• Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator

    Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator

    by Jesse Callahan (30 October 1998)

    This review is based on Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator (Beta Version) Pre-released build dated 16 September 1998. It will not contain any references to the Final Release version, though there are not believed to be any substantial differences.

    Microsoft's long awaited Combat Flight Simulator has arrived. In a sense, the simulator could be thought of as "Flight Simulator 99" as its roots in Microsoft's civilian simulator line are clear. Many of the features and the overall look will be familiar to FS98 pilots especially since FS98 aircraft can be imported and flown within Combat Flight Simulator.


    North American P-51D Mustang firing rockets.
    Combat Flight Simulator comes with a very well prepared and written instruction manual that will guide the pilot through all phases of installation and flying the simulator. The manual is large and thick and contains complete information for pilots, not just in using the sim but also in combat tactics. Like all manuals, it does contain typographical errors and erroneous information. For example, in the Communications Section describing various radio transmissions, you will hear "Bandits! Nine o'clock low!" described as planes below and to your right when in fact this term would describe planes to your left.


    INSTALLATION

    The installation of Combat Flight Simulator from the CD-ROM is straight-forward and is in keeping with other Microsoft products. At the time of installation you will be given the choice of either a Typical install or a Custom install. The Typical install gives you all the functions of the simulation and will require approximately 244MB of disk space. The Custom install will let you pick and choose which of the simulation elements you want to use and will take about 208MB of disk space.

    AIRCRAFT


    Republic P-47D Thunderbolt exterior view.
    The simulation has a variety of aircraft that you will be flying. The Default Aircraft are the fighters of World War II used by the Allied Forces and the Germans. The British RAF consists of the Hawker Hurricane I, the Supermarine Spitfire IX and the Supermarine Spitfire Mark I. The USAAF aircraft consist of the B-17G, the C-47, the B-25J, the P-51D and the P-47D Thunderbolt. The Germans are using the Dornier Do17Z, the FW-190A, the Heinkel 111H, the Ju87B Stuka, and a variety of Messerschmitt BF-109s. In addition to the Default Aircraft, you have the capability of importing your favorite Flight Simulator FS98 aircraft. You can use your 737's, 747's and any other FS98 plane you would like. This opens interesting possibilities such as trying a modern combat jet versus WWII era fighters. All imported aircraft have full weaponry capability and can fire rockets and drop bombs just as the original aircraft do.

    GAME MODES


    North American P-51D Mustang exterior.
    The Combat Flight Simulator provides several different situations, or Game Modes. I would recommend that each player start with the Training Missions. These Training Missions will teach you classic aerial maneuvers necessary for combat. They also give video demonstrations of how each of the Training Missions is accomplished. I would complete each training session before attempting to fly the actual enemy engagement missions. Even in the training missions, it is easy to become a casualty of war.

    Free Flight: This mode is most enjoyable because no one is shooting at you and you can really take your time in looking over the scenery and getting the feel of the aircraft. This mode lets you use Combat Flight Simulator just like Microsoft's previous civilian sims only over the spectacular 1940's European scenery.


    Quick Combat: If you want to forget the historical details and just get right to the shooting, this is the way. Quick Combat lets you select your plane, your opponents, the location and then once started puts you immediately in the air with the enemy coming straight for you. Combat continues until you quit or get shot down and you are scored on your combat victories.

    Single Mission: It is in this mode that you are most likely to become a "Victorious Ace" or just another rookie pilot who lost his life for the cause. These are the missions that give you white knuckles and sweaty palms. Here you will use all the skills you possess to avoid being shot down in flames. Whether you are going out on a "Rodeo" mission to try to lure the enemy into the air, or just out looking for ground targets to strafe, you have to stay alert, or you will have "bought the farm".


    Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX cockpit (800x600 3D mode).
    Campaigns: The campaigns you fly are all historical events that took place during the "Battle For Britain" and the "Battle For Air Supremacy Over Europe". As a Luftwaffe fighter pilot, you will be required to bring down as many Allied bombers and their fighter escorts as you can. Or, as an Allied fighter pilot, you will be required to shoot down many German attackers to protect your bomber fleet.

