Total Air War is a semi-sequel to D.I.D.'s F-22 ADF simulation. This entirely new product covers many aspects of the original simulation that many people felt were left out of the original, such as dynamic campaigns. Total Air War (TAW) attempts to cover the main shortcomings of F-22 ADF which only contained canned campaigns rather than dynamic ones. This surprised many, given what success D.I.D. had with the dynamic campaigns given to us in EF2000.
TAW does indeed have dynamic campaigns...ten of them, in fact. While each campaign does take place over roughly the same (huge) amount of area, the reasons involved for your being there are quite different. Each campaign is a scenario that has a certain amount of time in which to accomplish the mission goals. Whenever you enter a campaign, you go to the war room. It's from here that you see how the campaign is progressing, review the mission briefing for the campaign and select missions from the generated mission list.
You, as an F-22 pilot or as an AWACS commander (more on this later) play important roles in the success or failure of the campaign. Campaigns start off with your in-game persona being of very low rank. The only missions available to you here are usually escort and CAP missions. The more missions you complete, however, the more experience you'll get. This leads to not only promotions but better missions as well.
The game is more than just a pretty campaign or two, however. In addition, the game includes a training module, a simulator module for free flights and dogfights, a custom dogfighting module, an instant action mode and multi-player options. These all add to the already infinite replay value of this game.
There are two ways to play, namely, the simulator module or the AWACS module. The simulator module is exactly like you'd expect. The handling and characteristics of the plane are completely customizable so you can have either a realistic or arcade-like experience. There are three main screens within the aircraft that display just about everything the pilot would ever need to know, from fuel usage to weapon stores to defensive systems to radar. This severely lightens the workload on the pilot so that he or she may concentrate on what's really important.
What makes this simulation different, however, is not the outstanding F-22 modeling but the inclusion of an AWACS module. This gives players, for the first time, total command over all the current friendly air assets in the area. This mode is almost like a real time strategy game. A map of the area is presented to you with green symbols for friends, blue for neutral forces and red for enemies. It's from here that you can order intercepts of enemy aircraft. This, to me, can be more fun than the actual simulator. The nice thing is that you can jump, from this mode, into any F-22 on the screen and take over its mission, jumping back to the AWACS at any time.
The presentation of the game is also well done. The graphics, while not being the best on the market, are surely better than most efforts. The attention to detail on the inside and outside of the aircraft it superb. The audio of the game is no slouch either, although it tends to crackle at time with a lot of ongoing chatter.
How does this all piece together? Very well, in fact. TAW is an outstanding game just like EF2000 before it. The manual included with this game is also astounding and an example of how manuals should be done. It's huge, well written and well laid out, explaining everything one would need to know about the game without the need for a strategy guide.
The only problems I see is that owners of F-22 ADF have to pay full price for what essentially is a glorified add-on. A rebate is included but doesn't seem to soften the blow any. Secondly, Direct 3D support seems much spottier than the Glide support in this game but if you have a glide card, you'll be just fine.
In conclusion and on a sad note, this is probably the last simulation we'll ever see from D.I.D. A short while ago, D.I.D. apparently disbanded (circa 1999) and most of its employees walked out. The employees that stayed were shuffled onto other projects. This seems to be the fate of flight simulation groups lately. We're fortunate, however, that D.I.D. left behind two fantastic flight simulations, EF2000 and Total Air War. They can last for years on any armchair pilot's hard drive and probably will, too.
Graphics: Beautiful graphics, if a bit spotty in D3D mode. If you have a 3dFX card, you're as good as gravy.
Sound: Great chatter and sound effects, although a bit crackly.
Enjoyment: Incredibly playable and enjoyable
Replay Value: Dynamic campaigns, single missions, and multiplayer options all round out a highly replayable package.
People who downloaded F-22 Total Air War have also downloaded:
F-22 Lightning 3, F/A-18 Operation Desert Storm, F-22 Raptor, F/A-18E Super Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. iF-16 Fighting Falcon), F-16 Aggressor, Jane's F/A-18, F-22 Lightning 2
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