Wings Over Flanders Fields Review

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April 4, 1915

Starting a campaign using the default settings, I am finding myself stationed at RFC-6 flying observation patrols in the B.E.2c over the front, first patrol is to scout over the front in our sector Poperinghe.

A B.E.2 starting afternoon patrol.

A B.E.2 starting afternoon patrol.

Feeling every bit like a character in the TV drama “Wings”, I marvel at the beauty of the world surrounding me. The slight haze in the distance produced by a thin top layer of cloud and scattered clouds at or slightly above my flight height. The ground below is crisply detailed while the weather conditions produce a slight mist in the distance, and during course corrections, I notice small patches of darker cloud, an area in the sky which might signify a that a weather front is at work here, and I notice what looks to be an enemy weather balloon being brought safely down to Earth, the moment my flight turns towards it. The distant guns are ever present as the flight approaches the frontlines.

Several times I look at the scenery, the aircraft of my “B” flight and utterly believe I am really in this old airplane looking out at the real world passing by below me.

The aircraft is a joy to fly, stable, well balanced, almost flies itself,  if a bit slow and not on the agile side.

On such a say it is indeed joyously good to just fly, and enjoy soaring at leisurely speeds in the old B.E.

Two patrols this day; one before noon and one in the late afternoon turning into early evening with changes in lighting and coloring reflecting the late-ish time of day.

May 28, 1917

6.10 AM. On this day I will lead my flight of Pups from AFC-2 on a Balloon busting mission. The Pup is a tricky aircraft, inherently unstable but therefore in the hands of the right pilot very maneuverable. I’m not entirely sure I’m the right pilot.

We approach the balloon which is in the process of being lowered to the ground. I release quite a few rounds from my guns towards it but to no effect. German fighters have quickly brought themselves in a position to attack and fire on us, and looking over my shoulder while I reflexively start twisting and turning my Pup to make myself a more difficult target, I see I have attracted two of the German fighters.  These pilots are very good, and in their capable hands their machines are deadly.

Now three's a crowd

Now three’s a crowd

My flight breaks up and it is now a fight where everyone will have to look out for himself.

I somehow lose the fighters and return my attention to the balloon. This time I get it! After firing a few rounds into it, it starts smoking and then it blows up and crashes to the ground in a fiery blaze. I am quite low and so I receive some very determined fire from the ground defenses. As I have managed to gain a bit of height they lose interest in me so I turn back towards another balloon to try my luck again. Fire rockets from too far a distance. These things trail a tail of grey smoke and consequently my vision forward is obscured for several seconds. Miss!

Another enemy fighter has placed itself behind me and the bullets whistle audibly past me, sometimes loud cracks and bangs signify that they have found a hard target.

While evading the pursuers I get a quick shot – a couple of rounds only into the second balloon. It catches fire and blows up. Two balloons in one patrol!

It has been 6 weeks since my last flight and my crash. This is the first day I’ve been able to hold pencil to paper. My flying days seem to be over, and I’ll need reconstructive surgery to my face, where it was torn off, presumably when I hit the stick and the instrument panel.

The doctors say it is a miracle that I’m alive. Very few pilots from my flight remain alive or are on the squadron these days to tell what happened on that patrol 6 weeks ago. The intelligence officer was here a few days ago to go over the patrol details with me, as they were reported by the pilots of my flight that made it back to our airfield that day.  I was seen taking violent evasive action at low height, suddenly spinning into the ground. No hope for a forced landing, they were assuming I was conscious and working the stick till the last moment.

Summer, 1918. The Viper

Fitted with the Wolseley Viper 200 hp high compression engine I was out with 5 other pilots looking for the enemy. Quickly we found them, Three Albatross DII were up, a bit higher than our machines but with our powerful engines we effortlessly climbed to their flight level and tore into them. Since April, we have been gaining the upper hand here in France and on this occasion it was almost over before it began. I never even got to fire a single shot.

Sizzle, sizzle, burn

Sizzle, sizzle, burn

In the words of Major Mannock: “Sizzle, sizzle, burn”.

Anwerfen!

Marne Sector

We are off with our Rumplers and a fighter escort to surprise the British. We pick them up very quickly and a fierce battle develops. In spite of the fighters escorting us some of the British planes place themselves in a position to shoot at us. My first inkling that my plane is under attack is when my gunner, Horst Flieger, pulls the trigger on his machine guns, their rattle sending me an audible and embarrassing signal that I have been caught napping. Luckily Horst is awake and starts putting a stream of bullets into the path of the Engländer.

You cannot be asleep or be dizzy in this air war, neither as a pilot nor as a gunner. I look back over my shoulders constantly now  to find out if I should fly evasive action to the right or to the left. It is my duty to ensure that we are not shot down, and if possible to help my gunner obtain the best possible position for him to fire on the enemy aircraft, by maneuvering our Rumpler so he can get a clear shot.

Dizzying View

Dizzying View

June 18, 1918

Jasta 1/JG4, The famous “gruppe” of Von Richthofen, currently commanded by Herman Goering who, by many of us pilots is considered a bit of an arrogant character with streaks of nastiness, ruthlessness and ambition about him. For example today. I mean, have you seen the weather? It is pouring down with rain, winds are gusty and unpredictable, and he orders me to take one of the Dreideckers for a check-out flight after an engine rebuild. And only because I questioned one of his claims!

