Nations: Fighter Command
by Jim "Twitch" TittleDecember 29, 1999
You will feel the nostalgia! I don't mean that Nations Fighter Command will immerse you in the feel of WWII air combat. What I mean is that you will feel as though you are running the pre-historic, 1980s sim Battlehawks 1942 in 2000!
As I've said before great graphics do not alone a good sim make. My first impressions are that the terrain is beautiful, but no better than that of Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator or user enhanced European Air War.
P51 on the runway.
Resolution, Clouds, Terrain
While the overall resolution is excellent, some close range sections of world are put together like a bachelor's first sewing attempt. Jagged octagonal shapes of a sharp-angled shoreline form directly below you, and out to about 45 degrees ruin the good look of objects surrounding them. A mountain below you has a cut-from-paper look to its base where it joins flat land.
At an oblique, shallow angle the distant shore is fine. You can even see the white cliffs of Dover. The water itself is a dull, pale blue, ill defined and making it impossible to judge altitude well. In overcast weather the water changes to a realistic cold gray.
The sky is really good with multi-colors to the clouds that look very realistic. The sun, shadows and reflections relative to time of day and attitude to the light source are superb, but when the sun is anywhere but at your back the cockpit becomes a dark room.
More on Graphics
For all you instrument watchers out there the dash is mostly unreadable. The landscape and vegetation is pleasing in its soothing green textures. I like the way the definition of terrain is diluted by the atmosphere when viewed from varying distances.
This softening effect is right on the money for realism, but as with water, I find it dicey for height estimating. The panorama of taking in dozens of square miles from height is well done as you see shadows on the ground from low hanging, dark clouds in one quadrant and none below other light, high clouds somewhere else.
The clouds are realistically well varied in their darkness. You can see some are filled with rain and others are fluffy cotton balls. Huge cumulus pile up to great heights some days. While these combined details make for the look of a rich, old masters' style, renaissance oil painting, it does not play well in a sim. Viewed from a distance the terrain is great.
Making the Kill.
The aircraft themselves are graphically superb. The best way to see how good is to use the "fly by" key as you go by. Small details are visible and distinct plus the color schemes are pleasing. Good marks here.
We Don't Do Windows
You can see the prop tips through the front windscreen but from your cockpit perspective this shouldn't be possible. Something here is out of scale, and it's very distracting. The blades are articulated to show movement but they appear to be going way too slow even at full R.P.M.. This aids in making the front view darker and indistinct, as though you are peering through a very filthy windscreen.
Strangely, the screen during mission loading, which shows a close-up nose view as a prop turns during the program load into RAM, is much better. The cockpit itself is rather dim, generally projecting a dark and brooding atmosphere. The bubble-canopied planes are better; in the dingier ones the instruments are not easily readable and rather inconsistent looking overall, even in better light. Most of the time you'll catch yourself leaning forward and squinting at an instrument.
Then there's the ammo counter dials that look like under-dash add-on auto gauges. This is where I get the BH 1942 flashback. They remind me of BH's damage accumulation dials. When one weapon runs low a red light flashes without stop like a turnpike Winnabago with a zoned out driver who forgot to click off the turn signal. When empty they stay lit constantly and it's VERY annoying.
One graphic detail is actually exaggerated. The smoke from the nose-mounted weapons momentarily balloons up to obscure vision, where it should be quickly sucked back in the slipstream. Sadly, smoke occasionally wafts in front of the windscreen even in some fighters with wing-mounted guns. It reminds me of shooting with certain cheaper pistol ammunition at the indoor shooting range.
Go to Page Two: Graphics and Sound.
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Last Updated December 28th, 1999