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Fly back to the Cold War with MiG Alley



February 29, 2000
Web posted at: 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT)

(IDG) -- Just five years after WWII, the Korean conflict ushered in the jet age and the cold war simultaneously. U.S.-built F-86 Sabre jets competed with the Russian MiG 15 for supremacy of the skies over northwest Korea, the area known as "MiG Alley."

Rowan Software's simulation of the same name is an accurate historical representation of 1950s military aircraft technology and tactics. MiG Alley lets users fly one of four U.S. made aircraft: the F-86 Sabre, F-84 Thunderjet, F-80 Shooting Star and the P-51 Mustang. Two iterations of the Soviet MiG 15 may also be flown in the simulation.

MiG Alley's graphics engine is a bit of a dichotomy. It's not as pretty to look at as many current flight sim products but it has remarkably high performance that supports an extremely dynamic environment. Rowan claims that over one hundred computer-controlled aircraft can be in the air at one time with no degradation of frame rate. After playing the game for many hours under single and campaign mission scenarios with dozens of planes in the air I never experienced choppy performance.


Some players may not appreciate the artistry of the objects depicted in MiG Alley, but the sheer number of graphical details included and the realistic way they are portrayed is impressive. Dogfights have the look and feel of old gun camera footage (yes, there is a gun camera feature in the sim.) At closing speeds of up to 1,000 mph, the action is fast and furious.

There is plenty of ground-pounding action too. Close air support (CAS) missions are especially exciting. It is there that you see the battle dynamically unfolding beneath you with individual soldiers, patrols, AAA, convoys and armored columns all engaged in or supporting the fight.

It's amazing to strafe a group of soldiers and see them scatter. Tracers don't travel in straight lines; they realistically arc toward their targets. Large caliber AAA shells rise from the ground as menacing glowing orbs. If your plane is damaged by enemy fire it shows up in the exterior view where you might even notice fuel leaking from your tanks.

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Explosions in MiG Alley are some of the best I've seen. Each impact is accompanied by a flash and a geyser of debris. Napalm, one of the nastiest of modern weapons, is also graphically portrayed in the program. The only things that aren't active in MiG Alley's environment are things that are virtually dead.

MiG Alley features a fascinating use of the "padlock" view. Pressing a function key will identify the nearest enemy air or ground target from inside the cockpit. As you fly past the target, the view is automatically switched to the exterior of the plane so you can see the damage you've inflicted. To make another pass, just maneuver the aircraft for another run and the view switches back inside the cockpit.

There are also some "features" that are very irritating. The map display that controls the configuration of campaign play has an annoying problem with the cursor. When I would point to the top bar of buttons the cursor arrow would jump all over the place making it very difficult to select program options. I also found that in at least one mission a column of UN tanks was designated as an enemy target.

MiG Alley is a serious historical simulation; it is also serious fun. Mastering original jet fighter technology is a challenge and learning about one of the hottest battles of the Cold War makes it a simulation worth flying.

Graphics: 4.0

Not as pretty as some flight sims but very respectable. Graphics engine has enough horsepower so that dozens of aircraft can be in the air at the same time with no degradation of performance.

Sound: 4.0

Lots of attention to sound details with plane-to-plane and plane-to-ground chatter, high quality internal and external aircraft sounds. MiG Alley creates a very immersive sound environment.

Control: 4.0

Each aircraft is realistically flight modeled. Pilots have to deal with buffeting and dizzying spins. Force-feedback programming is excellent. One disappointing inaccuracy lets users put flaps and gear down at any speed without any consequences.

Tech: 4.0

The mission building map interface has cursor problems. Be careful, some friendly units can be targeted as the enemy.

Multi-Player: 3.0

Up to 8-player network death match or team play. Internet play on is also supported.

Fun Factor: 4.0

MiG Alley is a top-notch historical flight sim. Accurate flight models and immersive campaigning provides a very satisfying experience.

  • Use the map function to pause the game, plan strategy, communicate with your wingmen and accelerate between way points.
  • Don't forget to dump your external fuel tanks (Ctrl F) when you enter a dogfight.
  • If you get into an out-of-control spin (you will) try cutting back on the throttle, give full rudder in the opposite direction of the spin and then apply full throttle. If you're a cheater (aren't we all) use the U key to gain more altitude or the spin recovery cheat (Shift S).

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More game info
Korean War Museum
Korean War Project

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