|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2013)|
|Release date(s)||December 12, 1998|
|Genre(s)||Combat flight simulator|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
Falcon 4.0 is a combat flight simulator video game released on December 12, 1998 by MicroProse. The game is based around a realistic simulation of the Block 50/52 F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter in a full-scale modern war set in the Korean Peninsula. Among many notable features, Falcon 4.0's dynamic campaign engine runs autonomously.
The game is the ultimate development in the Falcon series from Spectrum HoloByte that started in 1984. HoloByte had acquired MicroProse in 1993, and started using that name for all their titles in 1996. After MicroProse was purchased by Hasbro, official development ended. A source code leak
The game's war starts in the early 1990s with North Korean forces invading the Southern Republic of Korea. The United States deploys extensive support to the South, including military aircraft, armored forces and naval vessels. The rest of the game's war plays out depending on the player's actions, potentially involving China and Russia. Japan has an airbase, but plays no role in the conflict itself. Due to the game's story which involves war in the Korean Peninsula, the game was banned in Republic of Korea until 2003.
Falcon 4.0's gameplay parallels actual fighter pilot combat operations. First, over 30 training scenarios acquaint the player with F-16 maneuvering, avionics operation and various USAF protocols. After training, the player may start the primary gameplay mode in the campaign, which simulates participation in a modern war. Alternatively he or she may engage in dogfight mode which provides an individual air engagement without any continuous context, or create what are effectively miniature campaigns, known as "Tactical Engagements".
The results of the players performance while using Falcon 4.0 are used to generate a 'logbook'. This contains such details as flight hours, air-to-air and air-to-ground kills, decorations, a name and photo and the current rank of the player. Good performance (such as eliminating large numbers of enemy ground units or surviving a difficult engagement) during a mission may lead to the award of a decoration or promotion, while conversely, poor performance (destroying friendly targets or ejecting from the aircraft for no good reason) can lead to court-martial and demotion.
Campaign gameplay has two primary stages, briefings and missions. The briefing section is used to handle planning of flights and packages (a number a flights grouped together for mutual support in obtaining a military objective), assignment of steerpoints for determining the route of a given flight and the weapons loadout used by the aircraft. It is also possible to issue instructions to each ground unit manually, overriding the AI's handling of the war. As is the situation for real life pilots, it is of the utmost importance that the player closely examines all of the data presented here to perform well during the mission, in order to best formulate a plan of action when actually flying the jet. Failing to note the location and abilities of enemy SAM sites or CAP aircraft and account for methods of defeating these will almost certainly result in a short flight.
The mission section of the simulator encompasses the actual mechanics of flying the aircraft, radar and weapons operation, threat evaluation, radio communications and navigation. Everything is done in such a manner as to model the aircraft in use as closely as possible, while on the highest realism settings.
The initial release of the software came with three pre-set scenarios for the player use in campaign mode. 'Tiger Spirit' depicted a war where ROK and Allied forces had repelled the initial DPRK assault and moved onto the offensive. 'Rolling Fire' depicted a closely matched situation where DPRK forces had overrun the DMZ and made small gains, while 'Iron Fortress' simulated a scenario where the North had overwhelmed the South and pushed them back to their last line of defense.
Unlike its static counterpart, a dynamic campaign has no set game path. Missions and the rest of the game world develop as the game progresses, affected in part by the player's behavior. Dynamic campaigns can present a more random and diverse game experience, but are more difficult for programmers to implement. The AI controlling the activity of the Falcon 4.0 campaign engine can be influenced by a wide range of configurable settings, all of which can be adjusted to meet changing objectives as the scenario progresses.
A Tactical Engagement (or TE) is a small scale hand-built 'one-shot' mission with a pre-defined objective. The same engine handles the activity of an AI controlled units. One of the advantages of building this style of mission is that it allows experienced pilots to practice attacks on high value, well defended targets, which are often eliminated from campaigns early on as the planning AI assigns packages to eliminate these early during the war, in order to maximise the effect on enemy combat readiness.
The Instant Action mode of operation places the user in a F-16 currently in flight, armed with an infinite number of missiles. Progressively more capable waves of enemy aircraft then move in and engage the player aircraft. Many different options are available to customise this mode, including disabling SAM and AAA defenses, setting unlimited fuel and the difficulty of the first wave of inbound hostiles.
Falcon 4.0 originally featured 3D graphics with multitexturing support. It was one of the very first multi-threaded programs on the market and was designed to take advantage of dual x86 processors. The game used two threads: one for graphics and primary simulation and the other thread for the campaign engine.
The game was originally designed and produced by Steve Blankenship and Gilman Louie and published under the MicroProse label. The game was rushed to the market in order to make the 1998 Christmas selling season. Unfortunately, Falcon 4.0's first release contained numerous bugs. The final official patch (version 1.08) fixed most of them. After completion of 1.08 patch, the original development team was laid off by Hasbro Interactive.
- gio (2011-03-12). "Interview with Kevin Klemmick - Lead Software Engineer for Falcon 4.0". Cleared-To-Engage. Retrieved 2012-12-18. "[C2E] In 2000 the source code of Falcon 4.0 leaked out and after that groups of volunteers were able to make fixes and enhancements that assured the longevity of this sim. Do you see the source code leak as a good or bad event? [Klemmick] "Absolutely a good event. In fact I wish I’d known who did it so I could thank them. I honestly think this should be standard procedure for companies that decide not to continue to support a code base.""