"Look out Tom Cruise, those Navy F-14's just don't cut it anymore."
I never understood how game companies could claim to have "the most realistic simulation available," "almost like the real thing," and all we have to do is browse through a half inch thick manual for about 10 minutes, and hey, we're already fully qualified fighter pilots for the US Air Force!!! I can tell you, with my piloting experience in 2-seater planes that flying is much more difficult and challenging. I'm not trying to knock down everything that flight simulators stand for; I understand that if it really was like the exact plane and it took years of study and experience, we'd all pass up the game for a more simplistic, entertaining "simulation" of the aircraft. I'm just trying to get my point across that if you think you're ready for a commission in the Air Force after you attain the rank of Colonel in any game, you're quite mistaken.
The realism in iF-22by Interactive Magic has many facets. As far as graphical and landscape realism, this game has it all. With photorealistic terrain rendered from real-world elevation data and digital satellite photography makes for an unprecedented level of visual realism. But the catch is, if you'd like to experience the full effect, I suggest you give up the "visual realism" of 200 George Washingtons for a 3D accelerator card. Because without one, all you'll get to see is a bunch of choppy, 1/2 inch pixels of unrecognizable terrain that looked like more like a preschooler's finger-painting masterpiece than Bosnia.
As for actual game play, I'd like to recommend that once you get this game and start playing it, before you even attempt to fly a mission, you should change the preferences to the most realistic settings. I changed everything to as realistic as I could (except limited fuel, I have a tendency to get lost) because this game is a joke otherwise. When I flew the first mission with the defaults on, I was ready flunk it for game play. If you turn them off, you should have a little more fun trying to control the aircraft as it would be done in the air, instead of playing an arcade style space simulator, where you can fly straight up at mach 30 for 2 hours. Other than that, the game play was as realistic as I'd expect from a computer simulation. Interactive Magic strove to make everything as detailed as possible, including the requirement to turn on both of the engines before taking off, and turning on your master arm switch before firing a missile. Overall, the game play was fun, but nothing new from other simulators, just minor improvements here and there.
The best aspect of the game is the interface. I believe this to be the most revolutionary aspect of the game, even above all the great graphics. Graphics only last so far in making a great game. Interactive Magic did an outstanding job with the interface of the cockpit during game play. Instead of assigning a key to every single function the plane could have (which gets confusing, forcing the gamer to look at the keyboard reference card every second), you can use your mouse cursor, to actually press the buttons viewed inside the cockpit. For example, if you wanted to lower your landing gear, you could either press "G," or you could look down, and click on the handle with your mouse. Now of course, using your mouse is a whole lot slower than touching a key, but it has plenty of advantages. Remember when you were flying a tight dogfight, and you were struggling to target a certain enemy aircraft and it took a while cycling through all your enemies and friends? Not any more, now you can simply click on the one you want with your mouse, and it's targeted, locked, and you're ready to rock.
The music in this game is not even worthy of being called a soundtrack. It's not so bad that it's annoying, it's just completely obvious that it was an area almost totally overlooked. They're just midi tracks, and I've heard my friend make better stuff on his home computer, and he can't even read music.
It seems that the only way in which flight simulators are improving these days is graphically. Yes, iF-22 has gotten better graphic attention, but every other aspect of the game is left to languish. With only a couple of revolutionary ideas like an easier interfaces and extra additions to in-flight realism, flight simulators will soon grow boring and old. There's a point to how realistic you can get with a computer, and I'll tell you from experience, sitting at your computer with a computer and joystick, is totally different thing than having a yoke in your hands and feeling the G's of pressure slam you into your seat. And I'm sure it's a REALLY different feeling in a fighter jet! If you enjoy flight simulators, and you have a 3d accelerator card accompanied by a good system, sure I'd check this game out, I'm sure the graphics alone will stun you. But for those who are looking for something new and great, I'm sorry, but there really is nothing else special that separates iF-22 from the others. It's pretty much, target, lock and shoot, just like all the others. Is it me, or has war gotten boring?