After Interactive Magic's recent release, iF-22 a few months ago, IM has come out with another flight simulation, this time based on the soon-to-be outdated F-16. Being an Air Force fan myself, I'm actually glad someone made an effort to make a good simulation for the F-16. So many flight sims have tried to mimic the flight capabilities of the F-16 and have failed miserably. Finally, someone has gotten it right. Combining the elements that make flight sims actually fun, plus a compromise between realism and pushing the learning curve, Interactive Magic has made the best military airplane simulation that I have played (this excludes helicopter games, I consider those in a genre of their own).
iF-16 has a distinctly different graphics engine compared to iF-22. I'll start off by saying it's much better and I found this to be the defining difference. For example, iF-22, like other popular titles use photorealistic terrain from satellite data. For the most part, these graphics are stunning in their own way and do add to the realism. However, this sacrifices the use of real 3d objects. I would much rather have detailed terrain in a specific area, rather than mediocre terrain across the world. My problem with the photorealistic terrain used in iF-22 was the fact that mountains, buildings and canyons, were practically non-existent (especially without a 3D accelerator!). In iF-16, mountains are everywhere, and using them to your advantage can really save your tail when trying to conserve missiles, get home, or avoid conflict. Those of you who have read other reviews I have written about flight simulators, most of my emphasis lies upon the quality of terrain. Since most physics engines are in the same ballpark, besides a few phenomenal exceptions like Longbow, the test of endurance for newer titles are based upon other factors such as game play, presentation, and most importantly, terrain features. iF-16, has done the best job creating terrain that is useful, practical, helpful, realistic and demanding of tactical awareness. This makes the game a lot more interesting and definitely more intense.
Sound effects and music are both mediocre. It seems to be a common trend in flight simulators nowadays to skimp on most aspects of the game except graphics and realism. I wonder when they'll learn to make a complete package.
The interface isn't as good as iF-22. I think IM must have gotten too many complaints about the mouse-based interface and they probably rejected the idea. I actually liked it, and I think it enhanced the game play, but someone obviously disagreed. iF-16 is fully keyboard operated, and of course joysticks and other accessories are recommended.
Many people were very impressed by the amount of detail included in iF-22. IM hardly left out a button, lever, or gauge. The game required you to turn on arm switches, engines and all the other little details of being a pilot. iF-16 tends to leave out these specific details (and who knows what else they left out!). For the most part, iF-16 is better for the beginner/intermediate pilot or those of you who don't want to spend too much time learning how to play the game. Unfortunately this easy learning curve is negated by the amount of time required to fly through the endless number of tutorial missions! They have a separate tutorial mission for every single weapon which can be quite time consuming, and very unnecessary.
Overall, iF-16 was a very good flight simulator. I would even recommend it as the best all-around flight simulator out on the market to this date. Whether its worth $50 is best determined by how much money you have to throw around every time you walk in the software store, but this game is an accomplishment, it's fun and its better than its predecessors including (for the most part) iF-22.