Red Baron 3D: Full Canvas Jacket Page 5

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Gray Skyed Flak.

Gameplay

As I said before, this isn’t going to be an in depth, blow by blow review of the gameplay aspects of RB3D. Most people who are interested in Full Canvas Jacket know the gameplay aspects of RB3D quite well. In fact, it was the great gameplay of the original game that has kept it alive for much longer than most other games.

FCJ claims updated flight models along with improvements in squadron and ace databases to make the original game much more realistic. Planes in the game do have a quirky feel that you would expect from aircraft created during the time period. Flying during the great war was a very dangerous prospect even before factoring in enemy action. Less than 15 years after the first Wright Flyer aircraft tangled over the trenches of Europe. Most of these aircraft were very unstable in flight and recovery methods from stalls and spins were still being developed. To fly from point A to point B was a crapshoot, much less bringing home a shot up airframe with a wounded pilot.

This feel is pretty well represented in the updated flight models. Planes really are quirky in this game and you had better know your plane’s handling characteristics well before you get into a dogfight deep in enemy territory. Planes are slow, stall easily and spin mercilessly. Getting out of them at times seems impossible. I have already relearned many of the swear words I used with the original RB3D when flying the game. Each aircraft’s different faults and strengths are still well represented, and probably improved although to be honest, it has been so long since I have flown the original I can’t honestly compare them. Lets just say turnfighting a Spad against a bunch of Dr1s will still get you in trouble, just like the first game. I don’t claim to be an expert on WW1 aviation. I know some aircraft, like the Spad and Albatros were better BnZ fighters than aircraft like the Dr1. Others like the Sopwith Camel and D VII were more all around fighters.

I think the relative strengths and weaknesses of the aircraft seem well represented here, along with the relative frailty of these aircraft. These aren’t stunt planes to say the least and while very acrobatic they could only take so much punishment before things started falling off. Likewise, with FCJ this weakness is pretty well represented. RB3D FCJ is a thinking person’s game, not an arcade shoot em up and just diving in like an idiot (at least in realistic modes) will give you an outside view of a tortured fuselage.

AI varies in the game as well. Getting and saying on some of the AI can be very hard while others appear pretty easy. This is probably accurate for the time frame when pilots ranged from experienced vets to cannon fodder. Experienced AI enemy will stick with you like glue. Enemy AI will gang up on you given the chance so don’t get target fixated in the game. To kill the enemy can be a very hard proposition at times, don’t expect a one or two shot kill with the game. Damage models have been reworked in the game. "...don't expect a one or two shot kill..."This means that bullets need to hit critical areas to cause much damage, praying and spraying will just waste a lot of ammo. Get close and make it count. You will find out how little ammo these little planes carried in 1917.

Groundfire is especially accurate in FCJ, meaning strafing missions will more than likely leave you with a bunch of holes in your plane, and if unlucky enough, a few holes in you. I found attacking balloons and ground targets to be a much riskier prospect than air to air combat. Likewise, pursuit aircraft at times seemed easier to attack than enemy bombers or observation craft. Sometimes the AI was a little too good at getting a shot off. This can be modified in the control panel so if you find yourself getting pinged too much you can change it.

The campaign mode appears to be unchanged from the original game, which of course was one of the highlights of Red Baron II/3D. I am seriously enjoying getting back into the campaign, particularly since the game looks in general very good. The feeling of being a cog in a much bigger machine is absolutely present in campaign mode. There is no telling what you will run into when you are out flying. Of course the missions are randomly generated so no campaign feels quite the same. In addition you have selection of preset missions, you can download custom missions (not sure about how some non-FCJ missions will work with the update), there is an instant fly button that has easily reconfigured setting in the FCJ configuration utility (easier than in game). Given the age of the game the options available still amaze me.

I still find the view system archaic, something that I am sure Kess couldn’t change. Of course support for new features, like mouse panning or TrackIR support doesn’t exist for this game. Using the joystick to pan around the cockpit is clumsy to me but I have to remember that this is six year old software that has been updated but not replaced. I don’t know how hard it would be to replace the current enter/joystick setup with a mouse look but I really wish it could be done.

The padlock feature still works well although some probably still don’t like the idea that you can padlock an enemy without having direct sight on him. It is amazing to think that this was a ‘gee whiz’ new feature back in ’97, but it was. Just goes to show that the games we play have really progressed. What was once new and amazing (moving control surfaces, padlock features, pannable cockpits) are now common features that are not considered ‘extras’ anymore.

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