Articles

The Air Force's new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

The US Air Force's latest recruiting tool is probably the closest you can get to jumping out of a military plane without having to leave your living room.


Called "Air Force Special Ops: Nightfall," and jointly developed by the service and GSDM, its longstanding creative partner, this video game aims to demonstrate a key component of a number of special operations jobs to the general public — namely, jumping out of perfectly good aircraft at altitudes so high, you'd suffocate without specialized gear.

Using Sony PlayStation's virtual reality headset, players find themselves immersed in a graphics-rich environment where they jump from planes and make their way to drop zone markers using their parachutes.

In the game, you enter the shadowy world of Air Force Special Operations Command as a recruit undergoing training. Players can choose to enlist as special operations weathermen (yes, that's a real thing), pararescue jumpers, or joint terminal attack controllers.

In real life, each and every one of these specialties within AFSOC is trained to serve on the ground alongside infantrymen of the Army, Marines and special operations troops, gathering environmental data, directing airstrikes, and rescuing downed aviators.

While everything in the game is geared towards realism, you'll probably be very thankful that you don't have to go through any of the grueling training PJs or combat controllers undertake in their pursuit of joining AFSOC's elite units. First-person shooter fans might be slightly disappointed - there won't be any shooting involved.

A familiar sight in the game - looking out the open cargo doors of an MC-130 (Photo Air Force Special Operations: Nightfall via YouTube screengrab)

But for what the game lacks in machine guns and grenades, it makes up for with the experience of a combat jump. Players get a taste of high altitude low opening jumps from an MC-130 Commando II, the Air Force's special operations version of the C-130 Hercules.

Daytime operations are easy enough in themselves, but night ops... that's where you earn your keep.

In fact, the game is so realistic that your night vision goggles will likely wash out and possibly blind you for a few seconds when they're turned on for the first time — just like a real airman.

All jokes aside, however, the game has already been well-received from airmen who've given it a whirl.

"It is so realistic I could almost smell the airplane and feel the wind," says active duty combat controller Master Sgt. Brian Hannigan. That's high praise, considering Hannigan's line of work and real-world experiences as a member of AFSOC.

USAF special operations troopers jump from an MC-130J Commando II over Japan (Photo US Air Force)

And echoing real-life HALO training, the instructors can be very critical, especially if you fail a jump by opening your parachute too early, too late, land outside the drop zone or steer off course.

This isn't the first time the US military has attempted to use video game as a recruiting tool. "America's Army," a first-person game that puts you in the boots of a soldier from basic training to deployment, was actually hailed a success when launched in 2002.

With the advent of virtual reality systems, the Army actually turned its game into a training tool, which is still used today.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Air Force's venture into video games will turn out to be a hit or a miss, but if you'd like to judge that for yourself, you can download a copy for free via PlayStation's store.

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