by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Article Type: Update
Article Date: June 28, 2002
Game Title: WarBirds III
Category: MMOG WWII Air Combat
Developer / Publisher: iENT
Release Date: Released
Required Spec: Click Here
Files / Links: Click Here
Updated UI screens mark the introduction of the latest version of WarBirds, released on June 13th. Things are changing in WarBirds, moving toward the release of the boxed version of the game this fall.
Since I hadn’t flown this title for close to six months, it was time to go through the update process and have a look at what the crew at iEntertainment Network have been up to.
WarBirds remains the only massive multiplayer air combat simulation where both Mac and PC enthusiasts can wrestle together in the virtual skies for world domination.
Looking toward the release of a boxed version, WarBirds is now playable as an offline combat simulation. The offline pilot can choose from:
Furthermore, you can set offline options, such as unlimited ammo, and you can disable blackouts and redouts if you prefer.
- 1v1 Air Attack: Take on an Ace pilot one-on-one. You can select any plane for this mission, and so can he!
- 2v2 Air Attack: You have one wingman to assist in downing two enemy Aces. Your wingman mimics your flight.
- Air Attack: This is the closest to an online aerial dogfight you can get without going online. Join in the swirling furball of the sky. Try to pick an enemy to shoot down, but be constantly aware of all that is around you.
- Bomber Ambush: There is a bomber formation on its way to bomb your airfield. It is up to you and your two wingmen to stop them.
- Carrier Practice: Your Carrier group is on a mission. Defend attacks with one of the following aircraft:
- Free Flight: An open arena with no enemy pilots. Practice taking off, landing, and maneuvering to become familiar with various aircraft.
- Landing Final: You’re on course for the perfect landing at Field 1. Try to keep your cross hairs on the red beacon for the correct angle of descent.
- Malta Assault: Malta is under attack, and it’s up to you to jump in your Panzer and defend against the invaders. Alternatively, jump in one of the aircraft available and defend from the sky.
- Sea Attack: A Carrier fleet is attacking from the north. Jump in your Ju-88A-4 and try to torpedo the fleet.
- Target Drones: An open arena with enemy aircraft flying around waiting to be shot at. Use to practice firing your guns at targets that don’t shoot back!
- Tunisia Assault: Head for Village 25 with the rest of the tank platoon. Enemy tanks are on their way to meet you...
- Tunisia Invasion: A Carrier fleet is on its way, try to bombard it with your tank from the shore.
Offline ground pounding is also available. The pilot selects the “Bomber Ambush” mission from the practice mission list, and then uses the forward slash "/" key to activate the radio bar and types a dot command as follows: .offbombermodel ground. Don’t forget to select the AI skill of your enemies. You can choose rookie, veteran or ace. You can also choose the time of day and the starting altitude, unless you prefer to start on the runway.
The most obvious changes online when I fired up the latest version are those funny dots that are moving around in the sea. Hmmm…? Could it be…?
Yes, there be ships! WarBirds has both carriers and destroyers on the sea, with a selection of aircraft available including the classic SBD-5 bomber.
|Fighter selection on the carrier |
|In the SBD cockpit |
Fighters include the nine choices shown above. To my surprise, it is also possible to man the guns in the destroyer, in one of six positions. The following shots are from the nose position.
|Gunner selection UI |
|Nose gunner position |
The ground war has been expanding slowly, with seven ground vehicles currently available. I had a great deal of fun in both the M3 and M16 in an earlier version of the game.
Armor enthusiasts can have some fun in the current version, with the following selection options:
|Armor selection |
The 75mm gun on this unit is very deadly, and if you can find a decent hull-down position or a bit of cover, you can do a lot of damage at a town or an airfield. Tanks are great for killing ack, in preparation for the arrival of a Ju-52 with troops to take a town or a field. They are also pretty handy for killing planes, and driving through hangars is a quick method to destroy them.
|75mm gunsight |
My only disappointment with the current aiming system for ground vehicles is that I find getting my main gun pipper on a target is tricky. It seems like the pipper sticks a bit, and the dead zone in my joystick doesn’t make this any easier. I wish I could use my mouse instead of my joystick for this task, but currently there is no way to select a pointing device for the task.
If you are like me, an advanced weekend warrior who never has enough time to fly, the intimidation factor will be high as you consider joining your first online combat flight sim. No worries. Even after six months way from WarBirds I found the transition quite easy.
