by Mike "Jordi" Bowman
Article Type: Review
Article Date: April 09, 2002
Game Title: Aces High
Category: WWII Air Combat MMOG
Developer / Publisher: HiTech Creations
Release Date: August 1999
Required Spec: PII 233 or better, Windows 95/98/ME/2K DirectX 8.0a, 8 MB 3D Video
Files & Links: Click Here
Online flight sims have come a LONG way since the good old days of EGA Graphics, numbers to represent pilots, symbols instead of plane shapes. Now we have high resolution graphics, specific damage modeling, and hundreds of virtual pilots fighting with and against each other all across the internet. I have participated in many online flight sims over my 8 years as a virtual pilot, game moderator and community events manager. With the demise of Air Warrior last year the place for virtual WWII pilots to meet has gotten smaller. One place virtual pilots do meet is Aces High.
There have been two major updates since the last review here at COMBATSIM.
Version 1.08 was released on 10-04-2001 and some of the important improvements were . .
Version 1.09 was released on 3-13-2002 and some of its improvements were .. .
- More vehicles added:
- M8 “Greyhound” armored car
- Hurricane IIC
- Hurricane IID
- Mosquito Mk VI.
- Better 3D sound
- More ground detail
- Streamlined the user interfaces
- LAN play for H2H mode
- And fixed a lot of bugs.
- AHVOICE is now integrated into Aces High
- Added a new film viewer/editor
- Added the following planes
- Spitfire I
- Hurricane I
- Bf 109E-4
- Bf 110C-4
- Bf 110G-2
- More info about players while in a room or tower
- Lots of fixes to other problems
- Added more tools to help in player run events.
Install and DocsSince Aces High is an online sim the download is usually done over the modem. The current FULL download version is 26 MB; your download speed will vary depending on your Internet connect. The system specs are Windows 95/98/ME/2K, DirectX 8.0, DX 8 compatible video card, PII 333 or better, sound card and speakers, Internet connection. A joystick is HIGHLY recommended. The better the hardware is on your PC the better and smoother Aces High will run. Smoothness in flight is critical in order to make your flying time enjoyable. The smoother your PC presents the game the greater chance you have of achieving the main goal of the game—shoot the other person down!
One can order an Aces High CD-ROM. These CD’s have version 1.08 Patch 6, the electronic manual, and about eleven different terrains. They come in a jewel case and inside the insert is a key command reference. It’s handy to have a CD around for backup purposes and it’s also a great way to get friends involved that never get around to downloading it. The download to get up to version 1.09b is 12.5 MB.
Once the game is downloaded a wizard will do the actual install for you. As updates to the game come out your files are updated either when you next log on to fly ( Auto Update ) or you can download the updates by yourself before flying. Once the game is installed and you start it up for the first time you will need to go through and get you up and flying offline and or online. WARNING! The day a new update comes out the Aces High site may be VERY BUSY: please be patient.
Documentation consist of a Windows based help program. You can search for any topic, print off any page of info and it has in game samples of many of the screens one has to use. There is also an updated online help section and a full featured bulletin board that one can ask questions and get answered by the company help staff or another pilot member, search for possible solutions to problems, shoot the breeze with other pilots on any and every imaginable topic. As with any online community be warned that some topics may get hotly debated among the members.
|Bombardment Fleet - AH Scenario Sicily |
Graphics Since being able to SEE your enemy is the most important part of Aces High it only supports D3D compatible video cards up to a resolution of 1600 x 1200 and 32-bit color depth mode. All of the planes have been graphically recreated as accurately as possible. While in flight a pilot can pan the views around the cockpit, zoom in and out, look all around the to see who is where and who is sneaking up behind him!
Every pilot who is an "Expert" on their favorite plane is going to nitpick about something not right with the graphics for his or her favorite plane. To the average pilot all the planes look and feel right. As you hop in the plane for takeoff you can get totally immersed into what is happening around you. The air raid sirens are going off, buildings may be in fire and creating a lot of smoke, antiaircraft guns may be firing at enemy planes, you hear the sounds of other planes taking off and those that are attacking you. This all leads to the total feel that you are there.
Due to the nature of Internet play there will be lags and skips in your views and if you dive into that 30 to 40 plane dogfight your frame rate will probably drop but for the most part things look and feel and run smoothly.
SoundThey say you never hear the one that kills you—this is why sound is a critical part of Aces High; the starting of your engines, listening for the sounds of the approaching vehicles, radio communications within the game. With the addition of AHVoice a person with a microphone and speakers can talk to the other people he is flying with. There is nothing better to hear than your wingman telling you to “Break right!” when you have someone chasing you. The response time to talk and listen on the radio is much faster than trying to type the same info. When you first use AHVoice it is almost like the scene from the televison show Cheers—you announce your arrival and everyone radios back, “Hey, Norm!”
