A SimHQ “Second Look” Series Feature
by Frank “Dart” Giger
Back in late September of 2009 we reviewed the simulation with an emphasis on what it was at that point — a very good, if imperfect, representation of WWI flying – rather than what its potential future development promised. Two large updates since then have addressed many of the original problems and added more features to where it warrants a relook and a chance for those who were interested but hadn’t kept track of the developments.
Bottom Line Up Front: The sim is starting to come into its own, and now has most of the critical features I found lacking in the release. If one hasn’t flown it since the last update or is still sitting on the fence, it is time to (re)install and fire it up.
For those who missed my original review, the Flight Modeling (FM), Damage Modeling (DM), graphics and sound are simply some of the best made for a PC flight simulation. One gets a real sensation of flying, something a number of our forum members who are pilots (and some who have flown WWI replicas) have seconded as ringing true.
The glaring imperfections that kept me from giving it an unmitigated “thumbs high” were a clunky interface, limited multiplayer modes of play, lack of mission recording and replay, no windsock, scant squadron management in career or campaign mode, long load times, and constant connectivity requirements.
Flying and Dying
The FM and DM have been tweaked just a little for some individual planes, correcting the center of gravity and top speeds for the Pfalz DXII and the Nieuport 17, as well as some engine changes. To be honest I’m such a conservative pilot most of the time that they seem to be subtle adjustments rather than the sort of wild swings we’ve seen in updates in other flight simulations.
A few glitches are still out there (while one can kill scout pilots by shooting through the bottom of the fuselage, I’ve yet to do the same with two-seaters), but the already impressive progressive wing and engine failure, particularly when stressed, has been improved. Losing a top wing means losing a bottom one almost immediately.
The wounding graphic has been completely replaced, which was welcomed by one and all. The “Eye of Sauron” graphic with a yellow circle in the center of the screen and red around the edges is gone, with a more shocking and gratifying indication as well as a sound effect. When wounded, the sim momentarily goes silent, then comes back in with an all too real ringing-in-the-ears tone over the normal ones.
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) is pretty darned convincing, and now misses much more, particularly at longer ranges. Rear gunners on the observation planes lost their sniper certifications; while still a threat, they’ve been brought down from Annie Oakley status.
When released, there were just the four planes that came stock — the SPAD XIII, the Nieuport 28, the Fokker DVII, and the Albatross DVa. Shortly afterwards, the Nieuport 17 and the Albatros D.III became available for purchase (which were included at the time of my review). The stable of planes has grown quite a bit since then, and while at 7.62 USD for each could be pretty expensive if spent at once, the Iron Cross Edition (ICE) will open up five additional (SE.5a, Pfalz D.IIIa, Sopwith Camel, and Fokker Dr.1) for the new buyer. At any rate, the player has an option to spread it out to ease the pain (or completely forego some of the planes if not interested in them).
One doesn’t need to purchase the planes in order to see them in the simulation, only to fly them.
The downside is those two observation planes with the red letters above them. They remain the only two seaters in the sim, and neither is flyable, something Neoqb has promised to rectify in the future.
One can also see that the development team is a little torn on how to move into different time frames of the Great War. We have the Nieuport 11 jumping in the retrograde implementation ahead of the Pup, and the Fokker D.VIII showing up with no Snipe to fill the gap. Then again, some models are ready before others, and I don’t fault them for making them available as soon as they are.
Options and Interface
A big annoyance at release was the lack of in-game adjustments of graphics and controls. There’s still a “front end” menu for adjusting graphics, meaning one must exit the simulation in adjust them to suit, with some new options – HDR and bloom are now supported:
Thankfully it’s adjustable, as I find both to be overdone on even the lowest settings, even with the addition of a Gamma correction slider:
They also put in an option to fly with or without simulation modifications under the “Game Settings” tab in anticipation of the SDK soon to come. Sadly, custom skins fall within the realm of “mods,” so using them in either single or multi-player means no official score keeping. It’s a trade off for the player — fly with the “Kitty in the Ring” and custom squadrons skins or receive medals in a Career — that just doesn’t make sense to me.
All control options have been moved to the in-game menu under “Options”:
Under “Controls” is key bindings by category, though the “Service” area is locked.
After changing bindings, one can save them as a unique profile and change between them while flying in either single or multi-player by right clicking the mouse and selecting the wrench for the options menu.
Why would one need to do that? Because we can now change response curves for joystick and rudder to suit each plane if desired:
Neoqb gave the best answer of all to complaints about stick response: fix it yourself if you don’t like it. I say that as every type of stick and HOTAS are as different as the players using them; now if the individual wants to customize response curves by plane type (or generically for all of them) they can.
Or, if you’re like me, just leave it at the default.
Being able to make multiple profiles has been a real plus for me, as I tend to want to tinker incrementally.