Although its terrain engine is on shaky ground, IAF is a classic Jane s simulation.
Jane�s latest offering, Israeli Air Force, is quite a controversial title. Now, I�m fairly certain Jane�s isn�t too concerned about sales in the Middle East, assuming any sales occur there at all. Yet the politics of this sim have had nothing to do with the debates that have been raging in the Usenet flight-sim newsgroup: It�s the choice of terrain engine currently employed by IAF that�s got everyone up in arms. Those who can come to grips with the look and feel of IAF (i.e., those who aren�t expecting another Jane�s F-15) will find it a very enjoyable simulation experience.
Israeli Air Force is the first title that was not created in-house by a Jane�s development team. (It was under the production care of Paul Grace, though, so its interface sports the look and feel of a U.S. Navy Fighters / ATF / Fighter�s Anthology-type simulation.) IAF was created by Pixel Multimedia, which is comprised of some former real-life IAF fighter pilots. Your own career as an IAF pilot starts back during the Six Day War and continues on through to hypothetical future conflicts along the Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese fronts. Unfortunately, these missions are scripted, so they�ll always be the same each time you fly them, but at least you can take on various roles within these missions should you choose to attempt them again. In fact, you can switch back and forth among the other aircraft during the mission to ensure success if your wingmen aren�t getting the job done (not very realistic, but sometimes very necessary).
The flyable aircraft, while indeed representative of the real IAF, are not as accurate in the areas of flight modeling and avionics as some other simulations currently on the market. Nonetheless, at full realism the game can be quite a challenge. If you�re the type who likes to make things difficult for yourself, be sure to choose either the rookie or normal enemy AI levels and not the expert setting. For whatever reason, �expert� seems to be the easiest of all (let�s hope for a patch). A mission editor is included, but it isn�t much to shout about, so the longevity of this title could be called into question. On the bright side, these missions are multiplayer cooperative, something the hardcore community now insists upon as a required feature in any simulation. Multiplayer over the Internet via Jane�s Combat.net is silky smooth, and so far there�s been plenty of people to fly with/against.
The sheer irony of IAF, though, is that for a game whose terrain has the look of 2D-only rendering, it needs quite a powerful machine to truly enjoy it. Yes, 3D acceleration is an option, but it only really enhances the planes, buildings, explosive effects, etc. Furthermore, the game will not run at any resolution other than 640×480, so it comes as quite a surprise that a 200 MHz MMX-capable machine is the minimum requirement (since when was MMX ever a requirement?). IAF has hefty memory needs as well. Maybe it�s because the entire nation of Israel and its surrounding regions are accurately modeled that IAF will utilize a full 128 megs of RAM if you�ve got it. Yet despite IAF�s vast appetite, the payoff is questionable. Granted, you�ve never seen terrain quite like this before, so at least something can be said for trying something different. But depending on your altitude, the ground shifts back and forth in what many have described as a �shimmering� effect (which only gets worse the lower you get). At times, it�s hardly noticeable and the terrain looks gorgeous – at others, it�s like some voxel-engine experiment gone horribly wrong. I�m not trying to be vague here: it�s that hard to describe. The bottom line is that you�ll either love the ground�s unique variety or hate how it squirms and shifts in front of you.
IAF is not the end-all, be-all of Middle Eastern jet combat, but it�s definitely worthy of the Jane�s name. If the terrain doesn�t piss you off, you�re sure to have a great time with this one.