Genre: Simulation Developer: Edward Lemar Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1 Released: 1991
Polygons. They changed the face of video games forever and summarily killed 2D gaming. And while it took a Quake to drive the final nail in Mr. Sprite’s coffin, the coup was already underway even as early as 1991. Hence the presence of a handful of polygonal efforts on our own Sega Genesis. One of those is the game in question today, F-22 Interceptor. Hailing from the ranks of Electronic Arts, F-22 is a flight simulator that allows you take control of the Air Force’s long-awaited air superiority fighter of the same name.
All this 21st century technology belies just how primitive the game engine actually is. There’s no point in going for drama here, because all it takes is a cursory glance at the screenshots to the left to understand what we’re dealing with. Succinctly, a piece of primitive polygonal crap. Note to EA: trying to pull off polygonal graphics on a stock Genesis is a really bad idea. Why? Because the console, even when running the Z80 and 68000 in tandem a la Saturn, can’t provide a decent frame rate when there’s more than a few things onscreen at a time. I mean that quite literally. If you’re cruising over an ocean all by your lonesome, then the frame rate is acceptable. Add an enemy plane, any sort of terrain, or even tracers, and the whole thing goes straight to a very fiery place with lots of brimstone.
This choppiness pervades everything and manages to ruin what little enjoyment there is. Granted, there’s not much that stands out even if it the game ran silky smooth. Lack of variety is a big problem: all of the missions are comprised of blasting all the ground targets and enemy fighters in sight. Sheer repetition will make you nauseous, if the jerkiness doesn’t get you first. Constant overcorrection caused by single-digit FPS rates and touchy controls make the aforementioned air-to-ground assaults miserable. Most of the time you’ll be swaying back and forth, desperately trying to line up your shots.
And what happens if you actually get the crosshairs lined up on that boxy tan blob called a tank on your radar screen? You get to select from an array of weaponry, ranging from heatseeking Sidewinders to the hornet-like HVRs. Wire-guided and remote-controlled missiles are also available, but good luck with those… it’s hard enough to fly your jet, much less guide a payload into a tiny little SAM launcher.
The dogfighting isn’t much better thanks to pathetic AI. There is no variation between the different jets you’ll go up against, so it’s easy to summarize the enemy’s general strategy. Namely, chase you around in a circle. This makes one-on-one encounters annoying in the extreme, as you struggle to draw a bead on the vaguely triangle-shaped splotch that is the foe. In the end it quickly comes down to who can turn in a tighter circle. Odds are that soon you’ll just start firing your Sidewinders.
No worries about running out of them, though. Have at it. Unleash as many as you wish on those dastardly Commies. EA conveniently allows you to bypass any semblance of a challenge by modifying the game in mid-combat. Infinite missiles? Sure. Crash avoidance? You got it. Brain-dead enemies, just in case they weren’t stupidly predictable enough? Right there. It’s almost enough to make you reach for the power button. A boat load of options is one thing, but ready, documented access to god mode is something that should only be available in a beta. This is nothing more than a cheap attempt on EA’s part to give the game more lasting power.
But cheapness is something that’s prolific in F-22. The worthless “look at enemy” and “circle plane” camera angles exist for no reason other to show off more polygons. A paltry two background tracks is the sum total of the musical effort. The ending screens for the campaigns are disappointing after the work and pain required to reach them.
In fact, the whole effort is sloppy and offers very few positive aspects. You can’t lay all of the blame on the Genesis in this case. Yes, the hardware was insufficient for the vision, but EA also deserves a slap on the hand for not trying harder. It wouldn’t have been that difficult to add some more spice to the missions, even if that meant escort scenarios or harrying enemy bombers.
As it is, F-22 Interceptor isn’t even worth the dollar or two it usually sells for. If you want a good flight simulator for your Genesis, try F-117 Night Storm. Better yet, just get a modern offering for your PC.
Screen shots courtesy of ScreenMania.