B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th!
by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
“When a fortress goes down it doesn’t suddenly go into a violent maneuver. Everything seems to happen very slowly.
“The first thing you notice is a thin trail of smoke; usually from one of the engines. The ship then slowly turns out of the formation and starts losing altitude. At this point he’s a dead duck for enemy fighters because he doesn’t have the supporting firepower of the rest of the ships.
“Now its course may follow any number of general patterns of behavior. The fire in one ship increases as the gasoline tanks in the wing begin to burn. Parachutes begin to blossom out as the crew abandons ship. As the wing becomes enveloped in flame, there is an explosion and there’s practically nothing left but orange balls of fire. These are the main gas tanks.
“Another ship burns hardly at all but goes into an ever-tightening turn until it spins. As it goes down twisting, the tail comes off and you may see three or four chutes as the gunners are thrown out. Because of centrifugal force the pilot and co-pilot don’t usually get out. This ship slowly disintegrates as increasing speed tears it apart.”
From the WWII letters of Major General John M. Bennett, Jr., a Commander of the 100th Bomb Group (H), Eighth USAAF, to his father in Texas. Quoted from Bombers, by Philip Kaplan, c. Aurum Press, 2000.
How many kinds of flak will you see in B17? I’m guessing at least three. Cloud layers vary in texture and density. Dawn and dusk are incredibly beautiful.
Skipping over the hedgerows in a P51, with shadows cast appropriately to the sun angle, one gets a sense of the English countryside in the summer. About the only thing that seems to be missing in B17 is rain and the seasons.
More than 200 targets are modeled in detail, laid out with historical accuracy. You won’t run out of targets to hit, and using F6 you can follow your bombs down and then watch the impact effects and secondary explosions. It’s pretty impressive, especially when you learn to use the Norden bombsight for yourself.
The aircraft have received careful attention. Last year Dominic Robinson posted an explanation of the workings of the graphics engine on an Internet forum:
“Bump mapping on the terrain in B17 II is performed *entirely* in software, independently of DirectX. This enables us to do things that current hardware doesn't support, and to run on a wider range of hardware.
“The textures are multi-layered, and are dynamically painted with bullet and flak holes, oil leaks spreading out behind the engine, fire burning away the skin... It is likely however that this feature will *not* be available unless you have a video card capable of rendering textures from AGP.
Attention to detail is staggering, and is equally apparent in the sound field. In the ball turret I noticed that the glass did not have the perfect transparency notable in past simulations.. it was translucent and stained. As I let fly on a closing 109 the tracers danced erratically in the bullet stream. The motor and gears of the ball turret whined and complained as I followed the bandit’s course in the air.
Lighting effects are excellent and the game supports T&L in hardware for the GeForce crowd. Reflections and metal surfaces spring to life. The paint on various surfaces shows wear and tear. The clouds cast shadows on the landscape, and flying high over the ocean, you’ll see whitecaps far below.
Crew voices vary according to the situation. Every crewman has a unique voice, but when the tension rises, so does the pitch. Generally the voices sound young, which is appropriate. The average crew age on a B17 was around 20 years.
Some players have had issues with sound, possibly due to the use of the Aureal routines. Crackling is not uncommon, and some systems with limited memory have experienced occasional loss of crew voices. Happily, every voice file has an accompanying sub-title, and the red sub-titles are interactive. Clicking on a red sub-title will take you directly to that position, handy when the top turret reports an incoming bandit.
Sound is positional, whether your sound hardware supports A3d or not. Positional sound is particularly noticeable when starting the engines. Sound quality is exceptional. With my five speaker (surround and a sub woofer) system cranked I felt like I was sitting in the pilot’s chair as the inertial starter meshed with the engine.
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