|European Air War
By Thomas "AV8R" Spann
Yes the WW2 sims have hit the Normandy beach head!!! First Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator (MS-CFS), and now Microprose’s European Air War (EAW).
If the graphics, sounds, flight model and excellent online multiplayer dogfighting of MS-CFS weren’t enough to keep your attention - EAW adds more planes and online multiplayer cooperative missions to our WW2 sim onslaught. With Jane’s WW2 Fighter and Activision’s Screamin Demons Over Europe soon to follow, this winter is a WW2 prop-head’s dream come true.
This review is not intended to be a comprehensive decompilation of EAW. What I wanted to do was to give you, the CSIM reader, a hands-on look at what I think is a really good WW2 sim - from the online multiplayer perspective. I’ll leave the solo and campaigning to the in-depth review.
What differentiates EAW from MS-CFS in my opinion is that COOP MP is supported in a big way. You can get with your mates and fly together or against each other in the most fearsome fighters of the era. Sorry no player controlled heavy bombers in EAW. My understanding is that we will have to wait for Fighter Squadron for that feature.
I have successfully flown online with as many as 6 players while in the midst of scores of AI controlled bombers and fighters - not even counting the ground activity. This is where EAW pulls away from MS-CFS.
The way I look at it, MS-CFS focuses on the pilot in the fighter, and EAW focuses more on the pilot within the context of the entire battle. As a result, expect the strengths and weaknesses of each to be along those lines, IMHO. I won’t beat EAW to death here with its pros and cons, but instead I wanted to deliver a feel for what its like to be _IN_ this sim. This is the strength of EAW: it’s immersive feel.
PART I: In the Luftwaffe
Imagine yourself in the elite JV-44 Expertin Me262 Stormbird flight (schwarm = 2 rottes, rotte = element). Your ground control scrambles you to intercept incoming B-17 heavy bombers approaching Berlin, your home town. Fierce fighter escort can be expected as usual.
You and your online (TCP/IP or Kali/IPX or LAN/IPX) buddies scramble. Some of you take Me262s and others may take Me109s or FW190s. But you are the Expertin Jagdeschwader commander, only the best of the best get the new fighter jets capable of speed exceeding the best enemy fighters by over 100 MPH.
Having this raw speed available to you is both a blessing and a curse. While you can out run any plane out there, you must also employ B&Z fighter tactics (Boom & Zoom) and fight your innate urge to mix it up with the single seat fighters. Your role is in defense of the Riech, and to bring down the heavies.
Now with this added speed come two major challenges: learning to have excellent gunnery skills due to very high closure rates, and flying in what is virtually a kerosene malitov cocktail. You are probably the most vulnerable aircraft of the era, including the Japanese Zero. So it is wise to not become a target for very long.
In fact, while I was very successful in downing 2 bombers on this run, the best approach is to attack a bomber head on. Killing the flight crew is the most effective method, and exposes you to the least gun fire and TOT (time on target). But you knew that, you're an ACE Expertin!
So down goes one of your victims, and the other is limping along on 2 engines. Yes we can either come back for the coup-de-gras, or leave them to the butcher birds. Why expose our plane unnecessarily?
EAW has given us a very good damage model. Not the kind sported by Janes WW2, where physical damage is apparent, but in the actual physics itself, where placement of hits results in differing damage to the victim’s plane and systems. Here we see our hits to the port side results in 2 of the engines being taken out, a very good thing when dealing with big planes. I hate the old models where one shot results in a total fireball every time.
Let’s egress the battle area. We have a very limited fuel capacity (440 gals) with a combat range of only 150 miles (241 km). While our four 30 mm cannons carry a lethal punch, we only have about 100 rounds per cannon. Hit and run tactics are our strength. Is my wingman still with me? A quick glance with the snap view shows that he is in good form.
Well its getting late, let’s hit the cockpit lighting. The red wavelength fulfills two roles: first, red light isn’t as perceptible over distance - thus good for stealthy reasons; secondly, it helps the pilot to keep his eyes sharp. Any bright source of light at night can temporarily blind the pilot or reduce their ability to discern smaller objects like incoming bandits.
EAW’s cockpit is both functional and scrollable. What is lacking is a high resolution on all the gauges, being that the sim is 256 color and 640 X 400 resolution. Also there aren't any mouse interactive controls in the cockpit. "Zie goot!" back home to brag, drink, and mingle mit der fraulines. (Please no emails on my horrible German diction. Work with me, ok? )
Go to Part II
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Last Updated November 12th, 1998