In F-22 Lightning 3 players will find a complete simulation that is simple to learn, has plenty of missions, and features excellent multiplayer options. Whether you are an expert at flight simulations or not, you should have no problem learning this game in under an hour. Many flight sims, at least those that are the most realistic, include large manuals that are typically easy to get lost in. F-22 Lightning 3's manual on the other hand is just over 30 pages, very simplistic, and covers the basics.
Though what really teaches players how to play are the first few quick missions. During quick missions a narrator will describe the HUD layout and how to go about performing each action. The HUD should not overwhelm anyone and cycling between each readout is a breeze with the numerical keypad. All of the controls are a snap to learn as well. Inside the manual is a two-page keyboard layout that documents all of the keys. There is also an overlay provided that is placed over the "F" keys displaying the functions of each "F" key and the numerical keys right below them. Every key can be customized too, plus the game features a selectable joystick layout for a variety of controllers.
The F-22 handles smoothly and is very responsive. Maneuvering is no problem at all nor is targeting the enemy. A large number of options allow the user to set the realism level. Redouts and blackouts can be turned on or off and some controls can be set on automatic: auto-follow target, auto-follow route, auto-landing, auto-level, auto-match speed, auto-refuel, and auto-takeoff. Another major plus is the ability to accelerate time so that you do not have to waste time flying to a far away steer point. Also, weapons loads can be increased over what an actual F-22 can carry for those players who need the extra ammunition.
Once you get the controls down it is time for some action in either the quick missions, a campaign, or over the Internet. As mentioned above the early quick missions teach players the basics but as you continue through them they become standard single missions that can be played in any order. The quick missions are just as good as any mission found in the campaign mode; they are simply there for users who do not want to play through a full campaign. Campaigns are divided up with each one taking place in an individual country. When you begin a campaign you get to name yourself and eventually earn points and awards. Statistics are tracked for each pilot, such as craft lost and number of enemy kills. In total there are 46 missions in Campaign mode.
If you want to jump into the Internet play right away the first thing you should do is register. Novalogic requires players to register and you will not be able to play until an activation code is sent to you via e-mail. They also state that it can take up to three days to receive the activation code -- it took about 20 hours for mine to arrive. An amazing 128 players can take part in dogfights at the same time. Online you can also take part in bombing an opposing team's base or team up with 16 people to play special cooperative missions. Voice communication is supported and the game includes a headset. F-22 Lightning 3's Internet play is quite stable and adds a large amount of replay value to an already impressive game.
Just as the game excels in gameplay, it does the same in the graphics and sound departments. Graphically the jets feature a large amount of detail. From a third-person view players can see everything from the small flashing lights on the wing tips to the slightest movements of the flaps. Spin upside down and check out your arsenal too. Backgrounds look just as good but they do not contain a lot of objects. Usually they consist of plain landscapes with your runway, sometimes a few buildings, and when the mission calls for them, ground targets. Weather is yet another feature that shines. Pilots will encounter snow, rain, lightning, wind, and hail.
Sounds are excellent. Radio chatter takes place during missions as your wingman announces when enemy fighters have been spotted. Other allies will shout when they are taking heavy damage and need help. The radio chatter gets really exciting when a mission contains lots and lots of enemy fighters. The cannon fire is a little weak but just about everything else is a treat.
F-22 Lightning 3 is the complete package. Top-notch gameplay, graphics, sound, and Internet options. Both veterans and novices will find a lot to like in this flight sim.
Graphics: Weather effects are impressive and all of the jets look great.
Sound: Radio chatter can be intense when there are a large number of enemy fighters.
Enjoyment: Gameplay is excellent, there are plenty of missions, and the controls are easy to learn.
Replay Value: More than 50 single-player missions are included plus unlimited replay value can be found in the Internet dogfights.
People who downloaded F-22 Lightning 3 have also downloaded:
F-22 Lightning 2, F-22 Raptor, F/A-18E Super Hornet, F-22 Total Air War, F-16 Multirole Fighter, Comanche 4, F-16 Aggressor, F-16 Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. iF-16 Fighting Falcon)
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