Top Gun, Still
The atmosphere was incredible. You take off into the stormy night; the glow of the cockpit instrumentation your only warmth. Your powerful AWG-9 radar scans ahead for hundreds of miles. 200 miles over Russia's North Cape - you get a return - bombers inbound on your carrier group. You let the AIM-54's fly and press to the merge. You blow through the formation...tally ho! A Su-27 is breaking into you. Your wingman calls a missile inbound, you pop out some flares, but it's guiding on him...too late. He's dead. With his fireball still glowing, you break into the bandit and let an AIM-9 fly. Splash! Now it's back to the carrier. You're low on fuel and a strike flight happens to be returning at the same time. They get routed in first. You're orbiting 20 miles out from the carrier, well above the cloud cover, in the dark of the night. Low on gas and short on sleep, you press through the cloud cover. Constantly scanning altitude, speed, AoA, and line up, you squint as you press through the clouds. The LSO asks you to call the ball...CLARA....CLARA...BALL! A quick adjustment now, check speed, check line up...woah, there's the carrier! Slam! You're on the deck...did your hook bounce? Slam the throttle forward for a go around, but you're not moving. Good trap!
Besides Falcon 3.0, this was the only other sim where it felt like there was a lot going on besides your mission. You weren't the sole focus in this sim. You were one flight lead, with one wingman, but perhaps part of a much larger flight of other Tomcats, Hornets, and strike aircraft. The avionics and weapons systems were complex enough to be really powerful once they were mastered. The learning curve with this came is much longer than 15 hours.
Some of the missions were buggy - but that got fixed in the Gold Version. The more complex missions involving many aircraft, especially the escort missions, could still get easily screwed up during take off. Aircraft would take off and orbit endlessly. Speeding up time seemed to reconcile this, though, and served as a work-around.
The AAA seemed too deadly, but isn't that always the case?
The Bottom Line
It's the best F-14 Tomcat sim to date, ever. It's better than any flavor of Falcon 4.0 that purports to let you fly "multiple aircraft", including the Tomcat. Bull. This is the only sim that'll let you use the old-fashioned AWG-9 radar system and utilize the full power of 6 AIM-54's with its TWS mode.