The most important problem that both Falcon 4 Allied Force and Falcon 4 BMS 4 have is their poor aircraft artificial intelligence. This makes the war less realistic and interesting and the gameplay much less good than it could be. Engagements in the war do not occur as they would in real life due to the artificial intelligence deficiencies.
One of the great things that BMS 4 has is that all flights in a package are visible on the horizontal situation display. A package is a set of flights that all work to accomplish the same mission. For example, in BMS 4, there could be a offensive counter air package to attack an airbase. The OCA strike would strike the airbase. The escort flight in the package would protect the package of enemy fighter aircraft. A SEAD escort flight would protect the package from enemy SAM sites.
The feature in BMS 4 of all flights occurring on the horizontal situation display are not used by the artificial intelligence to coordinate themselves with the other package flights. Ideally the package should all play together. When the package runs into a threat of enemy fighters, the escort flight and only the escort flight should engage them. The other flights in the package should turn around and run away. When the threat of enemy fighters has been dealt with, the flights in the package should rejoin each other.
Why should they to do this? The answer is that if there is coordination among the flights as described above, the flights would continue to fly together for the duration of the mission. If the flights instead are not coordinated and act as independent units, they fly together initially but gets separated when they run into a threat. How Falcon 4 solves this problem is the escort flights initially start well ahead of the other flights. But when they run into a threat, the spacing between the flights would get messed up. Some flights would turn around while other flights would keep going forward if they did not feel threatened. Some flights in the package would pass up and pass by the other flights messing up the spacing between them.
However, this is not as bad as it sounds. Usually the escort flights do not chase after enemy planes. They stay on course. So as long as the spacing between the escort flights and the flights being escorted starts out long enough, the escort flights would continue to stay ahead for much or all of the mission. In any case they would be a big help for the package and that's what matters.
Now I will talk about the wingmen artificial intelligence. The wingmen artificial intelligence in Falcon 4 Allied Force is terrible while it is much better in Falcon 4 BMS 4. In Falcon 4 Allied Force, the wingman artificial intelligence is almost unworkable. I cannot get them to fire at planes with the AA-12(R-77) Adder active radar homing missile, and then join up with me to turn away from the missile. They simply will not stay with me. Once they detect a missile, they will slow down, put it after their 3 or 9 o'clock, and then turn into the missile. This never works and they always gets themselves killed. They refuse to follow me in order to keep heading away from the missile at a high rate of speed.
However, the artificial intelligence in Falcon 4 Allied Force is not all bad. I notice the enemy planes do often turn around and run away from your missiles and use afterburner to run away fast. The problem is that it is not possible to command your wingmen to fire at at planes you want them to and then turn around to out run the missiles and keep themselves alive. Instead, they will slow down, put the missile their three or nine o'clock and then turn around into the missile. This never works and always results in getting themselves killed. The way to solve this problem is to have the fire their missiles early, and being order them to return the base. This will get them to run away from the missile at 400 mph.
In Falcon 4 BMS 4, the wingmen artificial intelligence is much better. They will, for much of the time, follow you and keep heading away from the missile with you if you lead the way. However, you need to be bossy with them and watch them like a hawk. When they want to turn around, you need to order them to get back in formation and close up formation. This is discussed in the Falcon 4 tips section of the website in the article "Getting your wingman to survive the AA-12(R-77) in a 4 against 2 engagement". To view the article, click here.
The two types of aircraft artificial intelligence problems described above are flight coordination problems in the package, and problems with the wingmen artificial intelligence. They each create their own problems. Problems with my coordination in a package means the escorts will not not protect the other flights as good as they could. They will not keep destroying threats that might appear.
Problems with intelligent wingmen means that you they are more difficult to manage and less useful. Not being in control of your wingmen means that you can not manage your flight and have it be successful. This means your flight is more like a collection of planes than a flight. It is like you are a lone wolf.
There are ways to deal with the artificial intelligence limitations and get the most out of the game. For an article that gives tips on how to work with the artificial intelligence, click here.
