Flying Corps review by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
There is and was a mystique about the first years of flying, and more especially, the years of flying in World War I. At first men went into the air with their wood and cloth ships to spy on enemy lines, to perform reconnaissance. Early on the pilots waved and saluted at each other with respect and even friendly curiosity.
Eventually someone got the idea of taking a gun aloft, and ever since that time the competition to carry more deadly arms into the air has never abated. Bigger and more accurate guns were eventually replaced with bigger and more accurate missiles that could shoot farther then you could see. Currently, the biggest gun, the Phoenix missile, is mounted on the F-14 and can hit a target as much as 150 miles away.
Rowan Software programmed the Flight of the Intruder in the early 1990's which came with the paperback book of the same name packaged in the game. Flight of the Intruder was the best, actually the only, Vietnam era simulation around at the time. Rowan has produced since that time Fighter Duel, Air Power, Navy Strike, and Operation: Overlord games that kept the company on the map, but did not sell well enough to be hits.
Company Line"The engine started with a roar. I pressed the throttle and the machine began to pick up speed, and suddenly I could not help but notice that I was really flying." Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, 1892-1918
Have you ever dreamed of a time when to fly an aircraft was to face your opponent at close quarters, relying on your wits and skill to survive? Flying Corps allows you a glimpse of that time... ...a time when your plane was made of canvas and wood, with only a 150 hp engine under the cowl. A time of honour, skill, guts, pluck, and heroes. There were no HUD's or radar-guided missiles in World War One. It was a pilot, his 90mph aircraft, his machine-gun, and his chums. Welcome to that time... Welcome to Flying Corps.
Select which side you want to fly for: Brittish, German or American. You can fly six different fighter aircraft including the Albatros DIII, Fokker Triplane Dr.I, Nieuport 28, S.E.5a, Sopwith Camel, and Spad XIII. You will fly against these aircraft plus the Bristol fighter and arguably the greatest plane of this era, the Fokker DVII which was introduced in the last year of the war.
The flight models are accurate. The snap rolls are require you to pull back on the stick and jam the rudder to one side since regular rolls are so slow. There is very little power on each plane. Stalls cause the screen to shake and the plane to make shuddering sounds. The options include blackouts, bomb drag, slipstream, torque, wind and others making the difficulty matrix as complex as that seen in many American flight simulators, and eliminating one of the objections that many have when concerned with Eurpean sims. Stall and overspeed buffetting is very realistic.
You can play eight set missions and four campaigns: Flying Circus, Spring Offensive, Battle of Cambrai, and Hat in the Ring. In Flying Circus, You take the part of Lothar Richthofen and try to beat your brother at his own game. In Spring Offensive, You are a green Camel pilot who arrives at the front just before the Spring Offensive of 1918. You take on missions to stem the German advance. In the Battle of Cambrai, You become a "tank buster" in the first massed tank attack. In Hat in the Ring, you start as a new American pilot in the first all-American squadron in April 1918. Can you get promotion and lead your squadron to glory by November 1918?
The campaigns are played on a dynamic battlefield without the advantage of scripted missions, each mission is different. And while randomizing features make each campaign replayable, they lack the finesse and content of scripted missions. The number of aircraft and ground forces are randomized on the dynamic battlefield so that you cannot predict where or when they will strike and in what numbers, even after playing the game several times. There are eight instant action missions to practice with.
In some campaigns you are a flight leader and in others you are simply another war dog up for a good fight and following orders of your flight leader. With time you can move up from war dog to flight leader. The flight leader can determine formations, number of aircraft, pilots to fly with, routes, altitudes and other factors. A careless flight leader may find himself flying a desk in the rear, if he does not watch over the members of his squadron while building his kill tally.
A most important part of any flight simulator is the views and how they affect situational awareness. Typically Eurpean games have fewer views when compared with games like U.S. Navy Fighters and Falcon 3.0, and this game is no exception. The views include padlock, closest friendly, next closest friendly, and panning view, but inexplicably there is no rear view or side views. Empire expects to fix this oversight with a patch soon. Without the views necessary to put your head on a swivel or to do the "Linda Blair" you are severely limited in this game.
