Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
First light of Christmas day shimmers on the wings of your P-51 Mustang. Then you see shadows moving across the snow. 'Jerries! 12 o'clock level!' crackles across the radio. A box of Heinkels escorted by some 109s coming straight at you! Drop your tanks, jam the throttle, and pull back on the stick. Zigzag over a German fighter and blast him with a spray of machine gun fire. The Messerschmitt's tail section breaks off from the stress of the dive. You lose sight of it in the cloud cover until you see the flames, another Bandit down.
Air War Comes of Age, In the First World War air power emerged as a dramatic new dimension of combat. German dirigibles had bombed London causing panic. Biplanes and triplanes soared, locked in dogfights over the trenches of France. Now in the Second World War the airplanes are now faster and stronger than ever before.
After a flawless installation and going through all the very well laid out options and preferences screens, (which were all done in a nice radio button and switches motif, appropriate for the 1945 era), we enter the Jane's Museum. Talk about a work of art! This graphical user interface (GUI) is a perfect example of form meets function. What's more, you get to hear the splendid Glen Miller big band music - another nice shift from jet sim rocking' and Rollin' tunes. You start out by entering the foyer of the fighter's museum and then have the choices of: immediately going to instant action fur-ball, go behind the kiosk and review European theater details, turn left to study and test fly the 7 planes. Or turn right into the war room where the solo, multi-player, campaign and mission editor awaits you.
When it comes to flight model, WW2 Fighters falls short of being truly hard-core. This came to be a real disappointment to me personally for two reasons. First I've looked up to Jane's to be THE hard-core sim developer lately. With products like Longbow2 and F15-E, I had hoped for a top notched flight model following these other releases. Secondly, with the media and eting hype as I previously quoted, my expectations were set high. They mention a high level of realism. If that means graphics and sounds, Ok I agree. But if this was meant to imply realistic flight dynamics then I have to say that WW2 Fighters does NOT deliver. While the feel of flight is very good the hard-core simmer looks for flight behavior at the edge of control. That is to say departure characteristics: flight dynamics such as spins, stalls, compressibility, and faithfulness to known flight specifications. Jane's has some of the very best artificial intelligence (AI) modeling I've seen, on par with Su27 Flanker and TAW. You have to really be watching your six at all times, whether in multi-player or solo with AI bogeys in the vicinity. You will see bandits use both the horizontal and vertical axis to gain the advantage. Not just a predictable turn fight like I see with MS-CFS and EAW (probably EAW's biggest flaw). If you don't watch out you will end up either hitting the silk or as dead meat from a head-on collision. WW2 Fighters supports single and campaign missions for offline or solo gameplay. It uses a mission selector with 40 canned single missions that you can edit and pre-flight brief via its mission editor. This means that you can either use the canned missions or make your own. This is a feature that will ensure a longer shelf and hard disk life when compared to its WW2 competitors (CFS on release lacked a mission editor, and EAW still does not have one).
Let's talk about details. All the avionics are superbly detailed, including the movable flight stick or yoke. The wing control surfaces all work, including leading and trailing edge flaps. Damage modeling has been taken to the next level of refinement. Landing too hard or on soggy ground will end up with sheared or tweaked struts. Gun and cannon hits will not only be heard, but also seen externally. And you have to love the catastrophic damage. You can see the anodized frame, bent props, shot up cockpit and even gory blood splats. The ground objects are very realistic, including running deer and soldiers that scramble from stricken vehicles. Gun and ballistics and bomb explosions are spectacular.
Each plane screams by you with its own distinctive engine roar with the full Doppler effect. Shell casings can be seen dropping from beneath out of their exit ports, gun/cannon flashes and muzzle smoke puffs as you squeeze out the rounds. So when others say that the special effects realism is the best yet, I have to fully agree.
Here's the bad news first, WW2 Fighters is plagued with both minor bugs (i.e. cannot start an MP COOP on the tarmac without a hideous repetitive crash bug), to serious hard-core rating stoppers like the flight modeling (spin, compressibility) short falls, and the magical auto pilot and targeting. Also the manual was a ¼ inch, 90-page deal, targeting only the bare basics. What I would have liked to see coming from Jane's is details on each avionics instrument and how it is to be employed. Energy management (E-M) tables for a/c comparison would have been useful. Granted, much of the historical and pictorial details are embedded in the Museum GUI, so that detail was not left out. I did notice that the cockpit instrumentation from the museum did not match those in the cockpit art while flying (specifically the placement of the gas temp and pressure gauges are swapped). The good news is, WW2 Fighters is the most graphically and sound pleasing (engines, weapons, explosions and that wonderful big band music) sim ever crafted to date. The enemy AI is splendid. The damage modeling is unparalleled. The attention to detail on both the cockpit interior and exterior accuracy and flight control surfaces is very good. The multi-player support continues to be an area of strength for most all of Jane's Sims.