JetFighter II: Advanced Tactical Fighter
A fun and accessible sim with limitations.
Jetfighter II offers a lot of value - five flyable aircraft, the entire west coast of California, carrier ops and appealing graphics. It's easy to step into thanks to its relative simplicity. By 1990 standards, the 3D aircraft models are nice, and the user-controllable external camera means you'll definitely get a good look at them.
It's fun to buzz around in JF2, especially in San Fransisco where you'll get a chance to weave through buildings and bridges. The atmospheric color effects are nicely done, and the sky actually darkens as you gain altitude. The sun and moon trade places as night falls and the sky turns a deep shade of purple.
You can dispatch enemy fighters with Phoenix, AMRAAM, and Sidewinder missiles, or switch to the cannon if you're in the mood for a challenge. The ground attack arsenal features Mk82 and Mk84 bombs, and there are kinetic energy missiles for variety. A weapon cam lets you see the carnage firsthand.
Carrier landings, which require you to deploy the arresting hook, are nicely modeled. The game provides an ILS to help line-up the approach, and if you're right on the money, you can switch to a tower view to catch the last exciting moments.
The campaign missions are EXTREMELY repetitive. In fact, nine out of ten are almost identical: You depart from the carrier and fly east. As soon as you reach land, you'll release some chaff to evade the one and only SAM launch of the mission. Bomb a few ground targets, down a couple of MIGs, then head home. Winning the campaign means that you'll be doing this over and over again for hours. After a while, it starts to feel like work.
Aside from the repetitive campaign, JF2's biggest weakness is its plywood-facade world environment. Though expansive, the terrain is completely flat, with only an occasional field or building to break the monotony. More disconcerting is the almost complete lack of life: no enemy radar sites, no activity at the airports, and no ships on the water except your carrier. Compared with F-19 by MicroProse, which was released years prior, Jetfighter II's world is so quiet it's almost spooky.
Though the game features five planes, there are only two generic cockpits. While this does make it easier to switch between different aircraft, it detracts from the sim's overall realism. Since their performance characteristics are so similar, you might forget which plane you're flying until you switch to an external view.
Lastly, though decent for its time, the flight model feels mechanical. The planes maneuver in a very linear fashion, and it's almost impossible to stall above 200 knots, regardless of how you yank the stick. Sometimes it feels more like driving than flying, but again, it was good for its time.
The Bottom Line
Jetfighter II, like Chuck Yeager's Air Combat, was a very good sim for its day. Its instant flight mode lets you jump into any of the planes at various airports on the coast, with up to three bogeys to make things interesting. In addition, it offers a single mission mode and a campaign mode called "The Adventure," where you'll fight for control of the west coast.
In all, JF2 offers five aircraft - an F-14, F-16, F-18, F-23 and F-22. But since 90% of the Adventure missions are carrier-based, it's rare that you'll get a chance to fly the F-16 in the campaign. Falcon fans take note.
Graphics were good for its day, with a convincing gradient horizon and subtle light-source shading on the planes. Performance is great on 386 and 486 CPUs. The environment features some of the more notable San Fransisco landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the pyramidal Transamerica building.
However, the repetitive mission structure and nearly catatonic world environment mean that the game gets old fast. After you've buzzed around San Fransisco and blown up a few targets, there isn't much else to do. JF2 is a good beginner's sim, and probably appealing for collectors, but experienced fighter jockeys ought to look elsewhere.
by SiliconClassics (861) on June 19th, 2009