Benchmark Sims had some exciting news this week that all started with a surprise trailer for an upcoming Falcon BMS 4.33 – it looked amazing, check it out:
Before the synchronized eye-rolling had even started on the ‘This is never coming out’ theme song, the group pulled off a glorious switcheroo and released the 1.25GB update for immediate download! Considering the last major point release update was about four years ago, this update is full of many, many impressive things.
Where To Get It & What Do I Need?
The best way to get Falcon BMS 4.33 is to use the torrent file by registering at the BMS forum and accessing this thread:
The group has worked hard for years on this free update, so it’s worth taking the time to register (for free!) and get the install from where it was made. Direct downloads will be available later, but at the time of writing the torrent is very well seeded and was a quick download. The 4.33 version is a clean install, can be installed alongside 4.32, and requires access to the original Falcon disk, disk image, or installation directory. If you don’t have Falcon 4 already, Good Old Games (GOG) has a decent deal here (the GoG shows Falcon 3 screens, don’t be put off):
Especially recommended is the included PDF as part of the GoG package – The Art of the Kill, by Pete Bonanni.
For those new to Falcon or Benchmark Sims (BMS) then the background to this all is that ‘Falcon BMS’ started out as a community mod for MicroProse’s 1998 release ‘Falcon 4.0’ (F4). Official development stopped when MicroProse folded as a business, but the sim has always kept a strong player interest over the years. F4 modelled the Lockheed-Martin F-16C Block 50/52 in a full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula. The detailed avionics, dynamic war campaign, and love for the Viper make it unique in the flight-sim pantheon.
Falcon BMS 4.33 is a free total conversion, in that much of the original feature set have been radically updated. Primarily the new features of the conversion have been updates to:
- 3d cockpit
- Terrain engine
- Multi-player code improvements
- Flight modeling and physics
- Artificial Intelligence
- Sound engine
- User Interface
- Airbase modeling
- Weather modeling
So, that’s pretty much everything then.
New Things & Updates In 4.33
This is a monster update, so I’ll try to be brief here. Each major feature could be an article in itself. The primary source for this changelist is the excellent updated documentation included within the /docs Falcon BMS 4.33 release install.
Platform Update. BMS now comes as a 64-bit executable. The recommendation is now to move to 64-bit as it allows access to more of your PC’s resources. Note: you’ll need to multiplayer with people on the same platform as yourself, e.g. x64 with x64. Multiplayer also has a new installation check anti-cheat provision.
Due to the platform change, existing mods and missions may need to be redone. There are some new tools to help with conversion out.
Graphics Update. Many of the 3D models and skins have been updated, and new features include wing flex, wing vapours and additional weather effects such as rain and snow. F4 is an old title, and its renderer does show its age a little, but not enough to distract from the depth of play.
Terrain Update. Falcon BMS 4.33 comes pre-installed with a hi-def Korean tile set (Korean TvT). Modern PC hardware can handle it easily and frames-per-second are very healthy. Down low the mesh is a little simple but new things like the autogen trees do help out.
Weather Modelling. Dynamic weather has been improved, with very detailed capabilities via new tools to simulate real-world conditions. The depth here really adds to the feel of the missions and the randomness gives things a fresh look.
Avionics. F-16 avionics are now configurable per-block, with a Avionics Editor supplied to individually tweak each block/variant configuration and set-up. The latest blocks have improved RWR and are EGI equipped. There’s also some new toys to play with:
- Targeting Pod includes use of laser codes and IR and Laser Spot buddy FAC ops.
- Updated Sensor Point of Interest (SPI) realism.
- Terrain Following Radar (TFR) and Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) when the LANTIRN is fitted.
- Player bubble updates for longer range attacks.
- Harpoon, SPICE, Main-in-the-loop, Inertial Aided Munitions have been added/updated.
Here’s some nice tutorial videos from Stretch that cover the weapon and sensor updates:
Multiplayer. Reduced stutter in game, as well as some nice features for network sharing things like pilot head position, flight surfaces and the like.
AI and ATC. AI has now been improved in terms of climb profiles and energy management. The AI ATC has been drastically improved, included a new added ‘Autonomous Approach’ option for when you want to quiet the tower.
New Tools and Configuration. Extensive new mission, weather and export tooling. Here’s an extract from the manual with links to all the new tools (an article in itself!):
- WDP: Weapon Delivery Planner: http://www.weapondeliveryplanner.nl
- MC: Mission Commander : http://www.weapondeliveryplanner.nl
- WC: Weather Commander : http://www.weapondeliveryplanner.nl
- Korea Interactive Map for navigation in BMS Korea (including all charts):
- MFDE: Utility to extract displays and instruments from the shared memory:
- Avionics Configurator & BMS Editor (both selectable from BMS Launcher)
- BMS Key File Editor located in \Docs\Key Files & Input folder is a spreadsheet that allows easy customization of the key files.
The Mission Commander is useful for its ability to convert TE files to Falcon BMS 4.33.
Documentation. The docs have been extensively updated and provide enough material that if printed you could swing a mean weapon. There’s all sorts of checklists, airfield diagrams and ops manuals to work through. The BMS docs team have done a great job and I’ve got a lot of reading to do.
Primarily Falcon BMS 4.33 is about the Falcon, and over 20 variants are modelled. Other aircraft have 3D pits and complex models, but the F-16 is the ‘parent’ of the flight modelling and avionics. Here’s a quick list of the flyables in-game:
- F/A 18 Hornet (with Naval Ops including Carrier)
- Mirage 2000
- AV-8A/B Harrier
- F-15 Eagle
- JAS-37 Viggen
There are also some simpler flyable versions of the following aircraft that aren’t quite as complete as the above set, but still incorporate 3D models and basic flight models:
- F-4 Phantom
- F-14 Tomcat
So congratulations to BMS on the release!
Here’s a quick gallery of some updated cockpits and the 3D models – more to come as we all get our feet-wet!