Falcon 4.0

From the golden age of flight simulation, the king of flight sims lives on in the form of FreeFalcon 5. Learn to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon with your PC and now available for free.

Pros

Most realistic F-16 Fighting Falcon flight simulator I have ever played on the PC. There are settings to dumb it down, but it is still difficult, just not as difficult as with full realism settings. As expected, the learning curve is very steep.

FreeFalcon 5 added ramp start to the realism. Learn the proper procedures to start the engine and set things up. Note that this also involves waiting for the navigation systems to initialise and waiting for take-off clearance from air traffic control(ATC). When I timed the sequence for one instance, it took me five minutes real time to complete the navigation initialisation. Then it took another three minutes real time before the ATC gave clearance for me to take-off. I was number two in the queue. So, a total of eight minutes before getting into the air and this included using 4x time acceleration when I was waiting around doing nothing. But if you do not like all this start up stuff, you can skip straight to take-off time.

Although Falcon 4.0 was an F-16 only sim, the FreeFalcon group have added other planes into the sim, complete with cockpits. I think the different planes use the F-16 avionics though. Once I learned up one aspect of the F-16’s avionics, I found that they work the same way in other planes. It feels like Jane’s Fighters Anthology, but with less planes and higher realism.

Falcon 4.0 came with the mother of all game manuals. 500+ pages of F-16 goodness. If that was not enough, the FreeFalcon group having added more stuff to the game, also added 1000+ pages of reading material to complement the Falcon 4.0 manual. The FreeFalcon documents are in PDFs only though. And I am not about to print them out either.

Falcon 4.0 in the form of FreeFalcon 5 was available for free, but the project has been shut down. You may still be able to download it from the Free Falcon Wiki though.

Clickable cockpits! If you cannot remember some of the keys, you may be able to find the corresponding switch, knob or button on the cockpit and click it with your mouse.

The graphics in general are beautiful. All the planes look great, complete with moving control surfaces. The cockpits also look great in 2D and 3D. The landscape also looks great, but only when you are high up in the sky. When flying at low altitudes, the ground looks very flat.

The airports are realistically busy. You can see F-16s, B-2s, C-5s and other planes taking off and landing at the airports. A very good reason to listen to the ATC.

The radio chatter is the most realistic I have heard in any sim. You can hear chatter from many flight groups, not just your own. This gives a deeper atmosphere as it sounds like there are others fighting in this war too. This also means you must pay attention just in case the chatter is directed at you.

The dynamic campaign engine is definitely dynamic and gives different missions depending on what is happening and what plane you have chosen to fly. I do not know how good it is as a full blown war simulator though as I have not played enough of one campaign to see how it turns out.

Cons

The Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation(ACMI) does not work. Everytime I try to view a recorded flight, the whole thing freezes after several seconds. I have to invoke task manager to kill the process manually and restart the game.

There are random problems with the game ranging from not being able to get into flying mode, to full blown crash to desktops. These random problems seem to automatically get fixed after a game restart though. Luckily these problems do not happen too often. I have managed to fly a few missions continuosly without issues.

During flight there is no music at all. Sure this is realistic and all, but after playing T.F.X., I want good music with all my flight sims. They could have made it an option so people can turn off the music for ultra-realism. The original Falcon 4.0 had excellent music at the front menu section, but this has been replaced in FreeFalcon 5.

Although there is an option for ForceFeedback, it does not seem to do anything. Unless it is not compatible with my Wingman Force 3D.

Other Points

There were options for screen resolutions but I had to set it to the max and native res of my monitor. I found that setting it lower caused the multi-function display(MFD) text to be difficult to read. As a result the 2D cockpits all looked fat on my 1280×800 resolution.

The general sounds are standard flight sim sounds to me.There is the sidewinder growl, various radar beeps, lock and missile sirens, gun fire and missile launches and low-key explosions from either your jet or something else being hit. The only sounds that I thought was very well done are the roaring engines and the canopy opening and closing.

Here is a list of non-F-16 flyable planes I found that can be played in a campaign and have 2D and 3D cockpits: A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-4 Phantom II, B-52 Stratofortress, Mig-29 Fulcrum, AV-8B Harrier, F-14 Tomcat, Su-33 Flanker-D, F-22 Raptor, Mirage 2000, JAS-39 Gripen, AJS-37 Viggen and F-105D Thunderchief.

For those that still have the original Falcon 4.0 disc, Benchmark Sims(BMS) has a mod to improve Falcon 4.0. I have not tried it out so I do not know how good it is.

GOG.com has released a Falcon Collection which includes Falcon 4.0 v1.08 as a bonus. I have not tried it out personally, but the GOG team has confirmed that their release does work with BMS.

Biases

Reviewed version FreeFalcon 5.5.5. The original Falcon 4.0 plus the 1.08 patch just refused to work on my PC.

Since FreeFalcon 5 added lots of new stuff, I tried them out as well. As a result, this page contains information that was not featured in the original Falcon 4.0.

I really liked Gunship 2000 including Islands and Ice, Falcon 3.0, Knights of the Sky, T.F.X., Fleet Defender, F-15 Strike Eagle 3 and Jane’s Fighters Anthology.

I also liked LHX Attack Chopper and Harrier Jump Jet.

I played with a mixed bag of realism settings. As I am reading the manuals and learning the accurate avionics and flight model, I played on the easier modes just to get some action happening.

I play with the easiest enemy AI settings, as the game is already difficult enough without smart enemy AI.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon was(and still is) my favourite plane, even before I played Falcon 3.0.

I like air-to-air missions more than air-to-ground missions.

I have not completed even the first 24 hours of one campaign. I have been playing many different campaigns to try out different planes.

I have not tried out the AGMs, GBUs, rockets and mid-air refuelling.

Although it is not realistic to do so, I frequently use external and full screen views as my situational awareness is not the best.

DRM

The original Falcon 4.0 was DRM free and FreeFalcon 5 is the same.

Minimum Requirements

I cannot find the minimum requirements for FreeFalcon 5. And since it has been improved so much from Falcon 4.0, I do not think the original minimum requirements are relevant anymore.

One thing is for sure, joystick required!

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Logitech Wingman Force 3D.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

If you have the original Falcon 4.0 game, you can replace the FreeFalcon 5 menu music files with the original Falcon 4.0 music files.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.