Sounds can generally be overlooked in a simulation as long as they don't interfere with the game, but here they enhance the action immeasurably. Air traffic controllers direct you around the airbase, chewing you out if you take off or land without permission. The radio is alive with chatter from other units in your operational area, cueing you into the various targets and installations that are scattered around the map. Within the plane the engine, weapons, landing gear, and various warning horns and beeps all sound fantastic, and the infamous "Bitchin' Betty" is there to let you know when you are flying too low (fortunately, a flick of a switch is all it takes to turn her off when you're flying at the nape of the earth to avoid radar and surface-to-air missiles).
Even in the original release the flight and physics modeling was outstanding, and in this release it has improved to the point that arguably no other simulation can match its fidelity. You can read a book about the flight characteristics of a real F-16, load up the simulation, and re-create those situations to a degree that is almost eerily accurate. A great example is the F-16's tendency to enter a "deep stall" when a ham-fisted pilot pushes the plane well beyond its flight envelope. The F-16 was the first fly-by-wire plane ever manufactured in great quantities, and it relies on constant computer assistance to overcome the inherent aerodynamic instability that gives it such a tremendous edge in terms of maneuverability. Even in straight and level flight, with no input from the pilot whatsoever, the control surfaces of the aircraft make constant, tiny motions to keep the plane flying in a straight line (with everything controlled by the computer).
Enemies in Allied Force know their business.
Because the computer is always looking over the pilot's shoulder during maneuvers it makes the F-16 incredibly forgiving to fly. But the downside to this is that it's easy for beginners to get into a situation where their speed is so low that the plane becomes uncontrollable. It doesn't simply stall like most other planes would, quickly dropping their noses and picking up enough speed to give the control surfaces some bite. Instead it enters a "deep stall" where the plane falls like a leaf and the nose gradually pitches up and down as the computer vainly tries to find some angle that will end the stall. This happens in real F-16s, and the only way to get out of it is to manually override the computer, push the stick back and forth in time with the natural motions of the nose, and gradually rock your way out of the stall. Deep stalls also happen in the sim, and you get out of them exactly the same way you would in the real aircraft. Everything from the plane's best cornering speeds to the fact that the controls are deadened significantly as soon as the landing gear is dropped (for more precise control during landings) is modeled to near perfection in this simulation.
With all of the highest difficulty settings enabled, even the most experienced pilots will have their hands full managing the aircraft, especially when they have to deal with improved artificial intelligence opponents. The computer did wacky things in the original version of the game, especially during the buggy campaign missions. But now you can expect to face a competent enemy both on the ground and in the air. Surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft emplacements are a real threat, and enemy pilots dogfight and work together much better than they did before. This makes the instant action missions more exciting, but it really transforms the campaigns. The ongoing war on the air, on ground, and even at sea plays out in real time and is more believable than any simulation campaign ever released. Players can assign target priorities themselves using slider bars, or they can let the computer handle it, which automatically generates missions to meet the overall campaign goals. Players are free to jump into any of these missions, taking on the role of flight lead as they try to make a difference on a virtual battlefield that is constantly in action. The level of detail is staggering, and few simulations do this good a job of making players feel like there is a real war going on around them at all times.
If all of this sounds like too much for you, it probably is. Newcomers can tone down nearly every aspect of the simulation by giving themselves unlimited weapons, a bottomless tank of fuel, or even invulnerability. But this isn't the kind of game casual users can simply fire up and get a lot of enjoyment out of right away. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force rewards those who take enough time to really understand every aspect of the F-16's cockpit and capabilities, and also those who are willing to put in the research necessary to personally manage the deep and complex campaigns. A 716-page PDF manual is included for those who really want to dive in, and it surpasses even the 600-page-plus tome included in the original game in terms of usability and completeness. It explains in detail how everything in the game works, and it's also packed with examples that show why you would want to use a particular weapon mode or radar setting, or whatever, in a variety of situations. There are also 30 training missions included in the sim that the manual provides guidance for, and you'll need to fly all of them to master the plane's various systems. A 109-page printed quick-start guide is included that covers the basics, but it barely begins to scratch the surface of what Falcon 4.0: Allied Force has to offer.
Ground targets are numerous and dangerous in the campaigns.
If you're a sim fan in general or a Falcon 4.0 aficionado in particular, this version of the game has pretty much everything going for it. It is cheap, about as complete as a game of this nature can be, and thanks to the plethora of missions, the inclusion of a mission editor, and especially the several dynamic campaigns, the sim offers limitless replayability. Multiplayer mode finally works well and is a blast either head-to-head or in cooperative mode with up to 16 total players, adding even more value to the game. Newcomers should know by now what they are getting into, but there's an entirely different life waiting on this CD for those willing to make the time investment.