Popular with many European air forces, as well as forming a major part of the USAF's strike force in Europe, it's only appropriate that both sims set themselves in Central Europe. Neither bother with actual town names, and the enemy is unnamed despite using Soviet MiGs... maybe Albania has declared war!
Falcon's scenario pits one air base against a multitude of targets spread across a relatively small area. You can choose any of 12 missions to fly against targets such as bridges, factories, runways, tanks and MiG-21 fighters. The Mission Disk adds tanks, landing craft, trains, ammunition dumps, Mig-29s and twelve more missions. Five skill levels range from 'bounce-off-the-ground' up to Colonel level, where the F-16 is a much more fragile beast. In addition you can choose how many MiGs can be up in the air at one time, up to a maximum of three.
A new feature offered by the Mission Disk is the interlinking of the missions to offer an overall mission. Unlike in the original, where the game effectively restarts once you land (apart from saving any medals to service record), here if you blow up a factory it stays destroyed for several missions. Your ultimate objective is to wipe out the enemy's industrial and attack capabilities, while protecting your base from invasion. This is a big improvement, but you can still change your skill level every time you land, as cheats will be glad to know.
In DI's offering the pilot is assumed to be already competent with flight simulators as even the practice modes can prove very unforgiving. Besides landing and free-flight practice, you can also practice five different missions: Scramble - intercept MiGs, Hammerblow - destroy enemy's air capability, Deepstrike - strike supply and support, Tankbuster - says it all and Watchtower - deep reconnaissance.
When you're adept at these you can go into training mode, setting up a service record. To go on a real mission you must first complete each of the five practice missions, saving to disk each time. If you crash the service record is erased (unless you cheat and reset your computer).
Complete your training and you can select Operation Conquest. Her you take the role of a wartime Squadron Leader and, besides flying your own aircraft, can send four other F-16s on combat missions. Unlike Falcon you don't select mission types by clicking on their names, rather you plan your mission against a target of your choosing via a map screen. This is a lot more realistic and adds a sizeable strategic element.
As in Falcon you can reduce the number of enemy vehicles sent against you by blowing up factories, but there's a lot more factories here so you can't stop tank attacks just by destroying one building, as you can in Falcon. Combat Pilot's map is generally a lot bigger - you'll need to refuel just to travel the length of it. The knock-on effect is superbly done as well, if your SAM (Surface-to-Air-Missiles) sites are knocked out enemy MiGs become more of a problem.
Right, enough of this chat. Let's get up there in the wild, blue yonder. Falcon pilots will be able to take off a lot easier and quicker - a pilot can lift off within a handful of seconds. On the lower levels of the F-16 it is extremely hard to stall and the engine is super-rated allowing for extremely rapid (and ridiculously short) takeoffs. On Colonel level things are very much harder - taking off with a heavy load here takes ages, controls become realistically sluggish and there's red outs as well as black outs.
Frame update is very smooth indeed with good control response and fell. Graphic presentation is generally first class; one of the most impressive parts of Falcon is the external view option. A chase plane can follow the F-16 as it makes attack runs, dogfights with MiGs and dodges missiles. Not all that good for landing the plane, but great for wowing your friends. Then there's the satellite view as well (complete with zoom function).
Sadly, the visual scanning range is incorrectly defined - telegraph poles, roads and the like can all be seen at heights of 80,000 up, in reality this wouldn't be possible.
F-16 Combat Pilot is a much different kettle of fish. While you can look behind you, ore to the right or left, there are no external views in Combat Pilot and graphics are simpler. But there is the LANTIRN system for use in the dark, which amplifies light to provide an eery green area of vision (there is no night flying in Falcon). The principal appeal of the game however, is the depth of play. On your first flight the runway will seem way too short, the flight controls too sluggish and only one life obviously insufficient. DI fans will accept this, claiming it's more realistic (and you can't really argue with that).
In combat Falcon again scores in presentation - the MiGs are awesome, while ground attacks are met with a stereo roar of a missile launch and flight (even if the missiles are a littlw slow) and colourful explosions. Another strong point is the intelligence of the MiGs. MiG-21s aren't too much of a problem on the higher levels, provided you intercept them at a distance and know their limitations. But all your hard earned tactical experience is thrown out of the window when you tackle MiG-29s. Not only are they incredibly adept at close quarter manoeuvres but also extremely accurate with Cannon fire.
Combat Pilot ground attacks are met with a dull roar and speedily accelerating missiles. Cannon fire is precise, unlike Falcon. Randomly placed pylons, trees and bushes missing from Falcon appear here to good effect. Flying over enemy installations with flak bursting all around is pretty hair raising (much more so than in Falcon) even if the installations are few and far between. Variety is present within the multitude of different targets but they don't look quite as good as those in Falcon.
Another dubious point is the game's realism when it comes to surface-to-air missiles. If you're detected by radar then you're in for a hard fight as the missiles that follow very rarely miss. If you can see a missile coming you're effectively dead, it's THAT tough! Air-to-air missiles are no less tough, making it extremely hard for you get close to a MiG.
Falcon's principal strengths are superb graphic presentation and large number of skill levels. You really do believe you're there fighting for your life, and the rookie level means even arcade fans can have fun. The Mission Disk not only adds more opponents, but a vital overall task which you can keep saving and loading over a couple of weeks. On the debit side this boosts the overall price of Falcon to £45.
At £25 Combat Pilot lacks graphic polish, but makes up for it with a depth to rival Elite. Before you can even get into real combat, there's the five training missions to complete. Then there's the strategy of not only planning your own missions, complete with electronic waypoints to keep you on course, but planning the missions of four other F-16s. The size of the map, and your enemy's capabilities are formidable and if you complete it your rank goes up and the enemy attack again. There's also a head-to-head air combat facility if you've two Amigas to link together. Flight sim fans will love this game, but others might find it a bit tough to begin with.
Both programs are undoubtedly very worthy Sizzlers. As for the Mission Disk it provides a significant addition to the basic game which fans of the original mission can't miss. A sizzler too in fact, albeit overpriced.