Game Review - by James Allen
During World War II, Hitler's plan to invade England was contingent of successful air raids to destroy key locations to repel and cripple a British counter-attack. Rowan's Battle of Britain simulates these missions that took place in 1940. You can take your place as a member of the Royal Air Force or Luftwaffe (which goes good with maple syrup), and re-create these important events of the Second World War. Will Battle of Britain serve its country proud, or go down in a fiery display of incompetence?
Simulating the aerial combat of the Battle of Britain, Rowan's recreation features six fighters and five bombers to choose from. All of the fighters, including the Spitfire and Me109, are fully flyable, however the bombers can only be controller from the gunner positions (which is actually kind of fun). The missions themselves can be fully customized, which is a slightly daunting task for the newbie. Luckily, the difficulty of the airplanes themselves can be scaled down by the use of engine management, flight model, and airframe stress options, among others.
You can engage the enemy in quick shots or campaigns. Quick shots let you practice your flying skills in basic and advanced training, dogfighting, ground attack, interceptions, and historic exercises. The historic exercises are actually mirrored from those found in the scenarios, so including them in the quick shots just makes accessing them easier. Speaking of campaigns, you can encounter the enemy in four different time periods: convoys, eagle attack, critical period, and blitz. The campaigns are actually two games in one; the actual flying is set up by commanding the different airborne units. In addition, you can play multiplayer matches with up to seven other pilots using death matches, team plays, or any of the quick shot missions. The features in Battle of Britain make jumping in and flying a quick mission easy, and also tacking a longer campaign a piece of blood pudding.
The sound is respectable. The plane sounds, explosions, and radio chatter are all very realistic, and create a very engrossing environment. With other aircraft buzzing overhead, bombs exploding all around, and the hurried shouts of fellow pilots filling the air, Battle of Britain makes the Battle of Britain come alive with vigor.
Playing a campaign in Battle of Britain actually consists of two phases: commanding your squadrons, and taking part in them. The Royal Air Force can be instructed to fly patrols around areas that the Germans are expected to target, thus getting a jump on the enemy. You can also keep a number of squadrons in reserve for interceptions of unexpected German forces. The Luftwaffe's campaigns consist of designing raids to destroy specific targets in England. All of the forces involved can be customized as well, allocating specific numbers of fighters and bombers to each raid or patrol. Once two opposing forces collide, you can actually choose to hop in one of the planes and assist in determining the outcome. This is a pretty neat feature that I was actually not expecting: you serve as both the commander and pilot. This adds two aspects to the game, a strategy element in designing your flights appropriately, and actually piloting the aircraft and downing the enemy.
During the flights themselves, a feeling of insignificance comes over the pilot. The sheer number of opposing aircraft is daunting, and usually you are accompanied by a like quantity of planes. During the commanding phase, you feel as though the results of the battles are dependent on you, though during flight you are an awfully small part of your forces. I found the flight model itself actually easier than I expected, especially considering the general unstable nature of the aircraft during the era. If you feel intimidated by the difficulty, you can always select some of the many assists. The more realistic you choose your game, the harder it is the fly the planes, and certain death creeps ever closer. With all of these components added together, Rowan's Battle of Britain realistically portrays the strategy and combat of the German raids and British retort sixty years ago.
The graphics, like many flight simulations, look great from a distance. Some of the British lands are included on the ground, and the plane models look great themselves. With so many aircraft in the air, those with less than superior hardware will experience some slowdown with all of the graphics turned up. This is a shame, since the British landscape is rendered very realistically. The only problem with the graphics is that it is very hard to differentiate between your planes and your targets except at extremely close range. Planes that are off-screen are designated with an icon, but once you center them up, those helpers disappear. You can do what I do and just select unlimited ammo and keep firing away. Even though not knowing which planes are yours in the madness of the Battle of Britain is realistic, it doesn't make a good transition over to this simulation. Despite this, the graphics are well done.
Battle of Britain features a complex but scalable flight model, a slightly interesting command module, and good graphics and sound. If you are interested in recreating the first major air battle in human history, Rowan's Battle of Britain is definitely a title you should consider. Although some novice flight simulation pilots may be turned off by the difficulty (and utter realism) of the plane modeling, an investment in Battle of Britain is well worth the eventual returns.