First off, this review applies to Falcon4 bms4 about 2.5 hours past the start of the campaign. The review is done in the Israel bms4 campaign.
The strength in Falcon4 bms4 mainly lies in its superior simulation of the cockpit. The graphics in the maverick display are so good that you can move between one group of vehicles and another group of vehicles with ease just using this display. There is no need to use the radar to move from one group of vehicles to another group of vehicles.[See videos 1a and 1b
1a-Maverick display in Falcon4 BMS4:
(Windows Media, Iphone(960x640))
1b-Maverick display in Falcon4 Allied Force
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Another feature bms4 is that it allows you to load the targeting pod for use with dumb bombs. This makes missions targeting enemy vehicles more fun because you can use it to find a specific vehicle called for in the mission.
The targeting pod is even more useful when you use it for smart weapons. If a mission calls for targeting a specific building such as an ammo dump at an airfield, it is much more easy to find with the superior display of the targeting pod in bms4.
Another cockpit feature is the ability to see all flights in your package in the hsd. You no longer need to keep asking awacs for the location of the package. You can see each flight in the horizontal situation display(hsd). You can then get into position in relation to the other flights. For example if there was a sead escort in your mission to take out enemy sams along your flight path, you can get behind it in order to let it take care of a surface to air missile threat ahead of you. You can do this graphically on the hsd without the need to fumble around with asking awacs or using labels and/or your radar to find it.
The graphics of the ground are far superior to other versions of falcon. This is important because the terrain graphics allow you to more easily use the bumps in the terrain to avoid enemy missiles. This is very useful for subtle bumps that would otherwise be impossible to see in other versions of falcon with less good graphics. Note that incoming surface to air missiles are more difficult to crash into the ground than in Falcon4 Allied Force. [See video 2
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With all these features, bms4 is not quite a homerun of what a perfect simulation should be.
The horizontal situation display (hsd) does not display threat circles when used in conjunction with the harm acquisition display. Falcon4 bms4,however, does show threat circles if you program them into the map on the mission briefing screen. This does not show sams that have not been found yet by intelligence. Many if not most of the sams are missed by intelligence, especially near the beginning of the campaign when they haven't announced themselves by turning on their radar for the first time. You then need the harm acquisiton display to pick them up and display threat circles.
Even for sams not picked up by intelligence, this may be thought to be a non issue because there is distance rings radiating from your aircraft in the center of the harm acquisition display. This shows the distance between you and the sam. This works fine when the surface to air missiles are not packed densely in a given area.
However, if there is a high density of surface to air missiles in a given area, surface to air missile threat circles become a necessity. This is because one threat circle is close to another threat circle. You need these threat circles to be able to slip between the coverage of two or more surface to air missiles. Falcon4 bms4 does not have these threat circles whereas Falcon4 Allied Force does. Situational awareness by the harm acquisition display,therefore is less good in falcon4 bms4 than in Falcon4 Allied Force. See figures 1a and 1b for an illustration of this.
Figures 1a and 1b:
|Figure1a- Falcon4 Allied Force:Threat circles are displayed on the horizontal situational display(HSD) for all Surface to Air Missiles. When you need to squeeze between the coverage of two or more SAMS, this is essential. (Click image above to view it in full size and then click on the browser's back button to return to the review.)
||Figure 1b-Falcon4 BMS4: Threat circles are not displayed on the horizontal situation display(HSD) for many if not most Surface to Air Missiles. For these Surface to Air Missiles, it is difficult to know where to go to squeeze between the coverage of two or more SAMS. For these, you most rely on the distance rings on the Harm Acquisiton Display(HAD) shown above. (Click image above to view it in full size and then click on the browser's back button to return to the review.)
The artificial intelligence of surface to air missiles in the prescence of a longer range sam such as a sa-5 or sa-10 is also less good. They turn on their radar later than they otherwise would if they were not around and an sa-5 or sa-10. But they still turn on their radar too early making you able to launch a harm before they launch a missile at you. They also will not turn off their radar if you launch a harm and then turn around to head away from it. But sams are plenty challenging, especially when used with aircraft. So, this is not that big of a letdown.
ARH(R-77) missiles are too hard to avoid. They slowdown less fast and thus have a larger range than ARH missiles in Falcon4 Allied Force. In bms4, once you see the missile on your radar warning receiver, it is too late to avoid the missile. This means that you need to start taking evasive action before you are warned of the missile on your radar warning receiver. In fact, you have to stay 15 miles away from enemy aircraft at all times in case they have an ARH missile. This is difficult to do and makes the game less fun.
The bms4 dynamic campaign engine creates too few barcaps. This makes air to air resistance in a mission less strong. I had to make the balance of aircraft largely in favor of the enemy in order to get the air to air resistance to be as strong as in Falcon4 Allied Force. To the credit of bms4, it has an option to make aircraft with air to ground missions be on the offensive for enemy aircraft. This means they will look for a fight with enemy aircraft rather than try to avoid them. This in effect means that all aircraft will be doing sweep missions for enemy aircraft if there are any. This atleast makes it possible for bms4 to be a game where you have lots of air to air resistance if you set the campaign aircraft balance right.
Because bms4 can be made to have lots of air to air resistance, gameplay is not torpedoed in this area. This is an important area to score favorably. Without air to air resistance, the whole game would be torpedoed and bms4 would score below Falcon4 Allied force. Fortunately, bms4 is a game with ok air to air resistance and lots of cockpit realism.
SARH missiles are not handled as well as in Falcon4 Allied Force. For some reason, SARH(R23,R27 etc.) missiles are not fired aggressively by the enemy aircraft artificial intelligence. When one missile is launched, the enemy aircraft artificial intelligence does not launch a followup one. This allows you to close the distance and easily defeat a SARH carrying aircraft. Most campaigns have at least as much aircraft with only SARH missiles as those with ARH missiles(R77). So, this deficiency is a significant letdown.
Therefore, even with the shortcomings, falcon4 bms4 can still be plenty hard and have graphics and cockpit realism features as an addition. The shortcomings of Falcon4 bms4 can be worked around or coped with. The cockpit realism features add more fun to the game and outweigh the other gameplay letdowns. The letdowns are significant, however, and keep the game from scoring a 9.3 for superb and instead make the game score a 9.0 for great.
Overall fun: 9.0/10 Great