Environmental EffectsEveryone either loves or hates nighttime in Aces High. Due to machine / monitor specs night time can be very hard to fly in. One way around it is players will turn the gamma setting up way high so they can see better. Nighttime, which only lasts 15 minutes, can be your friend and help you escape. It also lets those pesky bomber pilots sneak deep into your territory if you are not careful. Aces High has clouds which can be set to light and fluffy to heavy overcast. The more clouds there are the more of a frame rate hit you may see.
|Flak you can walk on |
TrainingAces High does have a training arena. The training arena is available for players to practice online without affecting their scores. In this arena, players are requested to ask permission before engaging other players, and to not interrupt training sessions in progress. The Aces High trainers belong to the "Aces High Training Corps" and are a group of players selected by HiTech Creations (developers of Aces High) as trainers. If there are no trainers online, they may be contacted through email. There are no real offline missions. There are drone planes that circle bases you can shoot down and you can practice driving, flying and piloting all of the vehicles.
MissionsSince this is an online game and you are dealing with hundreds of real people, missions take on a different role than in a regular box game against computer AI opponents. What a person can do is set up a mission for a specific task: Takeoff from Base A1 to attack Base A6; assign different planes and what they carry; set up the waypoints as to how and where the group will fly. The mission builder can set the takeoff time. People will announce on the radio that a mission is about to start. Anyone can join in on the mission. At takeoff, all the pilots are sent to the correct field with the plane they selected all loaded as to how the mission builder designed it. A mission can be saved and re-used later on as needed. After takeoff what happens all depends on the fickle nature of the each person involved. There is nothing better than to see a mix of planes, vehicles and even ships all working together for a common goal. Aces High allows people to crew other peoples planes or vehicles or ships. A bomber pilot can have a dedicated gunner to help man the guns while he is bombing the target. The same goes for vehicles and ships—one person drives while the other person mans the guns. You can even crew someone else's plane or vehicle or ship after they have taken off.
|Takeoff at Dawn - AH Scenario Sicily |
CampaignThere is an overall goal within Aces High. Capturing territory through the use of air, land and sea power is the objective of Aces High. The arena terrain is divided into three countries, with each country starting with an equal number of fields, towns, cities, task groups, and a single headquarters for each country. All countries have an equal amount of territory at the beginning of a war. Territory is gained by capturing a field. A field consists of an airfield, vehicle field, or port and an adjacent town. The town is situated 2 to 3 miles from the field or port and contains the strategic map room for the entire field. The war is won when any country is reduced to one field. At that time, the arena is reset, a different terrain is rotated in with the country territories randomly set, and a perk point bonus is awarded to players that have been in the winning country for a minimum of 12 hours prior to the end of the war.
|You sank my CRUISER ! |
Multiplayer This is why Aces High exists. Yes you can play it offline or head-to-head or even on a LAN with up to eight people. But to go online vs. real people that you may have known for years as you fly with or against them is what sets Aces High apart from a regular box game. Every time you go against another enemy plane you do not know what he will do. Is that a new pilot who is just learning the ropes and is about to die for the tenth straight time? Is that a veteran Aces High pilot who can make that P-47 Thunderbolt turn and fight like it was an agile Spitfire? Aces High encourages squadrons to form and fly with each other. These squads can be made of people from the same city, state, country or spread all the way around the world. Some are so large that they have different wings for all the different time zones they occupy!
When a new person first starts out they fly and die a lot. After a while they see people who tend to be online the same time of day or night that they are. They may fly with these other pilots just so they are not alone and so they can learn from those pilots who have been around the block. You can ask to join a squad or a squad may ask if you want to join them. Joining a squad is like adopting a new family. Once in, you learn more about the PEOPLE behind the Aces High profile names you see on the screen. Even after someone leaves the game for what ever reason they still may maintain contact with their old squad mates—that is how deep the affection can run.
|B26 on low level bomb run |
AIThe AI can be deadly at times in Aces High. There is nothing more scary than to attack a base and have the puffs of AA burst all around you and seeing the tracers fire up from the base's AI gunners as you try to kill them. A player can take over the control of certain AI guns. This can be very tricky to the attacker since he may think a gun is dead but the next moment the player manning the gun opens fire on him!
CommsThere are two ways to communicate with other players in Aces High.
One is by typing:
- Channel 1: Players may broadcast to everyone. This channel may be squelched and unsquelched. (Squelching a channel or player is a good way to not have to listen to people at times.)
- Channel 2: The country channel allows players to broadcast just to their countrymen.
- Channel 3: The room channel allows players to broadcast to anyone in the room.
- Channel 4: The squad channel allows players to broadcast to their squad mates.
- Channel 5: The mission channel allows players to broadcast to other players in their mission.
- Channel 904: The CM channel is used by Campaign Managers in the Special Events arena.
- Private channels are tuned using the GameID.
