|Janes WW2 Fighters
by Thomas "AV8R" Spann
One of 1998’s most highly anticipated military flight simulations has finally hit the virtual European geography with a big impact. Jane’s WW2 Fighters is here, but does it fulfill the high expectations set for it?
With one more major WW2 era sim left to be released this year, (SSI's Luftwaffe Commander), the picture is getting clearer on who will be the king of the skies over 1945’s Europe - and on our hard drives.
The short of it is that Jane’s WW2 Fighters pushes special effects to the next level of heights, but falls short in some of the features most important to the serious (a.k.a. hard-core) simmer. Let’s first examine the expectations that were set by the following to be found on Jane’s website (http://www.janes.ea.com):
"I have been playing the WWII Fighters game for about six months now. The graphics are incredible, and I find the dogfighting to be as close as you can get to realism on a computer screen, and it still allows the novice to have fun, too! WWII fans will love this one for its historical content, as well as the game play." -- Col. C.E. 'Bud' Anderson, Triple Ace, flew 116 Combat Missions in WWII.
" No other simulation -- in fact, no other computer game -- has so accurately simulated the appearance of a real-world combat environment." -- Denny Atkin, Computer Gaming World
..."more than merely a feast, its a canvas. It brims with atmosphere, and it shows the artists touch at every pause. Sometimes it borders on surrealism, but mostly it is simply beautiful... the best description of the game is that you are flying in a WW2 movie." Len Hjalmarson, www.combatsim.com
So much for the opinions of others, let's embark now into what this reviewer experienced, and we will sum up at the end if the expectations set were met by what we received, as well as how this sim rates in my estimation.
After a flawless installation and going through all the very well laid out options and preferences screens, (which were all done in a nice radio button and switches motif, apropos for the 1945 era), we enter the Jane’s Museum. Talk about a work of art! This graphical user interface (GUI) is a perfect example of form meets function.
What’s more, you get to hear splendid Glen Miller big band music - another nice shift from jet sim rockin’ and rollin’ tunes. You start out by entering the foyer of the fighter’s museum, and then have the choices of: immediately going to instant action fur-ball, go behind the kiosk and review European theater details, turn left to study and test fly the 7 planes, or turn right into the war room where the solo, multiplayer, campaign and mission editor await you.
The hangar room is where you can select any of the 7 fighters and view the plane, cockpit, engine, test fly, view camera footage, and even listen to aces that flew them describe their opinions of these wonderful planes (P-51 Mustang, BF 109-G, P-47D Thunderbolt, FW 190A-8, P-38J Lightning, Me 262A-1 jet, and the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX).
What I liked was the ability to get the information on each plane and even test fly it un-molested before going on to combat. Jane’s has certainly added historical context as well as aircraft specification details to the military flight simming experience just as it has for Fighter’s Anthology, but this time with a real touch of class.
So let’s leave the museum rendered GUI behind and move on to the flight dynamics, damage modeling, mission offerings and multiplayer aspects of WW2 Fighters. Suffice it to say that Jane’s GUI talents are top gun based upon what we have seen from Longbow2, F15E and now WW2 Fighters. Now we get to the heart of the matter.
With Jane’s penchant for hitting the non hard-core market (as with Fighter’s Anthology and Israeli Air Force), as well as the serious (Longbow2 and F15E) the question arises: is this a light/mid-range or hard-core/serious sophistication flight sim? My finding is that it's a curious mixture of each, both a strength and a weakness.
First let’s examine the special effects nature of WW2 Fighters. The pictures within this review should speak for themselves.
I have never seen any released sim as close to photo-realistic as this one. Painstaking attention to detail was obviously put into both the interior cockpits and exterior texturing of these birds. The colors are clear and vibrant, the propeller whirls realistically, the cultural and theater markings are akin to what I see in my collection of WW2 books. Fire the weapons and bombs whine as they are released, primary and secondary explosions are very believable.
If you haven’t invested in a sub-woofer and PCI sound card, this is a good excuse to do so. The F9 fly by view is one of my favorite in this sim. Each plane screams by you with its own distinctive engine roar with the full Doppler effect. Shell casings can be seen dropping from beneath out of their exit ports, gun/cannon flashes and muzzle smoke puffs as you squeeze out the rounds. So when others say that the special effects realism is the best yet, I have to agree full heartedly.
What is really unique about the special effects are the voluminous clouds and flak. Fly low and you will see very good looking low level graphics much akin to Jane’s F15-E. What you won't see is the shimmering satellite accurate terrain (like IAF or iF18), nor the highly detailed repeating tiles of MS-CFS or Falcon4.
The terrain WW2 Fighters has is a good compromise between these two extremes that I believe helps the frame rate. Take a look and see the next few shots and see what I think is Jane’s best foot forward and contribution to the immersive feel of "being there".
Go to Part II
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Last Updated December 1st, 1998