It's early morning aboard the INS Peacekeeper and you're waiting for your turn to launch. You are part of an elite United Nations strike force, leading a team of the world's top pilots with the motto: "Global Peace through Deadly Force." Your wingman is already in the air, waiting for you to join him. Your mission this morning is to destroy a power plant deep in Argentina, but getting there will be the tough part. In your way are numerous SAM missile sites and half the Argentine air force. It's up to you; will this be a successful mission or will you go down in flames?
The basic plot in JetFighter III is engaging enough, although fighting for the U.N. lacks some of the appeal I find in other games where you fly for the USA or Soviet bloc. But the new villains are a challenge and in many cases the planes they use are Russian-made. There are also plenty of them -- you will be hard-pressed keeping track of everyone during the larger engagements. All your skills will be tested as you fly a F-22N Lightning IIs or F/A-18 Hornet on missions to preserve world peace against threats like Argentina's invasion of Chile or Cuba's sinister alliance with the Colombian drug cartels.
Many gamers shy away from flight combat simulators -- they often have huge manuals, complex control setups, a steep learning curve, and just aren't much fun to anyone but a dedicated fan. JetFighter III (billed by Mission Studios as "the easiest-to-use flight simulator") is much different. If you're looking for a hyper-realistic flight model or military accuracy, it's probably not the game for you. But if you want a fun combat game that's reasonably accurate but still easy to play, then grab a joystick and settle into the cockpit. Don't worry if you've never flown before: JetFighter III includes an exhaustive set of training missions that will teach you how to handle your aircraft.
Once you have completed training, the gameplay follows two campaigns, one based around Argentina's invasion of Chile and the other based around Cuban-backed drug lords.
The missions are a mix of stand-off air-to-air engagements, close-in dogfights, and ground strikes with dumb munitions and air-to-ground missiles. One nice feature is the dynamic campaigns -- even if you fail a mission, you can continue playing and the campaign adjusts, changing the final outcome (after all, no one wins every time).
In addition to time in your plane you also spend time aboard INS Peacekeeper. You can walk around the ship (much like you would in an adventure-style game) or use a menu to get you from place to place quickly. You can visit the briefing rooms, control and hangar decks, and even your own cabin where you can admire your medals and awards or check for email from your family. You can also view an extensive database that includes specs on all the military hardware you will encounter, as well as a dossier on each pilot you can select to be your wingman. Each pilot has different skills and personalities -- selecting the right one for the mission at hand is important. You can even design a personalized insignia for your plane -- a very nice touch.
JetFighter III was one of the best-looking fighter sims available at the time. The terrain in the game was generated using data from U.S. Department of Defense, FAA, Defense Mapping Agency, USGS and NOAA maps, and it looks great. The mountains tower around you, the rivers and other scenery are accurate and lifelike, and the atmospheric effects (which include transparent clouds, smoke, fire and dynamic lighting) add to the realism of this flight experience.