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Falcon 4.0 is a modern air combat simulation originally released on December 12, 1998 by MicroProse. It is a realistic simulation of the Block 50/52 F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter in a full scale modern war set in the Korean Peninsula. Falcon 4.0's dynamic campaign engine runs autonomously. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force, an enhanced version of Falcon 4.0 by Lead Pursuit, was released on June 28, 2005. This version has the Balkans as a new campaign area.
The game's war starts in the early 1990s with North Korean forces invading the Southern Republic of Korea. The United States deploys extensive support to the South, including military aircraft, armored cavalry and naval vessels. The rest of the game's war plays out depending on the player's actions, potentially involving China and Russia. Japan has an airbase, but plays no role in the conflict itself.
Falcon 4.0's gameplay parallels actual fighter pilot combat operations. First, over 30 training scenarios acquaint the player with F-16 maneuvering, avionics operation and various USAF protocols. After training, the player may start the primary gameplay mode in the campaign, which simulates participation in a modern war. Alternatively he or she may engage in dogfight mode which provides an individual air engagement without any continuous context, or create what are effectively miniature campaigns, known as "Tactical Engagements".
The results of the players performance while using Falcon 4.0 are used to generate a 'logbook'. This contains such details as flight hours, Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground kills, decorations, a name and photo and the current rank of the player. Good performance (such as eliminating large numbers of enemy ground units or surviving a difficult engagement) during a mission may lead to the award of a decoration or promotion, while conversely, poor performance (destroying friendly targets or ejecting from the aircraft for no good reason) can lead to court-martial and demotion.
Campaign gameplay has two primary stages, briefings and missions. The briefing section is used to handle flight planning of flights and packages (a number a flights grouped together for mutual support in obtaining a military objective), assignment of steerpoints for determining the route of a given flight and the weapons loadout used by the aircraft. It is also possible to issue instructions to each ground unit manually, overriding the AI's handling of the war. As is the situation for real life pilots, it is of the utmost importance that the player closely examines all of the data presented here to perform well during the mission, in order to best formulate a plan of action when actually flying the jet. Failing to note the location and abilities of enemy SAM sites or CAP aircraft and account for methods of defeating these will almost certainly result in a short flight.
The mission section of the simulator encompasses the actual mechanics of flying the aircraft, radar and weapons operation, threat evaluation, radio communications and navigation. Everything is done in such a manner as to model the aircraft in use as closely as possible, while on the highest realism settings.
The initial release of the software came with three pre-set scenarios for the player use in campaign mode. 'Tiger Spirit' depicted a war where ROK and Allied forces had repelled the initial DPRK assault and moved onto the offensive. 'Rolling Fire' depicted a closely matched situation where DPRK forces had overrun the DMZ and made small gains, while 'Iron Fortress' simulated a scenario where the North had overwhelmed the South and pushed them back to their last line of defense.
A Tactical Engagement (or TE) is a small scale hand-built 'one-shot' mission with a pre-defined objective. The same engine handles the activity of an AI controlled units. One of the advantages of building this style of mission is that it allows experienced pilots to practice attacks on high value, well defended targets, which are often eliminated from campaigns early on as the planning AI assigns packages to eliminate these early during the war, in order to maximise the effect on enemy combat readiness.
This mode of operation places the user in a F-16 currently in flight, armed with an infinite number of missiles. Progressively more capable waves of enemy aircraft then move in and engage the player aircraft. Many different options are available to customise this mode, including disabling SAM and AAA defenses, setting unlimited fuel and the difficulty of the first wave of inbound hostiles. This style of play is probably the closest to the experience enjoyed by many fans of first person shooters.
Unlike its static counterpart, a dynamic campaign has no set game path. Missions and the rest of the game world develop as the game progresses, affected in part by the player's behavior. Dynamic campaigns can present a more random and diverse game experience, but are more difficult for programmers to implement. The AI controlling the activity of the Falcon 4.0 campaign engine can be influenced by a wide range of configurable settings, all of which can be adjusted to meet changing objectives as the scenario progresses.
Falcon 4.0 originally featured 3d graphics with multitexturing support.
Falcon 4.0 was one of the very first multi-threaded programs on the market. It was designed to take advantage of dual x86 processors. The game used two threads: one for graphics and primary simulation and the other thread for the campaign engine.
Falcon 4.0's design was deliberately engineered so that further aircraft and terrain data could be installed retroactively. Presumably, this was to allow the release of an add-on pack, much as with Falcon 3.0. The modding community that grew up after unfortunate events befell the original commercial development have gone on to use this to add a great deal of extra content in the form of post installation patches.
The game was originally designed and produced by Steve Blankenship and Gilman Louie and published under the MicroProse label. The game was rushed to the market in order to make the 1998 Christmas selling season. Unfortunately, Falcon 4.0's first release contained numerous bugs. The final official patch (version 1.08) fixed most of them. After completion of 1.08 patch, the original development team was laid off by Hasbro Interactive. Nevertheless, Falcon fans still sought further improvements of the game. Early modifications altered the game's multimedia and the executable by directly patching the compiled code. After the game's source code leak, a Falcon 4.0 player optimized the game further by re-programming part of the game.
Through its lifetime, Falcon 4.0 has received ongoing fixes and enhancements from various groups of volunteers, which have enhanced the detail and complexity of the simulation over the years to its current state, as well as mended the numerous errors in the original release and its patches. Much of this comes as a result of the source code being available to the developers of modifications. Benchmarksim (BMS) being the premier team to take on the task of user modifications. However, game publisher Atari later issued a cease and desist order against all executable modifications, and thus many modifications were not hosted by websites. Private modification development did continue, even so, as can be seen by the FreeFalcon/RedViper and Open Falcon leaks. It is rumored (confirmed by RV developer) that the FreeFalcon and RedViper teams have recently separated.
There have been several groups who have modified different parts of Falcon 4.0. Some groups and many individuals created new "skins" or paint schemes for aircraft, while other modified the data and code to be more realistic. Still others have worked to create new theaters (e.g. a Desert Storm Theater) for Falcon 4.0. Thousands of hours have been spent by hundreds of people for the goal of making Falcon 4.0 the most immersive and realistic jet combat sim possible.
A company called Lead Pursuit which has been formed around many known names of the Falcon modding community has gained a license from Atari to continue Falcon 4.0 development. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force  was released on June 28, 2005, and is largely a compilation and unification of existing modifications over the original Falcon 4.0 and the official patches, but at the same time shows several major new features never before seen and is a huge leap forward in stability, especially regarding online Multiplayer gaming. This is the first known example of a user community taking over a game, modding it, maintaining code configuration, and having it re-release as a commercial product seven years after the original publication. With Falcon 4.0:Allied Force and FreeFalcon 5, Falcon is one of the oldest active code base in computer gaming history.
Lead Pursuit, Inc. has been updating the game with new patches, considerably enhancing the functionality of the simulation as they have released them particularly in the multiplayer aspect which now allows extremely smooth close-up formation flying for players across the world. One of the most popular online Allied Force servers is Multivipers which runs real-time campaigns lasting days. Players jump into missions—whatever missions they like—and their success or otherwise determines the course of the campaign.