The mission plan seemed pretty simple. All I had to do was follow a tortuous course through the hills, avoiding enemy missile sites, at about 200 feet and 500 knots to the tiny building which was my primary target.
Once there, a simple matter of precision bombing would leave me the straightforward task of navigating my way back to base through a solid wall of seriously annoyed, and by now very alert, enemy defences.
All in a day's work for a Tornado pilot, I thought, and, tossing my white silk scarf carelessly over my shoulder, I winked at the ground crew, shouted "chocks away!" as an added touch of bravado, and powered off into the gathering dusk.
Things went well enough at first, and I slipped through the first line of missile sites without incident. After only a few more miles, however, I realised with a trouser-
Smack bang in my path there loomed a SAM site, and I heard the threat warning begin to whine in my ear.
Praying for luck, I flipped off the autopilot and wrenched my Tornado round in an accelerating turn, almost blacking out from the high G I was pulling.
Too late! The threat warning, by now doing banshee impressions, was suddenly blanked out by the roar of an explosion and the HUD flashed a damage warning.
No need to ask what had been hit, however, as the controls began to sag like someone had coated the wings with lead. I flattened out of the turn with difficulty, hit the deck at 100 feet, and punched the throttle for all I was worth, reaching 800 knots in no time. Then I noticed I had another problem - an airborne one.
The MiG was above me and on my seven o'clock, so I pulled up as sharply as the controls would allow, hit the air-brake to lose speed, and went into a yo-yo roll.
The manoeuvre worked! Unfortunately for mu opponent, he obviously had slower reactions than I, and before he knew I was now on his six, I'd sent a Sidewinder up his tailpipe, Scratch one bird!
All that was left for me to do was return to the correct flight path, finish my precision bombing attack, and nurse my damaged ship back to base. As I said, all in a day's work for a Tornado pilot.
HiSoft's first entertainment release may be a serious flight simulation, but as it revolves around one of the world's fastest warplanes, it also comes with a comprehensive combat option, allowing it to challenge F16 Combat Pilot and Falcon for the crown of the flight combat simulations.
ProFlight starts off on the right foot by concentrating on the Tornado which, as the fastest aircraft in the world at low level, is ideal for a flight combat sim. Fast flying and a healthy wadge of combat options carry the program along so well that it's possible to forget ProFlight is designed to be more simulation that stimulation.
From the word go the program was developed to be as realistic as possible, and was built around complex flight algorithms to match as closely as possible the feeling of flying the real thing.
I was relieved, therefore, to discover that my version of ProFlight supports analogue joysticks. The first version sold did not contain this feature, but owners of these copies can receive a free update from HiSoft if they register as a user before July 1st to send in those cards now, folks!
Without the analogue option, control is centred around the mouse which as a proportional device goes some way to providing realistic flight controls.
There is a digital joystick option for those with a perverse need to cripple the aircraft before it gets off the deck, but I wouldn't recommend it.
With an analogue stick, the armchair flyer has the best possible simulation of real aircraft controls, so the omission would have been a serious one, especially considering the realism angle taken by HiSoft. Please take note, software companies!
With analogue joysticks such as the Voltmace Delta 3A selling for only £17, there's no excuse for not providing for them in flight sims. Now I've got that off my chest, I have to admit that ProFlight flies like a dream, and both mouse and analogue joystick control works very well once you get used to it.
Digital joystick addicts might need some time to adjust, but with practice, both offer a much more sensitive and manageable form of control.
Once on the runway the pilot can configure his or her aircraft to make the level of realism, and hence flight difficulty, as high or low as required using the extensive autopilot option.
Flaps and stabilisers can be taken care of by the computer, as can a host of other tricky flight controls, to make life as easy as possible for the harassed pilot lining up for the final bomb run. It's even possible to have the autopilot take the aircraft all the way to the target via several waypoints, though it won't drop the bombs for you.
For beginners there's a crash inhibitor, so you can bounce the plane off the ground as hard as you please while you've still got your L plates. All in all, the extent to which the program can adjust to the individual pilot's needs is very gratifying.
Combat, rather than being a thrown-
The map area is very large and conveys the impression of space often missing from other flight sims. There's nothing like a "now leaving map area" message to burst the realism bubble.
Dogfights are very enjoyable, with enemy fighters acting intelligently and using tactics of their own. Locking on and firing a missile is not the end of a fight, as the MiG will often decoy your missile with chaff or flares. So towards the end of long missions I usually found myself having to resort to cannons, all six of my missiles having been used.
Bomb runs are also rather hairy, as many of the targets are protected by missile sites. This forces you to plan the final approach to a target carefully, so that exposure to SAMs is kept to the minimum. In some sims it's possible just to fly straight to the target and back again, but in ProFlight, mission planning means just that.
ProFlight's long term appeal is guaranteed if you're a sim buff, and it will be a big hit for people who enjoyed F16 Combat Pilot. Those who prefer the more simplistic flight combat games might give up at the prospect of having to master aircraft controls, or fly within the realistic limits of pilot and airframe.
Any serious gamer who perseveres with ProFlight, however, will be rewarded by a simulator that blends flight realism and excellent combat in a way that few can match.