Fighter Ace II Beta Preview
by Biff Henderson
Microsoft released their public beta of Fighter Ace II last week. FAII is the long-awaited sequel to the original Fighter Ace - a massively multiplayer WWII air combat simulation which debuted on the MSN Gaming Zone nearly two years ago.
Rather than just patching or updating the current version of FA, VR-1 chose to start from scratch when creating FAII. New to this version are a force-based physics model, 3D accelerated graphics, improved terrain and ground objects, and more aircraft - including Japanese aircraft and flyable bombers.
Your choice of rides
Players have a choice of flying 34 different aircraft among the five countries represented in FAII. Each country has four fighters or fighter-bombers, a light bomber, and a heavy bomber (except for Japan, which only has three fighters for some reason). They are:
While players can fly the bombers, they can not man any of the gunner positions. The gunners are all AI controlled, and their accuracy is adjusted via server-side arena settings. Though the player does control any fixed forward firing guns, and has access to a "bombardier view" for dropping bombs. More aircraft might be added later.
Audio and Video
Graphically, the aircraft are well-rendered. Any external ordnance is visible, and control surfaces can be seen to move. Even the canopy opens when the throttle is chopped! Damage is not visible unless it is catastrophic, like a missing wing or tail section.
Game sounds are pretty good also. Radial engines have a different sound than inline engines. Gun firing, rocket launch, and bomb explosion sounds are well done. FAII employs a 3D sound scheme - for instance, while in the cockpit and looking to left, the engine sounds appear to be coming from the right. When another aircraft flys up along side of you, you can hear which side it's on without having to look.
Options, options, options
FAII has lots of user-configurable options. Firstly, the player will select what 3D graphics mode they want to use: D3D, Glide, or Software. Available resolutions are 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768. In the game, each country has a particular color assigned to it, which is used when displaying aircraft tags and map symbols. The user can change these colors to whatever suits them - good news for colorblind or color-impaired players! For slower machines, the level of graphics detail of the terrain and ground objects can be adjusted via a slider to improve performance.
For offline play, the user has a myriad of options concerning flight physics and combat difficulty. The flight model can be adjusted from "arcade" to "realistic". Stalls, spins, engine torque, wind, and gun forces are just some of the flight options that can be enabled or disabled. Ammo and fuel can be limited or unlimited.
Views can be set to allow fullscreen and external views, or restricted to cockpit-only. Aircraft tags can be disabled, or customized to show any combination of player squad tags, name tags, ranks, and/or range tags. The beta has a couple of offline practice missions that can be flown with AI controlled enemy and friendly aircraft, so you can get the feel of flying and gunnery without going online.
Go to Part II
Copyright © 1997 - 2000 COMBATSIM.COM, INC. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated October 13th, 1999