You take the role of an American, Brittish or two German pilots starting off the war in an air combat squadron.
As in the real battles of World War I, navigation was by map and visual inspection of roads, rivers and other terrain features. It was necessary to follow roads to find your way around and the game is no different. The graphics are so good that the roads below can be made out, as can lakes, riveres and other terrain features that have been accurately reproduced from the WWI era maps, reconaissance photographs and other information gathered by spending time in the Somme area of France. The game comes with detailed maps to help you find your bearings by looking at the ground similar to Dynamix's Red Baron.
Another nice feature is the ability to paint your plane in a number of paint schemes from green with red tail to green and white stripes and others including up to 32,768 paint options, if you are promoted to Squadron Leader. Graphic resolutions start at 320x200 and go as high as 1024x768 where frame rate suffers considerably. A 640x480 pixel resolution results in unacceptable frame rates even in a P200 MMX system, since there is no support for 3D video cards. The game is more playable at 512x384 or 400x300 pixels of resolution.
AnimationThe frame rate is slow in a 166 Pentium with MMX, a Reactor 3D, and 64 MB RAM in 640 x 480 pixel resolution. There is no 3D video card support for the game. There are 3D rendered cut scenes which look great but lack interactivity, which stands out against the Wings of Glory plot.
Sound EffectsThe sound effects were done by Malcolm Laws and Nainita Desai of Interactive Sounds. There are over twenty different bullet ricochets and we have authentic sounds of Vickers, Spandau and Lewis machine guns. Malcolm and Nainita are also making a special effort to get a rich selection of engine sounds. We are having engine start-ups, normal running, droning, "coughing" and diving sounds, Also, we hope to be able to hear the difference between an Se5 and a Camel. The air frames creak and groan with the strain, and if you turn too tight the canvas will rip from the wings or the struts will break.
UtilitiesThere is no custom mission builder. Joystick suport, calibration, and coding routines are all faulty, leaving the game player with a great simulation and bad controls. The game does support rudder pedals, but the control, while accurate, is difficult to master. Th game would have benefitted by giving us a difficulty matrix that would have allowed the game player to set the realism appropriate to thier flying abilities. European games need to learn about the difficulty matrix from the Americans, or suffer the consequences in sales.
The inclusion of an over 200 page paperback book by Flight Commander W. G. McMinnies entitled Practical Flying: Complete Course of Flying Instruction is a wonderful addition to the package. Also are included six double sided maps just like the ones used in WWI by actual pilots who flew with the maps sitting on their laps. The manual has some problems, and the control key legend omits the function of several important keys, including the rudder control keys.
Multi-player FeaturesEmpire plans for future multi-player features on the Empire web-site. There is a multiplayer patch planned for internet and LAN which should be available by the end of June, 1997.
Cheats, Hints, WalkthroughBaron Von Richthofen, the Red Baron, used to hang out near the edges of fur balls and pick off the stragglers for easy kills. It was just one such pick off that got him killed by the lucky shot of a rookie flier through the heart.
JournalistsImmitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When we started the Simulations magazine, we first started using call signs in our names when we wrote the Simulations articles as a lark. Now Steve Klett has payed us unknowing homage by immitating our innovation. Now the score is three to one, Steve seems to contend with three other journalists on the rating for the game. Robin says, "the flight modelling is surely the best that has ever been seen in a prop-plane air combat simulation." Robin, that is a mighty big claim. Liam does an excellent job explaining why this simulation is a great one.
FutureRowan Software and Empire Interactive's next project will be on Mig Alley based upon the Korean conflict in the early 1950's.
ReferencesRichard Ordway, Computer Games, issue 77, April, 1997, pg. 97, 70%.
Bill Trotter, Boot, volume 2, number 8, April, 1997, 70%.
Steve Klett, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 64, 95%.
Lee Hamel, Computer and Net Player, volume 3, number 12, May, 1997, pg. 90, 70%.
Robin G. Kim, Computer Gaming World, issue 154, May, 1997, pg. 152, 80%.
T. Liam McDonald, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 5, May, 1997, pg. 120 - 121, 90%.
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