Jane's Fighters Anthology is a compilation pack of two previously released Jane's products: Advanced Tactical Fighters Gold and U.S. Navy Fighters '97. Both of these titles were originally released in 1996, and Fighters Anthology (FA) neatly draws them together into one complete package. However, while most compilation releases simply settle for re-packaging several products into one box, Jane's have taken the extra step and seamlessly combined the two, adding new interface designs and product upgrades, as well as a classy new manual and native Windows support. For this reason, FA appears as a stand-alone product, even though it is a compilation release.
Firstly, it's very important to note that FA is not a hardcore simulation. Instead, Jane's aim is to provide gamers with a large number of different aircraft to fly across a variety of theatres, while still maintaining enough realism to avoid the dreaded "arcade" tag. In this regard, FA succeeds admirably. There are a grand total of about 100 planes to fly, incorporating jets from the Vietnam era to futuristic prototype designs, and six different terrain areas to fight over.
Of course, it's absolutely impossible to recreate a hundred aircraft with exacting accuracy, and concessions must be made in the realism department to accommodate such an extensive catalogue of planes. While all aircraft in the game have their own cockpit art, flight modeling seems to be based around a generic system. Most planes feel very similar, with only a few noticeable differences across the hundred or so included. Also, avionics are generic, meaning that radar and other systems are identical for all planes. Small "windows" appear in-flight at the bottom of the screen, displaying important flight information such as targeting and radar feedback. On the realism scale, Fighters Anthology is best described as moderate, and while it won't satisfy the hardcore element, it provides a comfortable learning curve for newcomers to the genre.
Unfortunately, compared to contemporary releases such as Jane's Longbow 2, Fighters Anthology is a little dated graphically. This is probably due to the fact that the two titles that provide the graphics engine are both based upon the original 1995 U.S. Navy Fighters engine from EA. Terrain and aircraft both appear a little pixelated, especially up-close, and because of its vintage there is no support for 3D accelerators. Graphically FA is passable, but not up to the standard of other releases in '97.
Where FA does shine is in the depth of gameplay options. Along with over 25 individual missions the game has six campaigns, including the geographical areas of Vietnam, Egypt, the Baltic, Russia, Ukraine and the Kuril Islands. All are linear, with canned "win to proceed" style objectives, but the range is very nice. Because of the massive variety of aircraft, you'll get to experience plenty of differing scenarios. For example, during the Kuril Islands campaign carrier operations are to the fore, while Vietnam will require you to hone your dogfighting skills with fierce guns-only furballs. There are also vectored-thrust planes like the British Harrier with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. It's this kind of variety that gives FA such a wide appeal and makes it an extremely enjoyable sim.
Multi-player adds to the melee of gameplay options, with support for modem, network and TCP/IP Internet play. To add to the game's longevity, Jane's have also included a full mission builder/designer, so you can design and trade missions with your friends. It's very powerful, allowing you to set all kinds of parameters, from location and weather to waypoint and mission objectives. A full chapter of the manual is dedicated to explaining the vagaries of design, so, like the rest of FA, the mission creator is easily accessible.
It's not for the hardcore simmer, and the graphics are a little dated, but Fighters Anthology is still a very enjoyable game that has a lot of gameplay to offer. There's not much new here for owners of ATF Gold or U.S. Navy Fighters '97, but the amount of variety packed into the two CDs that comprise Fighters Anthology will keep most people entertained for a very long time indeed.
Graphics: A little dated, but generally acceptable.
Enjoyment: Plenty of variety and action for simmers and non-simmers alike.
Replay Value: A multitude of options will keep you coming back for more.
People who downloaded Jane's Fighters Anthology have also downloaded:
Jane's USAF, Jane's WWII Fighters, Jane's F-15, Jane's F/A-18, Jane's AH-64D Longbow Gold, ATF: Advanced Tactical Fighters, Jane's Combat Simulations: Attack Squadron, Longbow 2
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