight enthusiasts will likely find the game too demanding, but those with the desire, patience, and hardware to fly the Mac’s most realistic combat flight sim should strap into Falcon 4.0.