Report by David "Cap'n Trips" Finkelstein
Grumman TBF-1C Avenger
A light bomber and torpedo aircraft, the TBF replaced the U.S. Navy's obsolete Douglas TBD Devastators which were suffering heavy losses against the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The TBF carries two forward firing .50 caliber machine guns, a single .50 claiber machine gun in the dorsal turret, and a .30 caliber gun in the lower radioman/ventral gunner position. Equipped with a bombsight, the Avenger can carry 2000 pounds of bombs or a single torpedo in its internal bomb bay.
Bell P-39 Airacobra
While the P39 is not a new addition to WarBirds, I mention it here because its flight model has been completely revamped for 2.0. Armed with a 37mm spinner-mounted cannon, the P39 could deliver a tremendous punch, but bringing that cannon to bear on anything but an overloaded bomber was a difficult feat in prior versions. While the 39 still won't win any performance contests in version 2.0, it won't be quite the sitting duck that people have come to expect.
WarBirds has always had a rather steep learning curve. Part of this has no doubt been due to the somewhat arcane "dot command" language of the game. For example, to fly with a 30% fuel load, a pilot had to type ".fuel 30" in a command line while in the tower before flight. Similar commands controlled ordnance loadouts, gun convergence and nearly every other aspect of the game.
iMOL has implemented a graphical interface that should ease the transition into the game. To set fuel or convergence, a player now needs only to click the mouse the appropriate area of the aircraft selection screen, and ordnance loadouts for each plane are clearly spelled out and can be selected at the touch of a button. A "more info" button in the aircraft selection screen brings up a page of historical and in-game information about each aircraft.
Much of this information was previously contained in the help file, but earlier WarBirds revisions required quitting from the game to view the help. WarBirds 2.0 moves much of this info directly into the game itself, where it is most often needed. A standard help file is also included, which covers most aspects of setup, connection and gameplay. A "help" button is available in the control tower, allowing the help file to be called from within the game. Almost every aspect of the game is now directly controllable from the graphic interface, which in my opinion can only help newer players. Experienced players will be happy to know that all the "dot commands" are still functional.
STILL MORE CHANGES
WarBirds pilots will now have to cope with a bigger variety of anti-aircraft weaponry. While previous versions' ground defenses were limited to .50 caliber machine guns of very limtied range, 2.0 introduces 20 and 40mm anti aircraft guns with nearly twice the effective range of the fifties (this greater range is somewhat offset by lower muzzle velocities and slower rates of fire, however) and 88mm high altitude flak batteries which can "reach out and touch someone" as high as 30,000 feet... Flak is not terribly accurate, but it only takes one hit to deliver tremendous damage. Near misses by the flak are not only seen and heard, but felt as a distinct shake, a very nice touch.
Each of the four WarBirds countries will once again have its own naval fleet. When fleets were first introduced back in version 1.05, there were four as well, but later versions reduced that to one fleet, owned by one country at a time. The fleets in version 2.0 will be sinkable (along with animated sinking effects), but they will not be capturable assets.
Airfield layouts have been redone, with the general consensus indicating that airfield capture will be a more complicated and difficult affair than in previous versions. More ground assets and a less linear layout will make for tougher bombing missions, and the limited sight distance due to atmospheric haze will make for tougher navigation than in earlier versions, where it was possible to line up a bomb run visually from forty or more miles away. The previously mentioned anti aircraft weapons will make low level fighter/bomber field attacks much more dangerous than before. Runways at forward fields seem narrower and shorter now, but this may be due to the fact that they no longer have wide dirt areas surrounding them. Expect takeoffs and landings there to be a bit more challenging than in prior versions.
Online player ID's have been lengthened to six characters instead of the previous four. I'm not sure I like this particular feature. I find myself turning ID's off when lots of friendlies are in the area, as the extra characters seem to make for a more cluttered look on screen.
One change that was cause for worry for me was the loss of the "serial" connection option. All online connections are now PPP only. I had always felt that my connection was better under the serial option than via PPP, but this hasn’t proven to be a problem yet, even with upwards of 100 players online in the 2.0 arena. Given the fact that a significant portion of iMOL’s bandwidth is taken up by downloads (a common occurrence with every new WarBirds release), I’d have to say that the 2.0 arena was remarkably smooth.
HEAD TO HEAD
In addition to the DirectPlay head to head modes, WarBirds 2.0 will support direct TCP/IP connections without DirectPlay, allowing for Mac vs. PC head to head for the first time. It's impossible to predict how well this feature will actually work until the Mac version of 2.0 is released, but I'm hoping it will go smoothly and allow Mac pilots to get in on the head to head action. Head to head play is still limited to two players only.
While the changes from 1.11 will result in a different online atmosphere from that of previous versions, it's hard to get a true feel for the gameplay in the new release at this point. The only online time available has been limited to beta tests and some free time this weekend in conjunction with the European ECTS trade show. At the moment, the arena seems to consist of a massive furball in the center of the terrain, which is constantly fed by the four central fields, everyone online apparently most interested in getting into a plane and finding the fight as soon as possible. This will undoubtedly change once the 2.0 arenas begine full time operations. The effects of more difficult field capture and high altitude flak on the arena remain to be seen; at the moment I'm cautiously optimistic, and looking forward to seeing how things will shake out.
Things I disliked: Severe sun glare implemetation, six letter player ID's, still no strategic elements.
Things I liked: Everything else!
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Last Updated Sept. 8th, 1997