F-22 Lightning 3
It's difficult to know whether to take NovaLogic's flight sims seriously or not Part of the problem is the company's unwillingness to accept that they're not at the forefront of heavyweight flight sim realism, but that they're no more hardcore than an Electric Blue video directed by your grandmother.
When Novalogic started, they had a gimmick - voxels (don't ask for an explanation, we've never really understood how they worked). This was pre-3D acceleration though, and as technology continues its inevitable march towards the enslavement of all mankind, the strange pixelated worlds that the various Comanches, Raptors and Lightnings inhabit have become as redundant as talent on daytime TV.
Rather predictably then, F-22 Lightning 3 embraces the world of 3D acceleration, combining their voxels with all the usual Glide and D3D hoo-hah to create something that actually looks pretty decent - still a little blocky close up, but generally pretty good. Not quite on a par with something like F-22 Total Air War, but perfectly acceptable by today's ridiculously inflated standards.
Without the voxels to rely on, NovaLogic have had to throw their weight behind a few different gimmicks to attract the crowds. The first is the use of nuclear weapons. The only other flight sim we can remember that deployed nukes was F/A-18 Korea, and they were pathetic. F-22 nukes are actually a lot of fun (er, if you see what I mean). The first time you drop a nuke on a target and find yourself desperately trying to outrun the resulting shockwave effect is a blast. However, that old adage 'drop one nuke and you've dropped them all' quickly comes into play.
The other gimmick is the online play via NovaWorld, NovaLogic's proprietary Internet gaming service which, as always, works pretty well. Few instances of lag are evident, and the service always seems fairly well-populated. The new feature on offer is Voice-Over-Net, real-time audio communication with other pilots. But how well this works is unclear, since whenever I tried to test it, no one else online was using the feature. Still, they were all Americans, so it was probably for the best.
Gimme Your Last Plane
The best way to sum up the game Is this: when you sit down at Total Air War, you feel as though you're actually taking part in a realistic portrayal of modern aerial warfare. You're on CNN. Shit matters. With F-22 Lightning 3, you feel as though you're in a Hollywood movie (albeit a pretty short one). The music is dramatic and ties into the on-screen action, the radio chatter adds tension to each situation and makes you feel like Tom Cruise in Top Gun (or, to a lesser extent, John Gedrick in Iron Eagle!), and the missions are designed in such a way that they help progress each mini-storyline rather than simulate real-world situations.
It's an arcade game. A fairly sophisticated one, sure, but an arcade game plain and simple. There's never any feeling of progression, no attempt to draw you in for longer than a quick blast. The campaigns are utterly pointless, being just a series of linear single missions stuck together. But while you're in the air it's fun and playable. No more, no less. NovaLogic would do well to realise this in the future. They make good games, but lousy simulations.
Download F-22 Lightning 3
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2018-12-24 F-22 Lightning 3 game added.