• Jane's WWII Fighters

    Jane's WWII Fighters

    By Iair Arcavi (18 January 1999)

    "Target, enemy truck, one mile, twelve o’clock low, moving north west". I changed my weapons to missiles and prepared for the first run at the convoy of trucks my three wingmen and I were supposed to intercept. Control was sluggish because my flaps were stuck somewhere between "takeoff flaps" and "retracted".

    It happened after takeoff. I retracted the gear, and then tried to retract the flaps, when I heard a series of strange noises followed by the message "flaps jammed". I decided to fly out to the attack anyway, but I was starting to regret it. I could barely center my target on the truck which was now getting closer and closer. I fired. The missile flew out leaving a trail of smoke behind it, which blinded my view. I pulled up, only a few dozen feet over the ground when I heard a loud explosion and I saw a fire ball emitting a column of black smoke coming out of where the truck used to be. "Bullseye!" cried out one of the wingmen.

    I was starting to get in position for my second run, when one of the bombers reported dropping one of his bombs. I saw it fall down and hit another truck in the convoy spreading out a small yet visible shock wave as it hit the ground with an enormous "boom" followed by a large pile of thick black smoke shooting up.
    The sun was setting but it still blinded the view when looking straight at it, so our strikes had to come only from one direction with the sun in our backs.

    Once all that was left of the convoy were a few truck skeletons and many black craters on the road, we headed back to base. Landing was going to be rough with the flaps jammed, I thought to myself as we headed back.

    That was just one of the many missions one can fly with Jane’s World War II Fighters. In their latest flight simulator, Jane’s tried to recreate the flying experience of World War II, and in my opinion did a great job. Graphics, sounds and the unlimited possiblities that this sim provides are amazing. But, allow me to start from the beginning.

    The requirements seemed a bit harsh to me at first but once I saw the sim, I understood why. According to the box one needs at least:
    Windows 95 or 98, Pentium 200 (or higher), 250 megs of hard disk space (200 for the game and 50 for the Windows swap file) 32 megs of RAM, a 3D accelerator and a 6x CD-ROM.

    Right from the installation process one can notice the professionalism in Jane’s products. Jane’s manages to engulf the user in a WWII environment right from the start. As files are being installed, background music resembling something from the 1940s begins to play. Even though the installation takes some time, the music doesn’t repeat itself, and is quite nice to hear while waiting for the files to be copied.

    WWII Fighters comes with two CDs. One is used for the installation and the second has to be inserted for entering the game.

    The Museum
    Once installation is complete, Jane’s presents their WWII Museum. The museum is actually the user interface of the sim. It consists of several rooms, each dedicated to a different issue. For example, the hangar has the planes of WWII lined up like in a museum, and one can get closer to each one of them. Furthermore, one can take a peek at the cockpit of each plane, whilst hearing an explanation of it, and also read some specs on the plane and view a movie on it.

    Another room, the central room, has information on the war itself. The history of it, the ground forces, the air forces, etc.

    The third room is the war room. In here one can choose out of many different ways of playing the game. Among the options are Quick Mission, Create Mission, Multiplayer Mode, Campaign and Single Mission. The War Room’s graphic representation is excellent. It’s a real pleasure "walking" around in it. Furthermore, all museum rooms have a very pleasant background music similar to the one from the installation. All of which help the user get into the appropriate mood and environment of the time.

    Quick Mission
    Here one can choose a plane for himself, a plane for the computer, and up to three wingmen for each. Also, the computer difficulty level can be chosen along with the weapons that the plane will be carrying. Other options include weather, time of day, distance between you and the enemy, altitude to be positioned at, and if one is at an advantage compared to the computer, disadvantage or neither. Basically, the advantage position places you behind the enemy plane(s), disadvantage is the opposite and "none" means you’ll start off flying facing each other.

    The Quick Mission option is great if you want to practice your dog fighting skills.

    Create Mission
    In this part of the war room you are presented with a map of airfields where you can choose where to add enemy bases, trucks, planes, etc. thus creating your own mission.

    Multiplayer Mode
    WW2 Fighters can be played in multiplayer mode through the Internet. Also, messages can be sent from one player to another.

    Here you can choose either the Allied Forces or the Axis forces and fly mission after mission stopping whenever you wish. The campaign starts out with a movie that explains the situation.

    Single Mission
    Here one can choose between Allied missions, Axis missions, Allied training or Axis training. Allied training includes training in takeoffs, landings and navigating as well as air interceptions, destroying ground targets, and using the missiles and bombs. The training missions are accompanied by visual and audible explanations which are easy to follow.

    Now to the game itself.

    OK, so here’s the deal. The planes look great! The look very real both from the inside and from the outside. From the inside, one can rotate the view to look down at the cockpit or to the side, look at the wing, and even look up for that enemy plane which just passed you by. From the outside, one can see the plane from many angles, rotating around it. Also, a "Fly By" view is available where the plane flies past a stationary point in the air. This view really looks great!

