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Jane's has long been associated with combat flight simulators, as a few of you will remember Fighters Anthology, US navy fighters and longbow were in their day the best that could be had.Flight Simulators started making a strong presence a few years back, with sims such as flight Sim98 it was possible to fly missions with realistic flight parameters and also learn navigation. Combat flight simulators were fun.... Heck, who doesn't like instant action and hell bent for leather flying, but the level of realism left much to be desired.... until now!

One of my favorite Combat flight sims had to be Jane's IAF, flight parameters were adjustable from invincible cheat to totally realistic... where I was left wanting more was in the graphics department.... while the landscape was geographically correct, the pixely rendering at lower altitudes tended to take away from the experience.

Since seeing a preview of Jane's USAF back in the spring I was left with a mouth watering for all the gorgeous graphics I saw. After 8 months of patient (most of the time) waiting I wandered in to my local software store and fell to my knees in awe, the day had arrived! For a hard core flight simmer like me... I wasn't concerned with the sticker price... only that it be loaded on my machine that evening! As a matter of fact in celebration of my purchase I smashed open my piggy bank and bought a MS Sidewinder force feedback pro!


Installation was simple, although it might be worth nothing that a full install takes no less that 1.2 GB, so you might want to make yourself a coffee and read the game manual while waiting for it to load. You'll need a PII class processor to really enjoy this game although you can still play it on a 200 MHz machine. A decent graphics accelerator of at least 4 megs, 64 megs of ram and enough disk space (1245 Mb fir full install). I did play this game on my sisters K6/2 450 with a 16meg savage4 card, 48 megs RAM,and graphics were silky smooth. If you have a PIII processor you now have a sim that makes use of your SSE instruction set

The Graphics

This is what sets USAF apart from all other sims.... The terrain is so realistic you can almost reach out and touch it, as with IAF the terrain is geographically correct plotted by satellite and integrated into the game.... there are a plethora of graphics customizations to tailor the game to your needs or your hardware's limitations.

For you PIII owners you will be glad to know that Jane's has integrated SSE instructions into the game for Ultra high levels that are only available to PIII users. There is no mention made of support for 3Dnow!, if there isn't it would be a crying shame because 3Dnow! is a great instruction set and really boosts the 3D performance of AMD processors.

My gaming set up is a 578 PPGA celeron (366 @ 105 FSB), soundblaster live value,128 Mb RAM, and a V770 Ultra using detonator drivers (the diamond provided drivers have nice features but are sluggish in my opinion). 1024x768 32bit is the screen settings I used due to the cheapish nature of my monitor, rendering was excellent and the colors were believable. Frame rates were excellent with the exception of frames rates dropping MASSIVELY when multiple explosions and smoke trails are occurring on the screen at the same time. This was a trait that Jane's WWII fighters also had, it was a bit of Jane's lineage that I was disappointed to see carry over into this game.

The Sound

If you are the owner of a decent sound card and some nice speakers (preferably with a Sub) you will experience a sim experience that will make you swear that you really were in a fighter cockpit. I am a military Aviation Technician by trade so trust me when I say that Jane's has done a very good job emulating proper aircraft sounds and cockpit chatter. There is the trademark Hard rock music score that tends to accompany ALL jet combat sims, but since I like hard rock it was well placed. I did find that the default voice settings were a tad loud for my tastes, but like the graphics the sound is very configurable and user friendly.

The Controls

There are a huge amount of keyboard commands that need to be learned if you want to enjoy this game, the most important being radar controls and weapons system control. If you play the training missions the instructor will talk you through all of this.

The Aircraft all display different flight characteristics, which a good sim should. If you are in a F4-E and you have a MIG-21 on your tail you better be a good pilot and know how to use advanced air combat maneuvers (outlined in the provided manual). Stalls, spins,blackouts,red-outs are all user selectable. If you have a joystick with throttle and rudder control you will really enjoy flying, I my self use a force feedback stick and the results are exciting to say the least.

Jane's seems to be following a standard pattern for assigning keyboard layout and commands, this means that if you are a seasoned IAF pilot that you can jump right into USAF and feel right at home, Good job Jane's! There is even support for full duplex audio during online gaming and network furballs.... eliminating the need for the player to release the joystick to type a message to his/her comrades or adversaries.... once again, Good job Jane's!

Lets Play

When you first launch the game you will notice that it seems to take a good minute or so to initialize....Before you dive into action I would recommend doing the training missions first as the instructor will teach you how to use the avionics and control the aircraft.... still to this day I love to play the air to air refueling mission.... it is so much fun to take a load of fuel from a KC135 and then peel off with a few rolls. Once you have the training done and you have a good feel for the flight dynamics and know your way around the cockpit it's time to fly a real mission.

One thing that is immediately apparent is that the AI of the opposing pilots is far better than any combat sim I have played to date, you are at the mercy of BVR (beyond visual range) ordinance and enemy pilots who tend to hunt in packs. I've learned that chaff and flares don't do you any good unless you combine them with high-G turns and jinking.... boys and girls this IS realistic. The addition of a force feedback joystick only adds to the fun, you can feel the recoil from your missiles.... when you light the afterburners, on takeoff and landing.... and Oh yes, when you take a missile shot... you think you just hit the slow end of a freight train!

Take offs and landings tend to be just as hazardous as combat! which makes everything more fun. Fighter pilots make movies... bomber pilots make history! If this is your credo then why not load up a F-4 Phantom II with MK84 GP iron bombs and go do some high speed low level bombing.... watch out for those Sam's. You can fly aircraft from the F-105 Thunderchief (THUD) to the ultra quick F22 Raptor. Be warned that this sim is addictive and habit forming, I have taken 2 days longer than I wanted to writing this article because I kept getting sidetracked into a "little" flying.


There are so many things I like about this game that it is hard for me to say anything negative.... I suppose I could mention that the force feedback on the guns was intermittent at times, but I can overlook this as a minor glitch that will probably be corrected in future patches. Also the dropping of frame rates during periods of incredible on screen activity left me somewhat put out. However if you are a die hard flight sim junkie then you drop whatever you are doing and go get this game, in my opinion it has no equal . I give it a big Thumb up.

Official Jane's USAF Site : http://www.janes.ea.com/usaf/home.html

Al "Jetfuel" Drake
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