Ill put this right out
there: Im not a flight sim expert. But lets get another thing straight right
at the beginning of this review: F-14 Tomcat is not a flight simulator. It lacks the
depth, the realism, and the close attention to detail that flight sim experts (and just
die-hard fans) expect. However, it does pack quite a bit of complexity into a GBA title,
and the fact that so many folks call it a flight sim is testament to just how much F-14
Tomcat has to offer.
I do like flying and shooting stuff, and I like my games to be sufficiently
complex not so much that it ruins the fun of playing, but enough to allow me to
feel Ive mastered a set of skills in order to do well. F-14 Tomcat gives me that
satisfaction to some extent, but mainly its about flying and shooting stuff. You
assume the role of an F-14 Tomcat pilot patrolling a no-fly zone in the southeastern
Pacific. Various unnamed aggressors test your dominance, and you have to remind them
whos the boss by blowing up their airfields, destroyers, subs and planes. I
dont know much about real airplanes; Im not an expert, but I have seen enough
80s movies to know that MIGs are what bad guys fly, and those bad guys are usually
communists. F-14 Tomcat isnt overt about the communist connections, but the bad guys
do cruise around in their MIGs, so with a set of headphones you can feel just like that
guy who wasnt Louis Gosset, Jr. in Iron Eagle.
folks who play this game will probably feel pretty ambivalent towards it. You cant
really get into the story because its sparse at best. The only thing you do is fly
your F-14 and shoot enemies, which can get repetitive. So if you arent really into
air combat, you wont like it. But you also cant be one of those flight sim
fanatics who will not accept anything less than the latest Novalogic masterpiece. For the
older gamers, F-14 Tomcat plays a lot like Top Gun on the NES. If youve never played
Top Gun, refer to F-14 Tomcat. Top Gun maintains a cult following, and its apparent
that F-14 Tomcat will probably fill that niche as well if you like simplified
console air combat games like Ace Combat, then this could be just the thing.
is relatively convincing, and thats good because theres a lot of it. The whole
basis of the story forbids any real investment in your missions. They require you to
destroy targets, usually every target on the map. Each mission is sprinkled with
ubiquitous MIGs, which swarm you as soon as possible. The AI isnt bad, and beating
enemy pilots can be tough. With a little practice, it gets to be fun chasing down MIGs and
destroying them with your M61A1 cannon. You are usually given a set number of missles of
several varieties, but those take the fun out of hunting enemy fighters. Missles just
about always hit, and enemy missles are very difficult to avoid. You can deploy electronic
countermeasures (ECM) to evade missles, but even so, its not easy. The rest of most
missions include tanking a few submarines (equipped with SAMs), maybe a destroyer or oil
platform. The really good stuff is usually taken out by launching a Tomahawk cruise missle
from your F-14. You fly to a "waypoint", the screen switches, and then you shoot
your missle. Eventually, whatever you targeted blows up.
the simplicity of the missions that really prevents F-14 Tomcat from being a lot more fun.
The tough parts of missions tend to be taken care of for you. In Novice mode, you never
have to land your jet, its automated. In Ace mode, you must land your jet, but to do
so you need only point towards the carrier and slow down. There is no finesse involved.
Adding to the absurdity, there is a whole mode of the game where you can practice pointing
straight ahead and slowing down ad infinitum. The use of the cruise missles to achieve
most of the fun-sounding mission objectives further usurps the quality of the missions.
Apart from the lack of actual gameplay variety, the missions suffer from incredible
graphical similarity. Time of day varies, but gameplay is always carried out with the same
horizon just a textured sea plane converging with a textured sky plane. The only
thing that changes are the shades of color. And being that you are flying a fighter jet,
much of the combat is carried out at distances too great to see your enemy (except the
aforementioned close-quarters dogfighting). Overall, there is a general lack of variety in
scenery or props.
missions vary little, the bulk of the fun to be had with F-14 Tomcat lies in mastering the
alphabet soup of sensors and radar with which your jet is equipped. This is quite
entertaining for awhile, but eventually becomes unfulfilling. The controls take a little
while to master, but are cleverly designed to open up a surprisingly wide range of
capabilities given the GBAs four major buttons without becoming too difficult. The
Multiplayer mode livens the game up a lot. You can play a deathmatch with up to three
friends, who each must have their own cartridge.
Tomcat is a game that no air combat fan with a GBA can be without. F-14 Tomcat is a
technical achievement worthy of praise. Fans of this title will see past the limitations
of the platform and praise the number of features it manages to pack in. Dont come
looking for reality; dont come looking for narrative depth or character development.
F-14 Tomcat is for gamers who want the dogfight without the hassle.