Now back to the discussion on artificial intelligence problems. There were two problems with the artificial intelligence written above. They were coordination of the flights in a package, and wingmen artificial intelligence. If I had to choose which one is more important for the game to get right, I might choose that being able to control your own flight, or in other words wingmen artificial intelligence, is the most important. But then again the computer controlled flights and packages matter to. You fly in these. If the escorts don't stay with you, then that makes your flights less fun.
Also escorts that don't work right make the war as a whole less interesting because the artificial intelligence in the other fights and packages don't do as good as a job as the artificial intelligence could. Again, the escorts in these circumstances don't make much difference- and this makes the dynamic campaign less interesting. The war matters too. It is not just your flight matters that matters to make the game fun.
But as far as playability goes, the most important thing is for the game to allow you to change the outcome of the war. What's most important for this is the artificial intelligence of your wingmen. It is good this is most important because one of the versions of Falcon has this. Falcon 4 BMS has this to some degree. But coordination of the escort flights and the flights they are escorting are not present in either version of Falcon.
You can do without your escorts much of the time. This is because if you load up your planes with 4 Aim 120s each, that is a total amount of kills of 16. The air to air resistance would have to be pretty extreme for 16 kills not to clear a path toward your mission target. Being able to lead successful flights is what makes the game the most fun anyway.
In Falcon 4 BMS 4, you even need your escorts less. The enemy aircraft are relatively easy to kill with Aim 120s. You can score a hit at 18.5 miles away. This means you can be a hero and change the outcome of the war in Falcon 4 BMS 4- whereas in Falcon 4 Allied Force this is much less the case.
Additionally, there is a third problem. There might be an issue in Falcon 4 BMS 4 with the consistency of the enemy aggressiveness. I have noticed that enemy aircraft in BMS 4 are often not very aggressive in an actual campaign but only in a tactical engagement. This needs to be improved.
Now I will move on to the air to ground part of the game. The artificial intelligence is also not good at destroying a significant amount of ground targets. In the first two hours of the game, both squadrons only get a couple dozen enemy ground target kills at most. I have noticed that in Free Falcon 5, the squadrons in ground missions targeting vehicles get many more times the ground kills as in Falcon 4 Allied Force and Falcon 4 BMS 4. This suggest that there is a problem with the aircraft AI destroying ground targets. It makes air power pretty insignificant in killing ground vehicles. This is probably not true in real life, which makes the war as a whole less good. You end up having to fly every ground attack mission yourself, which makes the game less fun.
So it looks like that in both versions of Falcon 4, they don't get the artificial intelligence right. It is like the game makers slap on a bunch of features without fixing the most important things that have to do with gameplay like the artificial intelligence. It is if no one knows enough about the artificial intelligence in the original Falcon 4 code to fix it. It is if the Falcon 4 code is hacked and manipulated, but not upgraded and fixed.
Another major letdown in Falcon 4 BMS 4 and Falcon 4 Allied Force is in the dynamic campaign engine. The campaign engine does not generate enough barcap combat air patrols to protect the allied bases. In the Falcon 4 BMS 4 Korea Iron Fortress campaign, allied bases get bombed by a much more inferior enemy airforce. Also, enemy airbases are not well protected. You can penetrate large amounts of enemy airspace and often only get stopped by a handful of enemy aircraft.
There is a workaround for the lack of barcaps problem in BMS 4. It involves the following. The workaround sets the priorities to certain values. Unfortunately, one of the priorities that has to be set is zeroing out the offensive counter air priority for the dynamic campaign engine to task strikes on enemy airbases.The campaign engine as a result generates plenty of barcap missions to protect the airbases but generates no missions to strike them. This means that the dynamic campaign engine can only do defense or offense but not both.
Fortunately though, the dynamic campaign engine with this workaround generates so many barcap missions, that they may last for hours. This leads me to the second part of the workaround. This would be increasing the offensive counter air priority after a certain interval. I think it would work well to to have three hours of airbase defense followed by three hours of airbase strikes in BMS 4.
