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Written by  :  Ray Soderlund (3608)
Written on  :  Apr 06, 2000
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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A simple, but very fun WWII Flight sim

The Good

This was one of the first WWII flight sims to revolve around the Battle of Britain and while the machines of the day couldn't support as many planes in the air at one time like modern sims (European Air War, for example), Their Finest Hour did a decent job in making one feel like they were involved in some grand conflict. Similar to the original X-Wing game, you could create a pilot and play with that character, building his experience, then place him as one of your squadron mates to cover you. As the characters could live and die in any scenario, if you put some time into the game, you could actually start to get attached to your homemade squadron mates. This added a slight role-playing quality to this already fun flight simulator.

The ability to fly a wide range of fighters (and bombers) of the period was also fairly ground breaking for its time and provided quite a bit of replay value. You can fly the stable older Hurricanes or the newer, sleeker Spitfires on the British side, or experience quite a diversity on the German side, flying everything from the nimble Bf-109s, the powerful but awkward Bf-110 twin engine fighter, the Stuka dive bombers, or even the heavier bombers (complete with multiple gunnery stations). It was quite a collection of planes and the Stukas and bombers provided different styles of play.

The gameplay is simple enough for nearly anyone to get into the dogfight. Although perhaps too simplistic for fans of today's ultra-realistic games, there were few games of this period that were more complex, so it was also enjoyable by military aviation enthusiasts of all skill sets.

The Bad

The AI isn't anything spectacular, and you will often find enemy fighters merely trying to gently turn away from you when you plant yourself on their six. Although AI pilots will take the opportunity to catch you if you're fixated on shooting down a teammate of theirs, but they don't act as a team at all, and you can often pull off fighters, then finish them off. On the plus side, the act of extraordinary aerobatic maneuvers means there are few accidental crashes (though sometimes half your wing will buy the farm on landings).

Coupled with the slow speed of the game (at least on PCs of the time), one will probably find combat easier than it actually was for pilots. Planes don't zip around - they sometimes seem to crawl, making targeting easier. Your biggest concern is the gunnery stations on the larger planes, as you will be as much a target.

The Bottom Line

Although far from realistic in many aspects, this is still a classic, enjoyable air combat sim and one of the first few to allow one to pilot multiple types of airplanes, with assigned squadron mates, in a semi-meaningful random campaign game. Battle of Britain enthusiasts who want a more realistic, prettier simulation may want to play European Air War, but casual fans (especially with those machines incapable of playing new sims) may want to try out this old gem.