The HUD is clean and minimal, accentuating the arcade style instead of crowding the screen with information. To the left is an airspeed indicator, with a small tactical map below it. An ammo counter sits bottom right. Switching weapons or wingman support options pops up a box with choices on the right hand side. It's all very clean and efficient, letting me concentrate on whatever's heading for my face at Mach 2.0.
I swoop under a high bridge, echoes of Peppy Hare in my mind as I 'do a barrel roll'. It's almost ruined by me clipping the underside of the structure, but I manage to style it out and save the paint job on my fighter by diving wildly towards the desert floor. I'm no natural pilot. It doesn't take long to get the hang of, though, and soon I'm booming confidently around the valley, pausing only briefly to crater a settlement of truckers during an overenthusiastic fly-by.
A point of interest flicks up in front of me now, in convincing military green, indicating by direction and distance a group of buildings which need checking out. I open up the throttle and blaze across the dry desert surrounding the base, ogling the well mapped mesas and populated river valleys which gouge the landscape. They're still buildings, it turns out, so I move on to the next POI, a convoy of covered trucks. Friendlies, comes the conclusion. Another set of huts comes under my scrutiny. No trouble here.
Then the fourth waypoint pops up. "Suspicious convoy". Gives it away a bit, really.
Two choppers pop up to assist in my investigations, pulling up in front of the convoy to challenge them. Incredibly, they're not in the mood to discuss military protocol, downing one of the Apaches with and RPG. Weapons hot, cleared to engage says the serious man at the end of the radio. He calls me Gunslinger. I'm slightly overcome with gung-ho bravado.
My F-16 is armed with three different weapon types. Precision missiles, dumb rocket-pods and a last-ditch auto-cannon. Firing a precision missile puts the plane into autopilot, switching the camera to a targeting system. These aren't homing missiles, so I need to point before I shoot, but the detachment from the planes navigational systems means that I can aim without stacking myself into the lead vehicle or the nearest hillside.
Launching a missile superimposes a blue wireframe pyramid onto the field of view, dropping away towards the missile's target. Holding the fire button switches the camera to a missile-head view, following the missile's path to its target in a satisfactorily Schadenfreude-laden manner.
Audio-feedback leaves me in no doubt about the effectiveness of my fire, military metaphor abandoned in favour of a simple "target destroyed". Boom.
Swooping back for another pass, I decide to try out the rockets. They're a more basic affair, their rapid-fire nature compensating for their imprecision. They're still pretty useful, mind - another group of vehicles evaporates under an umbrella of flame.
As they do so, XP totals flash up on my HUD. These point totals add up toward various weapon and plane unlocks, broadening the experience. It's something the studio is keen to focus on, talking up the arcade challenge modes which will allow players to go back and complete missions in different ways, using different planes specialised for different roles.
The second mission we're handed deals with the Russian faction - closing in around a group of surrounded separatists to strike a final blow. A group of cargo planes have been spotted heading towards the combat area, and it's my squadron's job to head over and check them out. We're rolling pretty deep, in a wing of around 16 planes, and it's the first time I have some wingmen. They're AI controlled at the moment, but Douglas makes it clear this won't always be the case.
Every mission in the game, including the Arcade Challenges, can be played in local or online co-op, with up to four players. Finally, I can make my friends refer to me as 'squadron leader'.
I approach the enemy formation, a Ubisoft developer joining me at 20,000 feet. "Maybe it will all end peacefully," he says. "Maybe we'll all go home happy." I can't imagine Tom Clancy would be happy with that, even if he has sold his name to Ubisoft.