Veneer Wing Commander
- A rich storyline with colourful personalities. An absolute advantage over 99.9% of flight sims.
- Balance between fun and realism, really important in simulation/war games. Though, it's shifting from time to time.
- Pure feeling of dogfighting.
- Both aircraft and ground forces are high-detailed, so there's a point on flying at low heights and shooting everything Raiden-style.
- Controls are really bad, playing with keyboard or mouse would become way
too difficult when game progresses.
- No real save system(what is a really vital thing, after the first point) only tapes, you gonna fall asleep, when fast forwarding them.
The Bottom Line
In the first half of the 90s, the already established Origin decided to develop new genre fields. With variable success they moved on from Ultima series locales of fairly trampled down lands of Britanny to various others like Jules Verne's epoch Mars, the heart of Amazon jungles populated with prehistoric reptiles, and also in the depths of the earth in the Underworld duology. For another series, Wing Commander, it required much less time (four parts compared to six for Ultima) before they came up with flight simulators not in the sci-fi field. Firstly, Strike Commander got released, where in the not so distant future, the player sat at the wheel of a mercenary F-16 with the same distinctive storytelling system between missions and an abundantly written plot. After this, Pacific Strike came into the world, telling us about the confrontation at you-know-where during World War II(which was already a hackneyed story at the time). However, this review will talk about aviation pioneers, born long before the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal.
The first World War is quite deprived of videogame developers' attention. Which is quite unfortunate - the global conflict pushed the scientific and technological progress far ahead: metal-track monsters appeared on the battlefields, soldiers changed their elegant full dress to a low-key uniform, and giant dreadnoughts and submarines set out on the sea. But we are more interested in a third front, opened by the Wright brothers at the very beginning of the century.
Origin acted quite originally, by putting us in the body of an American volunteer, who joined Entente forces in May 1916 (the U.S. hadn't declared war with Germany yet). After months of long and hard training courses in England, he is transferred to a real front line unit near Dunkirk, Belgium, where the first aircraft warning will sound for us.
Air battles of WWI couldn't be compared with subsequent aerial conflicts. The speed of the first planes often was no more than 150 km/h, recommended aiming range was no more than 50(!) meters, and of course there was no radar or radios. And at that time Sopwiths and Albatroses were very difficult to control, compared even with airplanes of the second world war. By the way, this aspect of dogfighting was recreated by developers better than anything else. If, at first, it is possible to get used to the overly sluggish or too jerky reaction of the Sopwith Pup in futile attempts from this side of the monitor, then when there's a number of enemy fighters on screen with their equipment and professionalism, it puts a demand for the speed of our actions to start increasing and you start to think about your own imperfections and the need to purchase a joystick with rudder pedals.
But it would be worth it. You almost physically feel hitting the wings of a German pilot with your machine-gun or the blowing up a zeppelin with a bomb (yes, you can do so!), which after will burn in a Hollywood-type way and fall to the ground. You may buzz over your non-flying enemies by riddling trucks with bullets and bombing fortifications. However, one should beware of revenge from first AA gunners who rarely, but on occasion, can hit your puny plane. There's an aircraft damage system: by shooting through the wings (and ailerons as well) you will make your rival much less manoeuvrable (wings can be completely splintered by the way), and by making a few holes in the fuel tank you can deplete his fuel (it will take some time though). And of course, aerial snipers can just kill the pilot without damaging the aircraft - the Red Baron was shot this way.
A real drama takes place between flights on the ground. Witty ace pilot Charles Dearing continuously embarks on shady enterprises such as attempting (Spoiler! Spoiler!) a bombing raid on his own. Always bracing up his courage with liquor, mechanic Harry Thompson complains when you get badly hit in combat, and everybody by turns is fighting for the heart and less romantic parts of the young Lissette's body (the only girl in the squadron's territory). Part of the developments between missions are non-linear and depend on your performance in the sky. For shooting down many Germans, a player could be recommended for an award. But for the destruction of government property on your own land, you'll be sentenced to be shot. So train your carpet-bombing on the enemy territory.
Chris Roberts created one of the most successful series of simulators (a quite relative opinion though) and its offspring turned out to be not too worse. Wings of Glory is a vivid example of this in a very interesting setting. The game is made on the original Wing Commander ferment with a bias more to simulation and the realistic side; plus highly-detailed world including richly textured tanks and locomotives. You only to need to beat the controls.