Mig Alley is Rowan Software's latest foray into the simulator market. Their last sim, Flying Corps Gold, set the standard for WWI Air Combat Simulations, and is still played by many people today, myself included, years after its release. Mig Alley tackles a topic rarely covered in the anals of computer gaming, The Korean War, or "The Forgotten War." This period in history has gotten little coverage within the realm of simulations (except for Sabre Ace, but that's better forgotten). One can only speculate why this is so. Maybe it's the combination of fast jets and guns-only dogfighting that many developers find intimidating. Whatever the case, it's probably easier to model a WWII or modern Jet Combat sim. Whatever the case, Rowan has taken on the task of basically being the only sim in the business to model this interesting period of aerial warfare. How well do they fare? Read on, my friend.
Installation of the program is a snap. The game takes up a measly 300 megabytes on your hard drive. Once installed and running, you're treated to a typical Rowan introduction, which shows lots of planes shooting each other with some nice music in the background. Once at the main menu, you'll notice a plethora of options await you. The first option you'll want to probably go to are the preferences screens. I say screens because there are half a dozen screen on which to set preferences, including two just for 3D control. This, again, is typical Rowan fashion, as their games seem to have so many options that one wonders where the kitchen sink is. This is a fantastic way to tailor the game to your liking in many, many ways.
Once your options are set, you can start with the Hotshot (read: Instant Action) missions. These missions basically let you set some options and then put you in the middle of the air with some baddies around for target practice. This is a nice feature for when you just want to quickly get up in the air and shoot something after a hard day of work.
The next option is called "Quick Missions." These are basically training and single missions that can be tailored to fit any desired mission category. Besides the training missions, such as taking off and what not, there are several areas and perameters that may be set to ensure an almost infinite number of missions, since they're generated by the computer. This is nice when you want to take on a fully blown mission without having to worry about an overall campaign.
Speaking of which, the next section (and the one where the most time will be spent), is the campaign section. The are four (count 'em!) dynamic campaigns with this game. The first three campaigns involve computer generated missions that you can alter, if needbe, and take place at different stages of the conflict. The campaign is presented first with a map/planning screen that shows you everything you'd ever need to know about the current conflict, and has many windows and screens to show you flights, missions, objectives, squadrons, and so forth.
The final campaign is the masterpiece of the game, however. This campaign, called the Spring Offensive, basically puts you in charge of the whole air campaign and tells you to have at it. The nice thing about this is that you can have as much or as little control as you want. If you want to do every little piece of planning yourself, you can. If, however, you'd like to concentrate more on flying the missions, you can dictate general objctives, and then your "staff" will handle the rest.
Once you've chosen your desired mode of play, it's on to the simulation. This is where the game really shines. The game models several planes, including several variants of the F-86 Sabre, the F-80, the F-51D (P-51), the F-84, and the Mig 15. This gives the player a lot of variety in the missions they may choose. The beautiful thing about the game is that each aircraft has an individual flight model, making each aircraft QUITE different by way of performance and handling. The nimble F-86's are great dogfighters, for example, while the sturdy F-80 is a great mud mover. All of the idiosyncrasies of the planes are modeled in exacting detail, which makes for a great learning experience. The cockpits also deserve special mention. They're fully 3D and clickable, and quite a sight to behold.
The missions themselves are a total blast to play. Never in my time as a sim pilot have I seen the level of detail and immersion that has gone into these missions. The game models full Forward Air Controllers (guys who fly around marking targets for you), as well as full ground targets and lots of air targets too. This is one sim that, throughout a mission, has a LOT going on at any given time, and this doesn't slow the frame rate down one bit. Even with dozens (the game can support many, many planes in the air at one time), the game was smooth and fluid. There's so much radio chatter at one time that one feels they're really in the middle of a great conflict. Rowan really outdid themselves this time.
The game also includes multiplayer options, although over my paltry modem connection, there was a lot of lag. This is more the fault of my connection than the game, but one hopes that the internet play could be more streamlined. It's easy to get into, however, and full campaigns may be flown cooperatively, which is a real boon to multiplayer gaming.
Overall, I must say that this is the best simulation of 1999. It's got the looks, the depth, and the legs to keep it going for many, many years to come. If you're at all interested in Air Combat, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't own this game.
Graphics: Beautiful, lush terrains, gorgeous cockpits and planes make for a great visuals
Sound: Great sound effects, nice music, and lots of radio chatter pull the player in.
Enjoyment: This game is a pure blast to play.
Replay Value: With lots of generated single missions, fully dynamic campaigns, and multiplayer options, this one will last for ages.
People who downloaded Mig Alley have also downloaded:
Rowan's Battle of Britain, Jane's USAF, Red Baron 3D, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator: WWII Europe Series, Flying Corps Gold, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theater, Sabre Ace: Conflict Over Korea, Jane's Fighters Anthology
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