About the best way to start is with bombers. Why? They are easy to fly and they have built in defenses. The big bombers are the best for this: the B-17 and the B-24. The fast bombers like the Ju-88 are also a lot of fun.
|B-24J in WB3 |
You can download the WarBirds demo free anytime to check the game out. Then you can fly offline and get used to the feel of any aircraft you choose, and even learn the ropes prior to your first online bombing run.
The full download of the game is about 120MB these days, including the high resolution artwork.
Connecting is a simple matter. You apply for your account on the WarBirds website, fill in the credit information and are e-mailed a password. The “Go Online” selection is in the main interface and you can’t miss it.
Once connected, you’ll have your choice of ten different arenas. Not all will be active at any time, and even if they are active they may not be populated. The main arena is virtually always populated, and you’ll find anywhere from 25 to 200 players active there, depending on the time of day. The main arena limits some view choices, but otherwise is similar to the others.
Note, however, that you won’t find naval vessels in the training or air combat arenas, so if you want to practice takeoffs in a naval fighter you’ll have to enter the main arena. If you want to try your hand with a torpedo run, fire up the Ju-88 at a land base and make a run on the carrier. Who knows, you might get lucky.
|Select your allegiance |
After you choose your arena, you’ll be in the game and assigned a color (side) and an airbase. If you want to switch sides or change bases you can do so at the “Field” interface. When you are where and who you want to be, you need to select your aircraft. Click the “Plane” tab to choose your mount.
At this point you need to start thinking strategically. What is happening in the arena you have chosen? Where is the fight? If you are assigned to a base in the eastern part of France and fight is in the west, you will have a long flight to the action. How do you find out where you want to be?
The best way to do this is to ask! If there are only a few pilots in action, you may have to wait a bit to get your answer.
Meantime, you can observe the map. The V bases are villages, T bases are towns, P bases are outposts, and anything with a C is a carrier. The Fs are air bases. Fm5 is a medium fighter base, therefore. If you want to fly a big bomber you need to find a field with Fl designation (large field).
The large squares on the map represent base locations, and the small squares between bases are aircraft in flight. You won’t see all the aircraft at any time, because individual radar locations can be damaged.
- Cv: Carrier vehicle
- Fs: Small field
- Fm: Medium field
- Fl: Large field
- P: Outpost
- T: Town
- V: Village
|WB3 Arena map |
When you see a cluster of small squares near a base, you know that a fight is underway or a major offensive is being launched. If you can join up with a flight of aircraft, you will survive longer and have more fun. Equally important, you’ll contribute to a strategic effort like taking an enemy base.
Once you have chosen your mount and you know where you want to takeoff, hit “Start”. You’ll find yourself on the runway in your mount of choice. Move your throttle to zero and hit “E” to start the engines, the same as you do in the offline game. In a fighter increase your throttle gradually until you are at about 30 percent. Once you are rolling along gradually increase to full. If you are in a bomber, move to full throttle immediately and rotate at around 140 knots. Don’t take any more than 50 percent fuel, and if you are loading 1000 pound bombs 25 percent fuel is better.
|In-flight transparent map overlay |
Once in flight the on-screen navigation map is brought up using F1. In the map image above you can see the transparent overlay, showing an outline of England with a white arrow pointing south-east near the F3 airbase marker. The white arrow represents my current position and direction, with my aircraft at the base of the arrow.
It is possible to zoom the map view using the square bracket key, and it is possible to go from the transparent map view to a solid overlay with the second press of F1. A third keypress removes the map overlay from the screen. You can bring the map on screen from any view, internal or external.
If you are flying a fighter, you are ready to go. If you are flying a bomber, you want to get up to about 12,000 feet or better. This means you will want to use the angle autopilot setting.
The “X” key sets your AP for level flight. The CTL X combination will set your climb at a the angle you determine. If you are carrying 25 percent fuel in the B-24J, you can climb at 1000 feet per minute at 160 knots with a full bomb load. The gauges you will need to monitor are on the lower left of your instrument panel.
|Watch those instruments |
Level off on a heading to your target at 12,000 to 15,000 feet. This will keep you above the level of fighters, unless they are waiting for you. You can make an effective bomb run from 20,000 feet, but it takes a while to reach that altitude.
Now you’re airborne and ready to rumble. In Part 2 we’ll look at accomplishing a successful bomb run in the B-24J, and we’ll consider how to get back to base in one piece.
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