|JANEíS WW2 FIGHTERS DEMO PREVIEW
by Thomas "AV8R" Spann
World War 2 has come back in a big way. Soon we will have Janeís WW2
Fighters, Microsoftís Combat Flight Sim, Confirmed Kill, and European Air War. Then in the new year we'll see Nations: Fighter Command, Luftwaffe Commander, Fighter Duel II, Stormbird and Me262. Its a seasonal feast for propheads for sure. (Ed. See our prop sim overview for coverage of these other titles).
It will also be a hard time for Santa Claus to haul around all that new computer hardware these sims beg for. The P200 class folks even with Voodoo cards will soon be looking to upgrade. In the case of WW2 Fighters, it isn't that you can't run the demo, but you won't see it in it's full glory and get a smooth frame rate. With that caveat let's dive into the demo, and let the pictures do most of the talking.
What strikes me immediately about this sim is that it is a SERIOUS effort to make the combat with these WW2 fighters as graphically appealing and immersive as your CPU will allow. The demo lets you fly for 6 minutes, which is a lot of time when you consider most A2A battles were over within a minute or two.
When you first run the demo youíre greeted with a German Panzer platoon scrambling for cover in a small town. You are in a P47 on your strike approach. The sounds of your rockets and 500 pounders are like what youíve seen in many a war flick. But donít waste too much time, angry Luftwaffe FW 190s will soon return the favor. As you twist and turn to gain the advantage, you even hear your virtual pilotís heart pounding (I like this WAY better than the G grunting from other sims). As you convert to this butcher birds tail, you give your enemy a blazing 8 gun salute.
Your second entry into the demo will put you in the cockpit of the FW190 as the leader of the flight intercepting the striking P47ís. (Obviously a lot of thought and imagination went into this demo and it's probably the best playable demo I have seen to date). The demo doesnít give you all the planes (P-38J, P-47D, P-51D, Spitfire F.IX, BF 109G-6, FW 190A-8, Me 262), but does give you an equal match up.
This author canít wait for the ME 262, unfortunately you rarely get the opportunity to fly it online with WARBIRDS. This is where Janeís WW2 is going to fill the gap - that being the 2-8 person multiplayer online. I can imagine the squadrons are going to be popping up already. This is the kind of multiplayer sim that has the opportunity to become a classic if Janeís keeps to its usual superb TCP and IPX MP support. We cannot tell from the demo due to no MP functionality in the demo. We also donít know about voice or text chat support - which this kind of sim begs for. (Ed.Note: Battlefield Communicator may take up the slack in this area if need be.)
So what else does this sim sport? The flight model felt to me to be in the middle of being a relaxed and an expert model. While it stalled appropriately, I couldnít invoke a spin as with other realistic WW2 flight modeled sims. Rumor mill has it that Janeís intended the demo to be this way, so that hopefully will mean we will see a more robust FM option in the release version.
Now to damage modeling. What Iíve seen from the graphical standpoint is the best yet. External damage is detailed to the point of revealing the struts and green anodized paint. Fire and smoke is much like what F15E has, and the windscreen gets oil soaked if hit in the engine. There is one workaround to this sticky situation, just go to the no-cockpit mode and you can see clearly again. Is this a bug, oversight or intentional act of grace? Only Janeís knows. I think it detracts from realism, but for those with slower systems, being able to get around the overhead of the extra FX would be inviting.
WW2 Fighters brings with it the lessons learned from both Fighters Anthology and F15E when it comes to cockpit offerings, and then ups the ante with window reflections and busted windshields. I remember my days with USNF97 and Fighters Anthology, there was always the great debate over the realistic virtual cockpits, with EF2000 compared to the pop-up style of ATF/USNF/FA. Guess what, in WW2 Fighters you can pick and choose!
I find there is a place for both styles in different situations. For formation or bombing I like the full virtual cockpit. When in a knife fight I like the no cockpit with a the alt, mph/kph, and art-horz pop-ups. I can also choose to toggle on or off the window that gives me a picture-in-a-picture style view of the target with itís vital statistics offered in text. This means that I can have those tiny little avionics or big honkers, depending on my preference. Whatís missing is the ability to make the big honkers Ĺ sized like in FA. The good news is that the little ones are functional as in WARBIRDS/AIRWARRIOR.
In WW2 FIGHTERS the avionics are functional whether you are in the front view or panning or padlocking around. If you are an immersion fanatic, then you will be able to make use of your instruments without those pop-ups or target window. This mode most closely resembles WARBIRDS, while AIRWARRIOR allows both styles.
What is an ingenious addition to the virtual cockpit feature, is the ability to adjust your headís position within the cockpit. Not just up, down, right, left; but forward and backwards. This gives you the ability to adjust the field of view (FOV) in flight so that you can get about 120 degrees panoramic or just limited to the front windshield or roughly 45 degrees. The other benefit is the ability to see all the avionics, albeit small, or focus primarily on a larger gun sight.
Being that the fighter pilotís axiom of: "lose sight, lose the fight" is SO true, I think it appropriate that so much attention was paid to the padlocking, views and avionics. If you choose to lock on to the opponent and he goes outside of your front view, periodically and temporarily the view will snap back to the front and then back to where your bogey is. This allows you to not auger into the ground and yet doesnít do it at a frequency that would drive you crazy. Well balanced and fully featured, IMHO.
Janeís promises branched campaigns and training, but said nothing about a mission editor. If this is left out, this may very well be the Achillesí heel of this simulation. FA has a full featured offline solo play and online MP mission editor, but F15E only had solo play mission editing. LongBow2 had a unique combination that was generator based. A world class sim has to have support solo, MP to endear the virtual squadrons that want dogfighting and cooperative multiplayer game play. This ensures longevity of the sim and would make it different from pay for online mega-multiplayer flight sim arenas.
In summary, I could go into comparisons of WARBIRDS and AIRWARRIOR and EAW, but I wonít. Its too early to make definitive statements like that. So what I leave you with are these pictures of WW2 FIGHTERS, and my conviction that this could be the simulation of the year if the released version delivers on the claims listed at Janeís website. Janeís looks to raise the bar in the prop driven arena in a great WW2 simulation.
Till we meet in the skies, Check Six.
To download the demo click HERE
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Last Updated September 23rd, 1998