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Back to Baghdad (DOS)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Maury Markowitz (226)
Written on  :  Dec 18, 2001
Rating  :  1 Stars1 Stars1 Stars1 Stars1 Stars

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Worst flight sim ever?

The Good

There's no doubt that the authors of this game were trying to give it a good shot. In theory they had a great idea - buy terrain imagery from one company, 3D models from another, the best of the best out there. And then just wrap that in a great engine, which they'd write, and off you go, slight simming perfection!

But they didn't actually do any of this.

Now some parts they got right. The graphics for the interior of the plane are excellent and wouldn't be matched until Falcon 4 shipped some time later. The realism of the cockpit was likewise modeled, complete with various radar modes, buttons that lit up, etc.

And indeed, they did manage to map out most of Iraq using sat imagry (hand colored I believe) to provide a reasonably realistic terrain to play in.

But that's all they got right. No really, everything else about this game was terrible.

The Bad

Let's start with the flight model, which they claimed was the best ever created on a PC.

It isn't. You can sum it up basically this way, "engine on? don't stall. engine off? crash". Takeoffs and landings? No problem, just point nose at ground, keep it pointed down… perfect three-point landing! The flight model is so painfully hard-wired that you aren't flying a plane at all, but a missile with a pilot. It's not so much that it's bad, but more like they didn't really have the first clue how to write one.

Then there were the weapons. Again, the reviews claimed that every weapon was carefully modelled and realistically simulated.

Hogwash. Try as I might I was never able to get the HARM to hit anything, and the instructions for using it appeared to be wrong. I even tried charging a SA-6 site once to get the damb things to lock on and hit, but it just flew off on a nice parabolic arc into the ground. Nice.

Meanwhile in the air-to-air portions of the game were just as bad. Here I am sitting in a plane with a 360 degree view of the world (thanks to AWACS sending me info) out to some unreasonable range, facing 1960's vintage MiG-21's which were still sitting on the ground when I flew towards them. Invariably the MiG's would take off, lock on, launch and start hitting me before I could get even an AMRAMM to pick them up. And of course their missiles never seemed to miss, while mine flew off in nice parabolic arcs into the ground.

And the vaunted terrain? Well I applaud them for trying, but they just didn't get it right. You could see the join marks in the terrain tiles for one thing. And I don't know, it just looked bad, largely featureless with these flat cities kind of floating in the middle of nowhere.

And then there's the manual. You could tell all they did was cut and paste lines from various text files they downloaded for the weapons descriptions. The text described things that didn't happen, didn't describe most of what did happen, and in fact most of what it said was just plain wrong. Details of how to use the radar, how to use the missiles, it was all just wrong.

Eventually they released a huge text file of errata. This one it appears they actually wrote themselves. Well guess what, it got all sorts of things wrong too! It finally described how to use the HARM, but I must have tried it a dozen times and it just never worked. I could never tell if the missile simply didn't work, or the manual was wrong. Eventually I gave up.

And to top it all off, this game has to be one of the most over-hyped since Outpost. The box, ad materials, reviews, everyone said that this was the more realistic flight sim ever made. It isn't, it's almost certainly the worst.

To put this all in perspective I'd like to quote a few reviews:

"Still, the manual is well written and to the point, giving you quick, informative descriptions of each function" - yeah, with the exception that the descriptions were WRONG!

"I tried many ways to describe how accurate and detailed this program was, and failed." - indeed, failed just like the program. And this reviewer should have known better.

It's the Outpost Effect all over again. A game that is so bad it's unplayable, but that mutates in the brains of the reviewers into meaning it must be good! Or maybe it was the ridiculous $99 price tag causing so much cognitive dissonance.

In any event, I heartily recommend this for the title of Worse Game EVAR.

The Bottom Line

Don't even bother, you have better things to waste your time on.