Hat in the Ring Page 2

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Combat Duty

In my several attempts to down a German airplane I had ample opportunity to study the damage model which is varied and detailed, ranging from bullet holes in the wings and fuselage to wings being shot off, and even the ever dreaded fire which heralds the certain demise of yet another brave airman.

Damage Model

Damage Model

On my way to the target on a balloon busting mission I had time to notice that my aircraft now seems more susceptible to wind gusts and thermal effects, as my Nieuport 28 danced and leapt all over the sky in synchronicity with the big guns barking nearby. I had to do some very careful flying just to maintain a somewhat steady course while my wing-men must have looked in astonishment at the strange aerobatic maneuvers that their flight leader was performing.

I initially thought that the shells whizzing through the air were generating some kind of thermal updraft, but flying at low level during a lull in the shelling, wind-gusts frequently sent my airplane into unintended motions, dropping wings, seemingly at random. I admit to feeling very busy in the cockpit now constantly correcting and trying to fly these machines. I hardly have the extra capacity for dog-fighting.

The force feedback when firing the guns seem to be more powerful and satisfying than in older versions of OFF. I shot at a balloon which blew up seconds after I had flown past it. Sadly, it was one of our own observation balloons. Oops. 🙁

Later I had a chance to redeem myself somewhat: Going on another balloon busting mission I downed an enemy balloon with a few well-aimed bullets causing it to blow-up instantly.

But before actually spotting the balloon, my flight was attacked by Fokkers. I managed to engage with several of them and got some shots in once in a while.

The Hunt

The Hunt

Some aircraft seem to me to be quite demanding to fly; primarily the rotary engine types like the Nieuports as they feel extremely agile and sensitive to the controls, and their tendency especially at take off to lower their left wing and with that heavy torque towards the left, to the point where personally I prefer something a bit more solid and steady, as in inline engine. The new effects of winds of course adds to the challenge.

No doubt it is down to my being a bungling pilot because I’m having trouble with the exact same types of aircraft in another, well-renowned WWI sim, and when comparing the flight characteristics of the Nieuport 28 across the two great WWI flight sims available today, the aircraft exhibits the same traits in both sims.

Difficulty

If you have been holding-off obtaining Over Flanders Fields, or purchasing the Hat in the Ring expansion pack due to worries about it being too demanding on your time — who has a couple of hours of uninterrupted time to fly a full sortie in campaign mode these days — you should be happy to know that a wide range of customization and options are at your disposal.

The Workshop Menu

The Workshop Menu
(click the image for the full-sized version)

You can fly one of the numerous Quick Scenarios which will put you into instant action in the air. The workshop screen will let you choose between various flight models ranging from realistic over medium to easy.

You can turn the wind effects on and off, adjust the accuracy of your own guns, the skill of the AI, the AI gun range, even ground gunnery and lots of other adjustment options.

I confess to my piloting skills not being up to aggressive AI settings — they cut me to pieces and out-flew me even with the odds in my favor- and so I have settled for historic skill settings, giving me at least a chance now and then to get an enemy airplane in my sights.

You can fly a quick combat mission, starting from your airfield to fly a single mission, adjusting the skill level of the AI pilot and the skill of your wingmen should you choose to bring some along.

You can also override the season and time settings, choosing between summer, winter, fall, and spring, dawn, morning, day, afternoon and dusk. And you can tick a box that bypasses the “dead is dead” dictum so you can avoid enlisting new pilots as you get killed in action. All these options are available in the Quick Combat menu.

Mission Builder

The mission builder has been around for some time actually, the problem being that there was so much to take in and enjoy in OFF that it is only just now that I fully notice the shortcut placed in the OFF program folder. You can find missions on the net featuring various scenarios and if you’re looking for retracing that specific scene from The Blue Max or Sagittarius Rising it will come in handy, but then again, with the dynamic nature of the core engine, you’ll never fly the exact same mission twice.

Nieuport 17 Interior

Nieuport 17 Interior

Upholding a Fine Tradition

If you’ve seen the movie Aces High (…you haven’t? And you call yourself a WWI connoisseur?) you will remember the scene where some of the pilots tinker with a homemade bomb rack for an airplane. The scene is quite authentic as an example of the kind of jury-rigged modifications that the pilots of the time made to their aircraft once at the front.

In keeping with this fine tradition I now offer you “The unintended, unofficial, patented immersion modification”!

You only need a steering wheel with force feed back, which you crank up to the maximum forces. Due to the fact that the wheel will not only mimic your input on the joystick, albeit in reverse, it will also shake and rattle your desk or your sim cockpit with the forces acting upon your aircraft during take off and landing!

I do advise against using your steering wheel in a way that would leave it useless for its principal purpose, but perhaps someone with an old force feedback motor and a knack for a bit of soldering could mount it below his or her seat?

E. V. Interior

E. V. Interior

Speaking of steering wheels and since the Ford Model T is available to drive in the simulation… [Editor’s note: I knew you’d get a car in this somehow Jens]

Quite fast considering its age the Ford however is not a car you would consider taking to competition at Indianapolis. Its handling is prone to massive under-steer to say the least — even allowing for the control method through the joystick’s rudder axis. To put it bluntly, it is near to impossible to hit the opening of the hangar, once you’re traveling at full speed.

I must admit though that the temptation to take it to the nearest town and auberge, or to take it for a ride in the countryside exploring the world is simply to great to resist. So if you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what is occupying my time!

Conclusion

The team behind Over Flanders Fields have achieved improving on what was already an outstanding product, making it transcend its roots as a total conversion for CFS3 and creating what in its own right is a brilliant and very deep simulation of the War in the air over the Western Front 1914 – 1918, providing plenty of options for player accessibility and customization and sublime immersion into the subject and period. It draws you in and lets you live — and die — in its virtual world.

If you have other WWI flight simulators on your system, or if you are interested in this period in flight history you should support the developers. Even if you think you prefer jets, you should know that OFF Hat in the Ring is a unique time machine bringing you closer to your history and to the souls that inhabited this Earth at that crucial time in our past when war started as Napoleonic exercises for officers on horse-back and lowly foot-soldiers of the infantry, and became mechanized, industrialized and very ghastly in its savagery.

The Hat in the Ring expansion in my mind is without doubt a must-have add-on to your OFF Phase 3 install.

Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.

“Keep The Home Fires Burning”
music by Ivor Novello and lyrics by Lena Ford

Interesting Links

First World War: A Multimedia History of World War One

An Aviator’s Field Book by Oswald Bölcke

Recommended System Specs:

Detailed system specs are available here at the Over Flanders Fields web site.

Reviewer’s System Specs:

• Processor: Intel i7-920
• Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD3R
• 6 GB RAM (Kingston)
• 1 Tb internal hard disk + Western Digital External 300 GB hard disk
• NVIDIA GTX-275 with 191.07 drivers
• Logitech Wingman Strike Force 3D, 5.08.146 drivers
• Logitech G25
• NaturalPoint TrackIR 5
• Broadband 4096/512
• Windows 7 Professional

 

Soaring High

Soaring High

 


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