Preview - U.S. Navy Fighters (DOS, 1994)

I'm seriously considering the possibility of buying U.S. Navy Fighters from Electronic Arts as a Christmas gift for my father. Now, before you start wondering how much the EA marketing department paid for that particular statement, I need to provide a little background concerning my father's one and only trip to an aircraft carrier during his illustrious 20-year Navy career.

A native of Vermont, dear old Dad didn't exactly grow up an old salt. This became a problem early in his military career, when he was a damage controlman on a destroyer. He got seasick on his first voyage, which his colleagues assured him was completely normal. However, when he continued to get seasick at every available opportunity, his fellow workers informed him that this wasn't normal, and that he should probably consider a transfer to the Army.

The low point of Dad's seafaring career came when his destroyer joined with an aircraft carrier for maneuvers. I don't know if the method has changed since then, but in the early '60s, the way you transported people from one ship to another out at sea was to string a cable between the two ships, attach a seat to the cable, and give the sailors a high ride across the waves.

This apparently took Dad's seasickness to a whole new level, but the fun hadn't ended. A friend decided that my father's life wouldn't be complete until he had taken a ride in a carrier jet. Apparently too weak from his cable ride to resist, Dad agreed, and got a personal demonstration of what g-forces were on the takeoff.

However, his physical discomfort from that lesson paled when compared to the mental anguish he suffered when it came time to land. While Dad understood the theory behind the wire on a carrier deck catching the jet before it plunged into the sea, he apparently wasn't convinced it actually worked. The plane landed safely, but Dad never saw it, since he was fervently praying with his eyes firmly shut.

Shortly after his experience, Dad saw the light and transferred to a branch of the Navy that kept him safely behind a land-locked desk for the remainder of his illustrious military career.

Having digressed for 350 words or so, I'll now return to my main point – Dad's attitude toward carriers would probably change if he spent any time with U.S. Navy Fighters, a flight sim which makes life at sea look like loads of fun.

The graphics give this game an extremely crisp, clean look. When you're flying around on a mission, the animation remains smooth. As far as the sound goes, I don't know if this is what the inside of a carrier jet really sounds like – but if it isn't, it should be, because it sounds great. However, if the game's requirements overwhelm your system, you can adjust the resolution.

The designers of U.S. Navy Fighters also helped develop Chuck Yeager's Air Combat, so the performance of the aircraft is technically accurate. You have five different planes to choose from, with four different modes of play.

Like most contemporary flight sims, Navy Fighters offers a quick mission option for the fighter in a hurry. You choose your plane, your weapons, your enemy, and the scenario, and immediately take to the air. There are also 50 single missions created by the computer. The campaign mode consists of 50 missions linked together by a storyline. Your campaign mission briefings include over 40 minutes of digitized video. Additional campaigns will be available through upcoming expansion disks.

Of course, you can't issue a flight sim these days without a scenario editor, so U.S. Navy Fighters comes with a pro mission builder, that allows you to use all the game's elements to build a campaign that will provide you with a real challenge.

The smell of aviation fuel, the spray in your hair – these are about the only things missing from U.S. Navy Fighters. On second thought, I may give this a miss as Dad's gift. It's so close to the real thing, it could produce some unpleasant flashbacks.

Download the demo for U.S. Navy Fighters