The Operation: Fighting Tiger. (The Operation: Fighting Tiger expansion kit for Falcon 3.0) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Peter Olafson
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say, and The Operation: Fighting Tiger expansion kit for Falcon 3.0 from Spectrum HoloByte is an enhancement of its rich, dense parent game. Falcon plus OFT equals fighterplane heaven. This is the only way to fly.
Disk 1 of OFT patches the parent program all the way up to the current version (3.01); this should make happy all those who expected Falcon 3.0 to fly in full trim right out of the box and weren't prepared for the open-house gamma test--with a consequent stream of fixes and tweaks--that was the sad reality. OFT adds three huge and varied (and alliterative) new theaters of operations--Korea, Kashmir, and the Kurile Islands--which should please pilots who found that the game's scope didn't match its size.
And OFT improves the game engine with a wide variety of pleasant new wrinkles: new commands to issue to wing men, the ability to set difficulty levels for campaigns, an overcast sky (which looks great), more night flying, and too many lesser refinements to mention. It's also more stable and reliable, and hence more satisfying--and not just in the new theaters. The original theaters, which are not overwritten by OFT, enjoy all the benefits of the new features. And, of course, all the best features of the original game--from the masterful terrain to the involving campaigns--are in full force here. (Indeed, the campaigns here seem tougher, if anything.)
OFT is a bit more demanding of memory--now requiring a touch over 616,000 bytes (and another 3MB on your hard drive, for a total of 14MB)--and even that extra 2K RAM meant I had to jigger my four-meg system a bit in order to load a mouse driver and get the digitized voice in radio broadcasts.
And, unfortunately, OFT also inherited a touch of the original sim's . . .. shall we say, unfinished quality? The installation program in the initial release couldn't find the correctly named FALCON3 directory on my C drive and, once I identified the directory for it, wouldn't install the files. (That's about the worst possible place for a bug to appear. Imagine buying a toaster oven and finding the power cord cut in half.) Mercifully, Spectrum has been quick off the line with a fix, and a new installation program--followed by a full-blown upgrade of the upgrade (to 3.01.1)--was issued in October.
However, my criticism isn't of OFT so much as of Falcon 3.0. I do wish it'd been closer to this condition when it was originally released. In a sense, this set of data disks isn't so much an add-on as the final upgrade. I suppose that in a competitive market exploiting new technology, the phenomenon of games like Falcon and Darklands growing up in public shouldn't be such a surprise. But we wouldn't settle for it in any other type of consumer product, and I don't see why we should here. (Other developers--notably Sir-Tech with Crusaders of the Dark Savant--have opted to keep long-awaited games under wraps until they were ready.) I don't mean to minimize the achievement here, however. This is a brilliant piece of work, and I can't imagine any devoted Falcon 3.0 flyer not loving it. Some things are worth waiting for. This is one of them.