    All planes include moving parts, meaning that the ailerons, elevators and rudders will all move according to how you move your joystick (or what you press on the keyboard). Also, the wheels extend and retract smoothly and so do the flaps. The propeller is very realistic as its turn speed changes according to the thrust setting.

    One interesting feature about this sim, is that when you shoot someone you can actually see the damage you caused him. For example, when I was shot at I could see bullet holes in my wing! Quite frightening, but not as frightening as seeing my wing fly off after I was hit by an enemy plane. Yup, it flew off, and I got into a spin, from which I had no choice but to bail out. Once you bail out, the view switches to external view, and one can see the "hood" of the canopy fly out, and the pilot (you) jump out, later followed by the deployment of the parachute. Sometimes, if they hit you in certain places, you can’t bail out as the pilot desperately announces that "It’s stuck!".

    This damage effect makes for interesting dog fights, especially when its the enemy who gets hit! Once I shot a bomber in the wing and I saw it detach from the plane. Both the wing and the plane plummeted down to the ground in two balls of fire.

    Furthermore, when one fires the guns, they light up and create a very realistic effect. The scenery looks good too. It includes roads, mountains, rivers and even small cities. All are done very well and look very realistic. The clouds also look great and feathery. Flying through them is quite a nice experience. When flying in dusk, the sunset looks great and the lighting really looks like dusk time.

    The sounds in this sim are absolutely amazing. The propeller sounds very real, as do all the screeching and squealing involved in retracting flaps or extending the gear. If one makes too sharp a turn, the pilot’s heart beats can even be heard, before he starts to black out.

    When one looks to the side of the plane the engine noise shifts speakers so it sounds like it’s really coming from the direction in which the engine is. During my first strikes I was quite alarmed at the sounds of the explosions since they sounded so loud and real. Whether a bomb hits the ground or a missile does, the explosion is enough to startle anyone. When flying in groups one can hear the communications between the pilots as well as German when listening to communications between German pilots.

    Actual Gameplay
    This game is made for fun. I don’t know how realistic it is in terms of handability of the planes or aiming and shooting, but it sure is fun. For example, one can’t fly with all of the cockpit’s instruments. Sure, one can look down at them, but when flying it is possible to call up only three different instruments at one time. I usually fly with full screen on and with the airspeed indicator, altitude indicator and compass in the corner. Even though the original forward view includes the frame of the canopy and the propeller in the front, I find it much easier to fly in full screen mode.

    In any case, there is a small and simple target in the center of the screen, which is obviously used for aiming weapons. Unlike modern fighters, targeting and shooting is quite straight forward in these planes. I don’t know if this was made in order to make the game simpler and more fun, or if it really was like this with those planes. In any case, there isn’t any "get your target in the square and then move slowly up as the circle interlocks with the square and...". Just aim and shoot. Also, once you choose a target, a small screen in the corner opens up and shows the target plane or truck enlarged, with the distance and heading of it, relative to you. A red square also appears around your target so you know where it is, and when you’re not facing it, an arrow on one of the sides of the screen tells you where it is.

    For you hard-core sim fans, all of this might be a bit disappointing, since this sim has been rated a mid-core sim. To me, and I guess to most newcomers to flight sim as well, this is actually a good thing. The emphasis here is the fun of flying in these planes and shotting down targets, not perhaps the 100 percent realism.

    I liked the little things that Jane’s added to the sim to make it more enjoyable. For example, the "print screen" option. One doesn’t have to have a special program to take screenshots in 3D mode. By pressing Ctrl+Print Screen, one can take as many screenshots as one wishes, and they will each be saved in a different file. Another thing I liked is the option to add a second icon to the desktop, the "Fly Now" icon. This allows you to get right into the game in a random setting and plane and just fight other planes. Once you destroy one, another one will come along. Once you get shot down, you can revive yourself, and get right back in the air. Again, this isn’t all that realistic, but it allows for just having fun and practicing.

    The "bail out" option is also very nice. Once you press Alt+Shift+B, the view switches to external view. The canopy hood flies off, and the pilot gets shot out right after it. A second or two later the parachute opens and the pilot glides safely down to earth. You can’t control the fall but it’s just a nice option in case your plane is about to crash.

    This sim is a fun sim. I enjoyed it very much, and I am sure that if you are a WWII buff, you will enjoy it too, especially since among the planes one can fly are the P-38J, ME 262A-1A, P-47D, FW 190A-8, BF 109G-6, Spitfire and P51D. Graphics, sounds and the general sim are all great!

    However, I have heard that Jane’s F-15 for example is much more realistic than this. WWII Fighters has some options included that might make it less realistic but make it more fun! In my opinion, this is a good trade, since eventually the point of realism is to increase the enjoyment, and if this can be done directly, why not?

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