Red Baron II

Price: $54.95
Genre: World War I (WWI) Combat Flight Simulator
Release: November 1996
Developer: Dynamix
Designer: Gary Stottlemeyer
Producer: Neil Haldar
Publisher: Sierra Online
Phone: 800-757-7707
Requirements: Windows 95, 2X CD ROM drive th9.gif - 5.6 K

The original Red Baron, released in 1990, was the claim to fame of Dynamix co-founder Damon Sye. Damon wanted Red Baron to recreate the era where each pilot had his own flying style, including reckless, conservative lone fighters and pack hunters. Aircraft virtually hung in the air and barely held together with cloth, wood, and steel wire. Guns and dogfighting were primitive affairs with machine guns with low rate of fire and short range, incredibly slow speeds, almost no energy unless you dove on your enemy from above, and remarkable maneuverability.

Certain planes of the era had idiosyncrasies, which Damon was determined to incorporate into his design. In fact, the manual of the game is The Sopwith Camel was a deathtrap to novice pilots due to its tendency to spin uncontrollably, but this same characteristic controlled by a veteran who could turn the plane to the right more quickly than any other aircraft often catching the enemy in the sights of his gun and ending the conflict.

Damon spent immense time and money getting the game right and it is still heralded by many as the most advanced and accurate flight simulator of its type. The 228 page manual that came with the game represented a wealth of knowledge and research, and was well worth the cost of the game. Like the original pilots and many pilots today navigation is by landmarks and maps. Many times looking down out of the cockpit is the only way home.

The original game had more than 100 missions flown from the Royal Flying Corps or the German Army Air Service in one of 17 aircraft. Dogfights with up to four planes were supported by the machines of the time, while at the end of the war, dogfights of as many as 80 planes were seen.

Another charming addition was the depiction of enemy Aces of the period. Each pilot in the game had a unique repertoire of maneuvers based upon their skill levels and the planes they were piloting. Each Ace pilot also had a personality and a unique repertoire of maneuvers, which were that pilots signature or trademark. Aces also contained special advantages and abilities over the run-of-the-mill elite or veteran pilot, which was also reflected in their combat flying abilities. burnout.gif - 6.1 K

The sequel has been over 6 years in coming, and will feature 22 flyable aircraft from WWI with appropriate markings and paint. The German side will have 19 planes, 8 which can be flown by the player, including Albatros C.IIIm D.II, D.III and D.V, Fokker E.III, Dr.I, and D.VII, and Pfalz D.III and D.XII. British will have 13 aircraft with six flyable by player, including Airco D.H.2, S.E.5a, and Sopwith Camel, Pup, Snipe, and Triplane. The French have ten planes with seven flyable by player, including Morane Bullet, Nieuport, 11, 17, 24, and 28, and Spad S.VII and S.XIII.

A random mission generator will make up missions before you fly them to prevent you from flying the same mission twice. Incidentally, the real combat simulator trainers, do not have random missions, but design specific missions for pilots to fly, which they must fly over and over again until they learn how to fly them correctly or learn the lesson the mission was intended to teach. Completely random mission generators have their place, and so do missions designed for specific purposes. A custom designed mission lacks unpredictability after the first flight, but a randomly designed mission lacks the finesse, personality, and individual artistic touch that a human mission design and development team can give to missions. In the original Red Baron, the missions were individually crafted by Damon Syle’s hand picked Red Baron team. Until I see the results I will reserve judgment but remain skeptical.

You can play the game as an American, German, French, or English pilot and begin the war to work your way up to squadron commander. While the mission generator is seen in the career mode, the live flight model where everything within a 15 mile radius of your plane is "live". There will be dogfights, trains in motion, ground attacks, and many other targets of opportunity to practice on.

Red Baron II will have a multiplayer mode as the original game did with online play on the Sierra Network and later the Imagination Network. We hope that the game will incorporate both cooperative and head to head play with teams and even perhaps a facility for a father and son or several friends to fly together against the artificial intelligences of the enemy in a campaign game.

Multi-player support is unlikely to be included in the initial release of the game. Mulitplayer support for network, internet, null and phone modem should come out shortly after the release of the game. American Online's Imagination Network subsidiary is working on an online version of Re Baron II for their game players, but the release should lag behind the boxed game.

Other standards found in the original Red Baron were a VCR feature that allowed for the recording and playback of missions for analysis. The VCR allowed the game player to jump back into the action and continue a mission from before the fatal mistake was made, similar to a save game feature for flight combat simulators. We have no idea whether these items are even planned in the sequel.

Preview reference:
InterAction, summer, 1996, pg. 52.
Jeff James, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 11, April, 1997, pg. 36 - 38.