You can also tune to specific AHVoice channels for the room you are in or the squad you are flying with. You can talk and listen to a gunner on your plane or vehicle or ship. You can even listen to those players close to you. For example, while you are flying you can hear the nearby tank driver call out that he has spotted the enemy coming over the ridge by the airbase you just took off from.
|Bomber Attack |
Gameplay Fun is the name of the game. The good thing is that almost everyone can have fun in Aces High even though different people have different ways of having fun. Do you like flying bombers? Takeoff in a US B-17 or an RAF Lancaster or a Ju 88 and find a target to bomb. Do you like dogfighting? Hop into your favorite fighter such as a US P-51, RAF Spitfire, Bf-109, or a Russian LA-7 and mix it up in a furball over a contested base. There is even room for those that like ships. Take control of a Carrier Group and move it in range of an enemy port but make sure you have the cruiser Task Group protecting you as the enemy fleet appears over the horizon.
There are other arenas such as the Combat Theatre that is setup with different maps and or different limited plane sets to recreate different types of match ups. There is the dueling arena where players can go one-on-one or squads vs. squads.
There are weekly player run events such as Wild Wednesday that is a free for all—the last pilot alive is the winner!
There are weekly Tour of Duty events which pit different squads fighting on different sides against each other. These may run 1 night per week over several weeks.
|Philippine Terrain |
And my favorites are Historical Scenarios. Aces High events are designed and run by the player community, and are supervised by Campaign Managers (CM's) drawn from the Aces High Scenario Corp, an all-volunteer, player-based organization. These events take place in the Special Events Arena (SEA). These are historical, re-created battles with hundreds of pilots battling each other to see who can win. Each side has a command staff that designs plans and passes out orders. All the pilots arrive at a certain date and time and battle it out for two or more hours at a time. Each event is a one life event, so staying alive is critical. The design of the map and rules and planes may take months with both sides practicing for the big day. Scenarios may run 1 or 2 frames per week over several weeks. This is where everything in Aces High comes together. The complete meshing of all of its capabilities: maps, the use of all different types of planes and vehicles and ships, and the coordination of pilots to follow the orders of the command staffs. In the end, after all of the butterflies have settled, all the participants can't wait to come back for more !
To learn more about this aspect of the game go to the Events Page at the Aces High site.
Expandability The only real player-driven work on Aces High is on the sounds and maps. Many players have come up with different sounds for the planes and vehicles that are downloadable. What sounds correct is always a judgment call. Some pilots just have to have the purr-fect sound for their favorite planes!
There is a separate program for players to create new maps that can be used offline in Aces High. Ogre's MapMaker utility allows public domain elevation maps to be imported to the Aces High terrain format.
|AH Island Map |
Anyone can use their own maps in head-to-head play or LAN play. HiTech Creations does accept some player created maps for special online use.
The Film Editor now lets players export to an AVI format the films of their battles. What better way to show someone how the game works than to view the films of you getting your kills. You can show them the time you turned into a lawn dart later!
Conclusion As a player of online flight Sims for 8 years there are something one expects differently than from a regular Simulation in a BOX.
- How easy is it to communicate with the other players. With the Addition of AH Voice built into the game it is very easy to TALK to the players in the same Ready Room, on the field, your wingman, those in your squad and those in your country. You can also send Text messages to those same groups. Some people even look at it as a CHAT ROOM with wings - which it can be at times - until you ready to drop your bombs as you start rolling in on that Panzer tank ! Hitech has a very good Bulletin Board system that you can ask and find help and communicate and be keep up to date with what is going on in the community. As with all online community BB Systems - BEWARE - some topics may be hotly debated by the members.
- How easy is it to just take off and fly. It does not take long to figure out by looking at the map where the hot spots are - find a nearby field - hop into you favorite ride and get into the action. There is an Auto-Takeoff feature which really helps the new players.
- What is there to do once you get bored with just taking off, flying and landing your kills ( or just dieing in my case ), then repeat 100 times ? There are a lot of player driven Events happening several times a week that take you away from the Fly and Die aspect of the main arena and let you hone your flying talents.
|AH Scenario - Firebird Spitfires on patrol |
- Beyond the game it self. Since you are flying with and against other REAL PEOPLE it is hard not to form friendships that may go beyond the game - who is getting married or divorced - who got sick and who is getting well - who lost a job and who just started a new one. And my favorite - how much WEIGHT Have you lost ! To top it off there is an Aces High convention each year where you can meet and talk face to face with the people you see online and with the owners and developers of the game. Lets see you do that with some of the bigger game companies!
With the loss of Air Warrior last year the pickings for TOP ONLINE FLIGHT SIM has shrunk.
Aces High could have rested on its laurels and continued to be a good game. They have not. They keep coming out with new releases with new planes and new capabilities both that the player asks for and some they did not even think of. The standard "It will be ready in 2 weeks" way of getting around the lateness of fixes and patches and updates is not present with the Aces High guys. You see them online flying and dieing with the rest of the players, on the BB system answering questions and some how spend the time to build new planes and add new features to an already great game.
Right now there is no better place to spend your online flight sim time than Aces High.
|AH Scenario - The melee rages on |
It continues to deserve the COMBATSIM TOP PICK Award !
- CPU: Celeron 466
- RAM: 256MB RAM
- Audio: Onboard Crystal CS4280 3D PCI Audio
- Video: Voodoo 5
- OS: Windows 98se
- Display: 17” Compaq
Aces High (all versions)
Home of the VMF-124 Death's Head Squad