    Degree of Difficulty: The difficulty you encounter will be determined by your choice of combatant opponent. Rookie means you do not have has many fighters on your tail as with a more advanced choice. If you have chosen Veteran or Ace, then you had better be in top-notch form because you will have many more aircraft to contend with and you will also be up against better and more proficient pilots.

    IMPRESSIONS


    Republic P-47D cockpit (800x600 3D mode).
    My impressions of this simulation are slanted more toward the scenery than the actual aircraft used in the combat situations. I did like the panels on all the planes because the instruments are very legible in all modes. I flew missions in both 2D and 3D and by far, the 3D mode is more suitable for the scenery and actions involved.

    There is not too much I can say for the aircraft themselves. I believe that the FS98 aircraft add-ons are much more pleasing to look at and have more realistic lines than do the default aircraft. The Flightsim Devlopers P-51D that I imported was a much better performer than the CFS P-51D. The same applied to the P-47D and the BF-109s imported from FS98.


    North American P-51D Mustang cockpit (800x600 3D mode).
    On the positive side of the simulation is the HUD display that can be brought up by hitting the W key. This mode will allow you to eliminate the instrument panel clutter and have a wider field of view with full screen and at the same time, give you an accurate indication of all essential parameters. The upper HUD will give you a display of the current time, altitude, airspeed and heading. The lower HUD displays additional information relative to the flaps position, gear position, pitch attitude and a complete up to the minute inventory of all bullets, bombs, rockets and cannon ammo as well as percentage of your fuel remaining. I found that when in a combat mode, these items come in handy when you find yourself in an unusual attitude and the enemy all around you.

    Another feature of interest is the Tactical Display which will show all friendly and enemy aircraft that are in your sector. Your aircraft is located in the center of the display and all others are shown in their relative position to you. The Tactical Display also indicates the direction and distance to your target.


    Hawker Hurricane cockpit (800x600 3D mode).

    Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I cockpit (640x400 3D mode).
    I flew most of my missions in the P-51D and the P-47D. Both aircraft flew smoothly and with a realistic feel. During the Training Mission flights, I found it difficult to concentrate on flying the aircraft due to the constant chatter of the ground controller. I eventually got to the point where I could "tune him out" and devote all my energy and effort to flying the airplane.

    Another thing I noticed during the Training Mission and Single Mission flights was the decreased frame rate. On the ground just prior to take off I would see anywhere from 1.0 to 3.0 fps. After getting airborne, the fps would increase just slightly to perhaps 5 - 6 fps. There never was a "high" frame rate. The hesitations and pausing are quite noticeable but do not seem to detract from the simulation.


    Imported FS98 Boeing 737 blows up.

    USING FS98 AIRCRAFT

    It was interesting to see how the imported FS98 aircraft performed. I used the B737 and the Boeing C-97 along with the Seneca V, just to see how the procedure was done. It is fairly simple. All you do is click on the aircraft that you want to import from FS98 Aircraft Folder and copy it to the Combat Flight Simulator Aircraft Folder. Just be sure that you also copy the gauge file from one to the other, or you will find yourself sitting on the runway in England without any instruments.

    Each of the imported aircraft will appear in the aircraft listing for the mission you are going to fly and you can arm it with a selectable inventory of ammo, bombs, rockets and cannon. I had the Seneca V loaded with rockets and the Boeing C-97 loaded with bombs. The B737 had forward firing machine guns and rockets. The flying capabilities of the imported aircraft do not seem to be affected after the transfer.

    CONCLUSION

    Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator will be a very popular program among flight simmers for a long time to come. It is an interesting and stimulating experience and will keep you on your toes at all times. Unlike the drudgery of long haul flights in the commercial jets, this program will keep you constantly alert and on the move. If you are engaged in low level strafing of ground targets, you must also watch out for fast rising terrain that could cause a propeller strike and your demise. This is one simulation that I can honestly recommend to everyone.

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