F-22 Lightning II
F-22 has enough to it to lure you in and get you started. An extensive video intro shows the F-22 in action, then drops you to a menu full of familiar choices. Several single missions are available, beginning with a set of ramped training missions that will help you familiarize yourself with the plane and its functions. In keeping with the Comanche tradition, single missions are not based on any real world scenario or conflict, but are designed to show off various types of terrain. The mission mix is fine for a sim of this type, with plenty of fast air-to-air action as well as escorts and ground strikes. A campaign game strings these missions together, but there's no real feeling that your performance affects the dynamic of the campaign in any way. A simple custom mission creator and eight-player network and modem play fill out the features.
On the whole, enemies seem pretty smart and challenging, though there were some oddities. On several occasions I found myself flying circles around hot SAM and AAA sites without drawing fire, but other times I was downed by AAA. It's a crapshoot. Still, the furballs fly plenty, and in the end, there is enough action and interest to keep gamers coming back.
The F-22 is a recent plane, with flying dynamics, avionics, and airframe properties that sim fans are unfamiliar with. The game falls somewhere above Silent Thunder yet below USNF or ATF. What set F-22 apart from every other sim, and every other game of the time, though, is its graphics engine. From a distance, terrain graphics are simply the finest ever seen in a mid 90s flight game, better than Flight Unlimited, better than ATF. The various environments - jungle, desert, snowy peaks -are rendered in remarkable detail. The objects in the world itself jump out of the screen, from enemy aircraft and ground facilities to the F-22 itself. Though the effect seems to fade at the horizon and the pixels show at low altitudes, it is still a stunning visual achievement.
I enjoyed F-22 on a basic: it was fun. The action is good, the graphics awesome, and it is far better than Comanche, a main contender of the era.