ATF NATO Fighters is the first add-on disk to Jane's ATF: Advanced Tactical Fighters simulation, an already solid and entertaining game (reviewed elsewhere on GameSpot). Though the flight models are simplified, they still leave you feeling that you're actually working to fly fighters and accomplish a mission. Seven cutting-edge fighters and bombers are included, and plenty of missions and on-line data give good value for the money. NATO Fighters adds a little more to the ATF world in a number of ways, with new planes, missions, theaters of operation, and on-line data.
The most notable enhancement is the addition of four new fighters: the F-16, EF2000, Gripen, and Su-35. The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the venerable backbone of the U.S. and allied military forces: a cheap, fast, maneuverable air superiority fighter that is already known to sim fans from Falcon and other games. Saab's JAS 39 series Gripen (or Griffin) is a surprisingly fast and nimble all-weather interceptor and attack jet, clocking supersonic speeds at all altitudes. The Russian Su-35 is a heavy-duty, long-range ground strike aircraft that features the usual Russian predilection for too much firepower. Finally, we get the Eurofighter 2000, which sprang from a desire among the major European powers for single high-tech air superiority fighter that would take them into the 21st century.
Each of these aircraft features in a number of missions on both sides. They are modeled in modest detail, with new cockpits for each, as well as unique weapons loadout, performance envelope, and avionics. These are not the most cutting-edge sims of these aircraft you'll ever find. If you want to fly the Eurofighter, pick up EF2000, or for the F-16 check out Falcon 3.0 (or the forthcoming Falcon 4.0 version of F-16 Fighting Falcon). But they fit nicely into the ATF game world and add a fresh mix of weapons, cockpits, and performance characteristics to an already fulsome game. Also added for flight in non-campaign games are the B1B, F-111F Aardvark, F-15E Strike Eagle, MiG-23 Flogger-B, MiG-29M, Su-25 Frogfoot, and Tornado. None of these last sims are modeled in any level of detail, but it's nice to be able to take them for a spin.
Of more interest to ATF owners who completed all the original missions is an entire new set of scenarios, 40 in all. These missions complement a campaign set in the Baltics and deal with the political (and therefore military) fallout from Estonian independence. Campaign missions manage to put you in all four airplanes for missions running the entire gamut of modern air combat. Jane's participation is notable in fleshing out the politics behind all this action, offering a deep military and political context for the progression of events.
The numerous fixes made to the ATF engine since its release have also been included in NATO Fighters. The core program is updated automatically to add enhancements to the Pro Mission creator, flight and weapons performance, and several other important areas.
If you're a real ATF fans, NATO Fighters is certainly a must, as it expands considerably on the original program and doubles its play life. With a price tag in the low twenties, it provides good value for the money. But if you're still working your way through the original missions, there may not be enough new here to make it worthwhile.