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Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator
by Peter "Fighterjock" Waddell

Make no mistake about it, MS Combat Flight Simulator is not "just another" WWII flight sim.

If you are already flying the civilian simulator, MS FS98, you already know how extendible it is. CFS carries all the goods from FS with it. That means scenery from pretty well anywhere in the world can be downloaded from the Net and used with it.


It also means that you can fly almost any of the literally thousands of free aircraft available on the Net. Some are better than others. The things (extensibility, especially) that helped make MS FS so popular (MS claims it's the best selling computer "game" of all time) should ensure that this is a sim that will not soon lose its place on your hard drive.

Frankly, Microsoft, when compared to other simulation producers, started out with a huge advantage because of their ongoing work on MS Flight Sim. They have taken full advantage of all they have learned over the 16 plus years of its existence by bringing a lot of it to CFS. The enhanced scenery in CFS is supposed to be a preview of what we can expect in the next version of Flight Simulator, to be titled FS 2000. If this is indeed the shape of things to come, then the future of flight sims looks bright.

This MS FS pedigree means that everyone from neophytes to older flight sim hacks like myself can probably find something to like about this sim.

To accommodate the variety of skill levels CFS has a plethora of available skill level and configuration options, all the way from invulnerable to realistic. As I was doing some review testing on the sim a friend showed up with four 11-year-olds from his son's baseball team. They wanted to try it out. On the standard jet sims there would be little point in giving them a go.

In this case, however, I put the difficulty settings all the way down to invulnerable and let them fire away. Needless to say, I had to pry their sweaty little figures off my controllers to get them to give each other a chance.

There is so much here it's difficult to know where to start. The aircraft? The environment/scenery? The Game play? The AI? The multiplayer? The multimedia training films? The documentation? Ok, let's consider all of the above and in that order.


The Aircraft

CFS comes with eight flyable fighter planes. They are the Hawker Hurricane Mk I, Supermarine Spitfire Mk V and the Mk IX for the Brits, the Mustang P-51 and the republic P-47 Thunderbolt, (the Jug as it was affectionately know) for the Yanks. For the Luftwaffe you have a choice of The Messerschmitt BF-109E the BF-109G and the Focke-Wulf 190A.

In addition, if you feel more like flying a WWI kite, they have included the Sopwith Camel from FS98. In one of the few oversights in this sim there are no Russian aircraft included, but then this IS the European Series, presumably they have other theatres of operation planned.

Click to continue . . .


MS Combat FS

However, for anyone who's ever NOT used MS FS, then you will be happy to know that there are literally thousands of aircraft available. Most of them a free download on the Internet; as well, there are retail packages from professional A/C designers available which are generally of higher quality. Almost any of these aircraft can be "imported" into CFS and automatically have guns attached to them. Even civilian transports such as a 747 will have guns attached if you use it in CFS, what you would do with guns on a 747 is another question.

Additionally you can use these custom aircraft in multiplayer too as long as the participants all have the same a/c available to them they will be able to see the others a/c. ie. if you want to fly the F86 Sabre Jet in combat against others then all will need to have the same a/c in their CFS directory. If you try to fly your F86 on the net and others don't have a copy, you can still do it, but to others it will just look like a very fast Spitfire!

You do this of course, at your own peril, if you choose to use other aircraft in multiplayer your opponent(s) will be notified of this by the plane label that is clearly visible to all.

Detail and Views

Another thing you notice immediately is the cockpit detail. The cockpits look incredible. Instead of looking like they are fresh from the factory, the paint is chipped around the canopy giving them a much more realistic "used and abused" feeling. The instruments are laid out exactly as they are in the real thing; they must have done their research.

MS Combat FS
CFS Cockpit. Click for 800x600.

However, this is not just another pretty face cockpit. Rather, there is a great deal of information given to the pilot via the instruments. The slip ball rolls flawlessly back and forth as you maneuver your aircraft, and can be used exactly as in the real aircraft. For example, check the ball when lining up on a bandit, because if you are slipping or skidding too much it will throw off your aim.

And speaking of slipping and sliding, I was impressed to notice that flying in this sim is the first time I have really noticed A/C slippage. I am not sure why this is the case, but it seems they have gone to some effort to make it more obvious. If I have one problem with this, it is that the A/C seem to slip and skid a bit too much now.

The views are generally quite good. F9 gives you a "tactical view," a small window with a top down view of other aircraft within about two miles. Two miles isn't as far as it sounds at 600mph combined closing speed.

There is a full screen view with gun sight that most people will use often because of the increased "under the nose" visibility. (It would be nice if this could be set in the preferences for online play).

Go to Part II

Download Peter's customized Sabre and MiG 15 and fly them in CFS: Sabre vs MiG 1.8 meg.


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Last Updated November 24th, 1998

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