The dynamic campaign in Falcon 4 Allied Force works differently than it does in BMS 4. Unlike Falcon 4 BMS 4, how well the dynamic campaign engine works depends on the theater. Certain theaters generate enough barcaps and certain theaters do not. The Korean theater in Falcon 4 Allied Force is terrible to the point of being unplayable. The enemy side only produces a few barcaps no matter what you set the priorities to. In the right theaters such as the Balkans, however, Falcon 4 Allied Force generates a good number of barcaps. The weakness of Falcon 4 Allied Force is that you are stuck with only a few theaters where it it possible to have a decent number of barcaps. Only in these theaters can you adjust the priorities to get more barcaps.
The weakness to using the above workarounds is that it does not work as well as a functioning dynamic campaign engine. This is because the game balance is not as good as a functioning dynamic campaign engine. A functioning dynamic campaign engine would strive to make the right amount of barcap defensive counter air patrols at the right time. But the workaround will create an arbitrary amount of barcaps added at an arbitrary time. There may also be an inbalance between offensive counter air and defensive counter air. Likely there would be too many barcap defensive counter air missions making the airbase strikes too unrealistically well defended and suicide missions. Nevertheless, it will probably achieve its job for producing a good number of barcaps. It should generate a plenty amount of opportunities to strike airbases and also leave them well protected.
The Falcon 4 Allied Force Israel MK2 campaign, however, works just how it should work. Somehow this theater and only this theater makes the dynamic campaign generate plenty of barcaps which defend airbases. It also generates plenty of offensive counter air missions to attack enemy airbases. So the priorities can be left alone. Unfortunately, there is no Israeli theater for BMS 4 that makes the dynamic campaign engine generate plenty of barcaps. The BMS 4 Israeli theater has the same problem with a lack of barcaps as the other theaters. So you are stuck with the above workaround for the lack of barcaps problem in BMS 4.
Details on how to get enough barcaps in Falcon 4 BMS 4 and Falcon 4 Allied Force can be found here.
Even the administrators for the benchmarksims forum concede that the dynamic campaign engine is not the strong suit of the game. This is a pretty important part of the game. It's at least as important as the graphics, flight model and cockpit upgrades.
I have watched the Falcon 4 game be worked on through various groups. There was one commercial version of Falcon 4 after the original Microprose game in 1998, which was Falcon 4 Allied Force in 2005. There were also many modification groups releasing many free modifications to the game. There was the Realism Patch, Superpak, Free Falcon, and now BMS 4. They added many improvements to the physics, graphics, and cockpit realism. All they seemed to have added is mainly cockpit realism and graphics. But they did add important fixes that changed the game in a huge way for the better.
The realism patch and Superpack modifications made the physics of the missiles far different and more realistic- the difference between night and day. And BMS 4 made the active radar homing missiles need guidance updates on the launching aircraft radar to stay on target. This makes dodging an active radar homing missile much more possible with the jammer. This is a very nice realism update and feature.
Also the artificial intelligence in the computer controlled flights destroying ground targets has been improved. Hours would go by in the original Falcon 4 with most squadrons reading 0 vehicle kills.
But Falcon 4 could use better artificial intelligence. Better aircraft artificial intelligence when make them operate more like to do in real life. This would make the war go more like a war what in real life. In a real war, vehicles would get decimated very quickly with most air to ground weapons hitting their targets. Also, the aircraft pilots would be far more intelligent and coordinated than in Falcon 4. But this is not mean Falcon 4 is not a great game. Where else can you find realistic flying in a huge electronic battlefield with a huge war going on.
Artificial intelligence is not an easy fix, however. It seems like no one really knows how the code works enough to really improve it, rather than just make small changes here and there. In fact, it may be the hardest thing to improve and make perfect. The BMS 4 developers in their forum have that when one thread in the artificial intelligences changed, other threads will become undone.
Therefore, much improvement needed in artificial intelligence means that Falcon 4 has a long way to go. But there is hope. Since cockpit realism has basically been improved as much as it needs to be improved, maybe the dynamic campaign and the artificial intelligence will be focused on. BMS 4.33 is coming out soon. Whether it fixes the problems with artificial intelligence and the dynamic campaign, time will tell.