|Fighter Ace 1.5
by Peter Waddell
Member, The Musketeer Escadrille
Microsoft's "Massively Multi-player" online WWII Fighter Combat simulation, Fighter Ace, version 1.5 is finally in closed testing on the Microsoft Zone (www.zone.com). At E3 in Atlanta I was able to get a headlock on one of VR1's computers running the beta and go for a long "spin". It wasn't easy fending off fans of the game wanting to give it a go, not to mention the programmers VR1 had flown in all the way from Russia! But I did prevail long enough to get a pretty good look at their latest and much anticipated upgrade to the original Fighter Ace.
The most talked about and most requested new feature has been bombers. People wanted bombers, and they got bombers. The British get their Lancasters, the Germans Ju88's, the Americans have B-17s and the Russians have their big PE8's. Unfortunately they are all AI controlled so you cannot fly them yet, (according to Mark Vange of VR1 this is in the works for a future release) but make no mistake these AI gunners are crack shots and will send you down smoking if you're not very careful. Well what would you expect?
I got lucky and shot down a couple of bombers on my first run at them but was pretty badly shot up for my effort. I had to limp back to base (this is when you realize how much farther you have to go than before) all the time praying that there were no bad guys around to finish me off. (Once you do get don't stay on the runway for long otherwise you will probably be clobbered by bombs dropped in an air raid! And then there are the craters to contend with …)
The first thing that struck me about 1.5 (other than the bombers) was the size of the new arena (or virtual Battlefield.) Compared to the first version it is absolutely huge, and the size one of the main complaints about the first version. The limited size of the arena meant you had a hard time gaining good altitude by the time you reached the other teams' positions. They obviously have responded to this criticism in a big way; now it can take you 4-8 minutes flying time to get to the opponents defensive positions, IE their aerodrome. In 1.5 you'll have more than enough time to try to grab the altitude advantage over your opponents.
Another of the many suggestions they have responded to is pilots requests to have ground targets available to strafe. 1.5 now includes AI controlled tanks, and a steam locomotive runs up and down one of two track ways at irregular intervals. They are not too challenging as targets but running along 50 feet above the tracks in any of the planes is an exhilarating experience. The feeling of speed as you hurtle along at 350 mph, fifty feet above the track is unparalleled in any other sim I can think of.
The "World" as mentioned is much bigger than the "dogfighting box" of the 1st version. The terrain is also much more detailed and now has realistic rolling hills and valleys and rivers etc. There are little towns here and there as well, where you can go and strafe if you're in the mood to slaughter some innocent virtual civilians, though you won't get points for these. The bigger World will be much more conducive to squadron tactics and mission planing and hopefully less likely to encourage suicide runway strafers and crashers, since they would have to start over again and fly all the way over to your base to kill themselves again. It would take a pretty twisted individual to keep this up for very long!
There are now 4 runways to launch from. Depending on where you want to go, there are two forward and two rear bases. From the forward base to your opponent is about a 4 minute run so you have a bit of time to get some altitude , especially compared to the previous two minute run. (In Fighter Ace 1 dogfights above 3000 ft were somewhat rare.)
A typical dogfight now starts around ten thousand feet where you have lots of room for maneuvers before turning and burning at nape of the earth level. This should even things up a little between good pilots and good shooters, giving the flyers a little better chance against a crack shot gunslinger type flyer.
Apparently some of the planes have been tweaked as well, though this is not obvious. Tthe P51 is supposed to have more hitting power than it did previously, which would bring it closer to historically accurate weapons effectiveness.
Another complaint made by some of the old Air Warrior and Warbirds players especially is/was the flight models in Fighter Ace. In most cases this was due to the fact that these pilots flew only in the busy arcade mode arenas missing the "Full Realistic" ones. As an almost full time realistic arena flyer I have to say the flight models in Full Realistic feel pretty darn good as far as I can tell, (having not combat flown a real warbird yet) except for some impossible spins that are slated to be fixed by version two.
It has been a real puzzle to a lot of players (who want their game to flourish) why Full Realistic is not more popular than it is. Perhaps it's a matter of critical mass. Or a victim of IAFDS "instant adrenaline fix syndrome". Many of the players who come in from arcade arenas complain that "it's too hard" and off they go back to arcade with it's relaxed physics model. It *is* harder in "Full Realistic" but like many things the reward is greater once you have a degree of skill at it.
In Full Realistic air combat maneuvers can be realistically executed within the parameters of the particular aircraft. If you can master BFM and ACM in "Full Realistic" and then go back to arcade you will have a big advantage over your opponents because you are handling the aircraft more like you would a real one, not just yanking on your joystick for all it's worth. Finesse is everything sometimes....
Overall it looks like most people will be as pleased with this version of Fighter Ace as I am. See you in the unfriendly skies! Tally Ho!
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Last Updated June 10th, 1998