In this review, I will be going into the Strike Fighters 2 (SF2) series. The Strike Fighters series started out way back when as a lite combat sim using older attack aircraft such as the F-4 and the various aircraft of that nature; they mostly Vietnam era aircraft. It has since evolved into a multiple part series including Strike Fighters Vietnam, Strike Fighters: Wings over Europe: Cold War Gone Hot, First Eagles, and Wings over Israel. Unfortunately, when Vista came out, the SF1 series had major issues with it. The SF2 series is designed to improve on the series and to add Vista support.
Installation and Documentation
The installation was straight forward. All I had to do was run the EXE’s and go through the steps to install. SF2 has HTML documentation, not my personal favorite (that would be a well constructed PDF), but it will do. I found that the various programs installed into one directory. This allows you to run all the content from the various SF2 sims off one EXE. The catch I found out later though was in the mod installs, but that’s for later.
Combining the three, there’s plenty of content to go around. Strike Fighters 2 is more based around the Middle East, where the Vietnam title is, you guessed it, based in Vietnam, and Europe is Cold War era Germany. Each one comes with a multitude of aircraft, and a good array of campaigns and weapons.
As far as content goes, with the various products installed, you get plenty of campaigns along with a random mission generator. The biggest issue I had though was there were no pre-set missions, mission editors, or training missions, and no multiplayer. The biggest frustration for me was the lack of multiplayer, as I feel that it’s critical to have multiplayer support in a sim.
As for mod support, it is important to remember this, if you are installing a mod, install it into the directory of the actual application you are running. If you install it into the Strike Fighters 2 directory, you won’t see the mod in the Europe EXE.
Flight modeling seems OK, however I can’t speak for the accuracy as I have never flown any of these aircraft in real life. They all handle like you would expect, and they feel good. It’s good to have flight modeling that feels proper in such a multitude of aircraft.
The aircraft seem to handle like their mass implies, and I haven’t seen anything causing issues yet. One nice thing I noticed is that if you try to do foolish things, the aircraft will respond appropriately. For example, when I first tried to take off in the A-10, I crashed because I was not taking into account how to properly fly the aircraft during this procedure and I stalled, crashed and burned.
The campaigns are pretty good, however they seem a little repetitive. I seemed to get plenty of instances of “attack this warehouse” where I got a bit bored. However, the sim does well to mix up air to ground and air to air ops, even though the missions felt canned. Even though it is a dynamic campaign, it just didn’t feel as dynamic as I was hoping. So I can’t give the campaign full marks.
I will say this however, the mercenary campaigns were FUN, as you had to kill your target to get paid and you had to buy your weapons and airframes which is a nice change from the normal situation of just going off of what is in your stockpile. The sim felt a little more tense because of the “If I don’t complete my objectives I don’t get paid” factor.
It also seemed as if pilots would gain experience and skill as the campaigns moved along, which is nice to see, as it’s not like your guys are going to just ignore their mistakes and successes and keep doing the same thing over and over.
Skynet is back with a vengeance
The AI in this sim seems to be pretty good. I will not hesitate to say that it has some flaws; however then again, I don’t want perfect AI that never makes mistakes as that would just ruin the feeling of it being human.
What I can’t tolerate though, is AI aircraft doing things that you CAN’T do. I didn’t encounter this. The AI was pretty hard to get off my 6 in some occurrences, which is a good thing; because it means that the AI isn’t completely stupid. In general, it’s always good to have a challenging opponent, and the AI put up a decent fight.
Aww come on, I can’t do that?
The thing that angered me most in the sim was that I couldn’t play multiplayer. I like playing online with my friends, and as such, I’m disappointed when a developer doesn’t implement multiplayer support, especially when the sim is an enhanced version of a title that used to have multiplayer support.
Furthermore, I didn’t notice any way to record tracks or acmi or replays, which would be an invaluable feature for evaluating how you got shot down. Finally, I couldn’t find any way to turn off that pesky info bar at the bottom of the screen.
Graphics, for all you kids who think graphics are more important than the sim
Before anyone gripes about that header, I felt I would poke fun at the people who value graphics more than the sim itself. The graphics seem pretty decent, and as such, I enjoyed them. I enjoyed the little details I noticed such as the pilots head pivoting on a swivel in the cockpit from the external view.
I also noticed that the cockpits were pretty good, and there were plenty of them, including various cockpits based on numerous versions of the same aircraft. That was a nice little touch. There were other things such as the glow of the afterburners and the sun’s projecting light from it which were pretty nice, but I feel it could have used a bit of HDR bloom to truly emulate the effect of fighting someone in the sun, as usually the sun is the enemy’s blind spot, but it didn’t seem all that blinding in this.
The panels say…
The panels are nice and there are plenty of them. The only real issue I have with the panels is that you can’t click them. I am a hands-on person, and I am much more able to fly an aircraft if I can look at the panel and click on the switches rather than just using the keyboard. There are panels for the various aircraft, however I can’t get over not being able to click them.
The RWR is a great feature and can save your life if you know how to use it. All in all, the panels get a pass for visual but really should be clickable.
The sounds of an air war…
The sounds are good. The engines sound powerful like they should, and other sounds are pretty good as well. The voices of the controllers also sound OK along with the wingmen.
I especially liked the menu music, but that’s not that important. The only gripe I’ve seen with it so far is that the sounds seem to be a bit canned, and you don’t hear enough variety in what people say. This can be said of most sims. However, a little variety, such as different ways of saying the same thing, would be nice. Especially in the case of things such as people being shot down. The sounds overall are good, I just hoped for a little more variety.
Summary / Closing Remarks
All in all, Strike Fighters 2 is a breath of fresh air up to a point. There are some major let downs though, some of which are inexcusable in my opinion. The biggest ones I can think of is the fact that they pulled the Multiplayer option (which was in the first version), and they didn’t include any training missions.
These two things are critical for me in a simulator, especially a combat simulator. If they just add those, I’d say this is something you may want to look at, but because of that, I sadly can’t recommend it in its current state. I would love to be able to recommend these, however the lack of multiplayer is the biggest killer of it, as it’s always more fun to fly a combat mission with friends than to fly alone, and after a while the sim may get stale without multiplayer and a mission editor.
What I Like About Strike Fighters 2
What I Don't Like About Strike Fighters 2
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