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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: December 15, 2000
The Jetfighter series is one of the longest running in all of video game history. The original was released at the end of the 1980′s, when VGA graphics were just beginning to appear in titles like Epic’s Jill of the Jungle. Since then Jetfighter has been given three incarnations. I was first introduced to the series with Jetfighter 2, a product that was remarkably easy to play even without the help of a joystick. Since the second version, the Jetfighter series has evolved along a very separate path from many combat sims. Military simulators often keep staunch realism at the forefront of the gameplay, introducing real combat data from companies like Jane’s, who have access to many technical details of world aircraft. Microsoft’s Combat Flight Sim 2 is one such game, highly dedicated to providing players with a realistic experience. Such devotion oft times comes with a high price; and the cost of heavy realism in flight simulators can be measured by how difficult the offering is for novices to pick up and play. The Jetfighter line has never been focused on unerring detail and realism, instead choosing to center around the endorphin spiking action inherent to Top-Gun style dogfighting. Jetfighter IV: Fortress America continues the tradition, providing players with an experience heavy on action while still including a flight model that is sufficiently difficult to keep prospective pilots on their toes.
Most flight-sims involving real-world aircraft take place in a relatively realistic storybook world involving one or more world superpowers. The Falcon series has always focused on the good old United States, while games like SU-27: Flanker take the Russian approach. Jetfighter IV comes at players with an uncompromisingly Patriotic standpoint from the eyes of the USA. As the manual explains in detail: the year is 2012 and the world is descending into chaos as the United States’ military begins to weaken from years of liberal anti-defense policy. In the Balkans, ethnic cleansing has once again started, while the Middle East situation has deteriorated into all-out war between Israel and many of the Arab nations. During this uneasy time, the other two waning world powers see an opportunity to move in and usurp the United States position as strongest — not to mention best — nation on the Earth. Thus China and Russia join together with North Korea as a small partner; calling themselves the Sino-Russian Coalition. This dark federation waits and watches intently as the United States’ popularity in the world drops due to its constant peacekeeping interventions. Finally, the unimaginable happens: For the first time since the war of 1812, our country is invaded by foreign powers. Not able to attack our military strongholds along the East Coast, the Sino-Russian Coalition instead launches a full-scale assault on California, specifically targeting San Francisco. As a United States Naval Aviator, your mission will be to take on the combined Chinese and Russian forces, driving them off of American soil. Along the way, you will be faced with a plethora of Russian weaponry and a new super aircraft carrier designed by the Chinese.
In Jetfighter IV, you will be trained in all the essential skills to survive your missions. Many flight-sims include a tutorial section of some sort, and Jetfighter IV is no different. There are a series of 11 training missions that you will need to undertake in order to hone your piloting skills and familiarize yourself with the flight model and keyboard layout. The first few exercises will consist of general aviation knowledge and flight control. As you progress, formation flying, bombing, strafing and dogfighting will all be topics for your consumption. The coup-de-grace will be the final training mission — something which every pilot dreads his/her first time through — the nighttime carrier landing. Once you successfully finish the training section, you will be ready to tackle the single player campaign, called Fortress America.
The single player aspect can be played either as individual missions or as part of the overall campaign. These range from bombing runs and surgical strikes to patrols and reconnaissance. Throughout the campaign you will face off against a wide variety of military opposition. Enemy aircraft such as the SU-37 Berkut and Mig 44 are all ready to take you out in the skies over northern California. Threats will not only be coming from other pilots, but also from many ground-based weapons systems like anti-aircraft cannons and mobile surface-to-air missile platforms. Destroyers, battleships and aircraft carriers will all be present in San Francisco bay, making dangerous targets. The number of extra vehicles/targetable structures included in the game is rather large, though, the aircraft usable by the player only number three. The three jets you can fly span the last 20 years of U.S. Military design, starting with the F-14 of Top Gun fame, moving up to the fast and powerful F-22 Raptor. You can access a database with relevant info on every important unit from the main menu.
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