So here I find myself, soaking wet and cold in the light and extremely maneuverable Fokker, upside down because the aircraft is so unstable that the slightest of nudges to the stick will send it careening across the sky over the Marne. No doubt that the ”Jungs” on the ground will be laughing so hard that their sides split, and they will be teasing me once I get back on the ground; “Horst, since you seem to love aerobatics so much, you should perhaps always flight test in weather like this”.  And I’d rather sit in the mess sipping my tea and listening to music on the gramophone player.

This Fokker is very maneuverable

This Fokker is very maneuverable

Performance

With the reviewer’s PC being even below the specs listed for a low end system, WOFF plays surprisingly well with highest detail settings. We would not encourage expectations of completely fluent game play with PC specs that are below the official listed system requirements, but by compromising on graphical detail, the game is still very enjoyable and the graphics pretty. At times the reviewer’s PC did show its age, but it is encouraging that WOFF can be played on lower-end machines, at least scenarios which involve about 10 aircraft. This means you need not delay your purchase of WOFF; waiting for that PC upgrade.

The WOFF Workshop

The WOFF Workshop (click for a full-sized view in a new window)

Flight Modeling

World War 1 aircraft, in comparison to more modern types are wonderfully simple to control: No variable propeller pitch, no engine management, no flame-outs, no computers, and when you’re not in a shooting war, there’s even the time to enjoy the scenery as you whiz past over the countryside.

From the aircraft I’ve tried, the characteristics seem to be very consistent with what I have read about the handling qualities of each type and the flying experience to me seems very credible and enjoyable. The flight modeling seems very clever in the sense that it does not require your undivided attention completely and all the time but rather lets you get on with the flying-bit.

Score

Once again, composer Matt Milne has delivered a wonderful orchestral music score to accompany you through the menus. In fact the music is so compelling that you wish to stay in the menus so you can enjoy the score just a little bit longer, and suddenly you find that hours have gone by and you’ve turned up the volume. Many thought it would be difficult for Matt to top the score from OFF Phase 3 but he really has topped it.

If there is an official award for music scores in games, the WOFF score should immediately be nominated as best soundtrack of the year. Certainly it would run away with the SimHQ award a clear winner.

The music of WOFF, including the popular Phase 3 score, should be available for purchase as a high fidelity  audio download in the not too distant future and it will be a joy to listen to it on the Hi-Fi system, tracking and learning to associate each piece of music with its title.

SimHQ’s recent talk with Matt on the score for WOFF can be read here, and to see what we had to report upon the WOFF score as previewed in the videos released during the development of WOFF, go here.

Homefront: Flying over S.E. England

Homefront: Flying over S.E. England

Conclusion

The WOFF DVD package

The WOFF DVD package

Wings Over Flanders Fields is so much more than just a combat flight simulator or a computer game.  WOFF is also a time-machine, a fine digital, interactive memorial for the personnel serving in World War 1, especially the men in the air forces.

It is a labor of love and it shows that a lot of care and attention has been lavished by the developers on this release.

Pilots of Over Flanders Fields; the previous release, will instantly feel right at home while appreciating the many improvements, new features, and upgraded graphics – and new pilots seeking a unique and excellent single player campaign with Intelligent AI, both amongst the very best I’ve experienced, should absolutely enlist right away.

If online multiplayer is an all-important requirement to you, then you should think again and probably look elsewhere, because the very basic online capability inherent in the host simulation has been removed for this release.

WOFF is not a simulator to devour in one big setting but should be played ideally in real time and over a long period of time so you can immerse yourself fully in all the proceedings, fly every minute of your campaign, and take your time to marvel at every little detail as you uncover it, mission by mission, and watch how the dynamic campaign unfolds while you involve yourself completely with your pilot persona.

The graphics are beautiful and top-notch considering that the underlying engine is from 2002. Naturally the graphics will lack a bit in terms of the latest DX 10 or 11 tricks and goodness, but what WOFF offers instead, is an incredibly polished, satisfying and at all times a frighteningly real and believable World War 1 aerial experience.

As can be seen from the technical support section on the official WOFF forum a few bugs have been discovered upon release, and updates are being issued at a very satisfying rate of fire.

BRAVO!

Requirements

Please note that a copy of Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3 is required to run Wings Over Flanders Fields. Possible sources are here.

Recommended

  • Intel 3.5+GHz CPU or higher.
  • NVIDIA graphics card, 670 GTX or above. Card with 2GB or more is highly recommended. An equivalent AMD/ATI graphics card is fine too but not in the recommended setup.
  • PC with Windows 7 64-bit.
  • 8MB RAM or more.

Medium

  • Intel 3.0GHz CPU Speed or higher.
  • NVIDIA graphics card, 650 GTX or above. Card with 1.5GB or more is recommended. An equivalent AMD/ATI graphics card is fine too but not in the recommended setup.
  • PC with Windows 7 64-bit or Windows 8 64-bit.
  • 6MB RAM or higher.

Low-end

  • Intel 2.6GHz or more CPU (overclocked may help if you are struggling for core speed).
  • NVIDIA graphics card, 640 GTX or above. Card with 1.5GB or more is recommended. An equivalent AMD/ATI graphics card is fine too but not in the recommended setup.
  • PC with Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 8 64-bit.
  • 4MB RAM or  higher.

Reviewer’s System Specs

  • Intel i7-920 processor.
  • Mobo: Gigabyte EX58-UD3R.
  • NVIDIA GTX-275 w. 332.65 drivers.
  • 6 GB RAM (Kingston).
  • 1 TB internal hard disk.
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

 

 

 

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