Article Type: Feature
Article Date: July 02, 2002
Game Title: WarBirds III
Category: MMOG WWII Air Combat
Developer / Publisher: iENT
Release Date: Released
Required Spec: Click Here
Files / Links: Click Here
What makes WarBirds different from all other online combat flight simulations?
First, it is the only one where both PC and Mac pilots can fight in the same arena.
Second, it is the only simulation where you can fly with seven of your friends in the same bomber. The eight positions in the B-17 include the pilot, tail gunner, nose gunner, left and right waist, ball turret, top turret and Norden bombsight positions.
Like Aces High, it is a strategic simulation as much as a tactical one. The strategic component is only successful when there is a degree of team work. Itís this aspect that keeps me coming back.
For example, recently I logged on at 9 A.M. one morning and flew two sorties in the B-24 J. At the time the teams were more or less even, with ten players for red and ten for green in the main arena, in the European theatre.
My missions were successful and took me roughly an hour. I eliminated the fuel and ammo storage at a large airfield as well as knocking out the radar and hangars and two 88mm gun positions. That enabled the red team to take the airfield shortly afterward.
I logged off and checked back in the early afternoon. The battle continued to rage, but now the teams were uneven, with more green players. Furthermore, the reds were losing ground. That added incentive for me to fly two more missions. When I logged on again late in the evening I joined another effort, but this time in an M-16 firing at incoming green dive bombers.
The integration of the air and ground war, and the integration of the strategic component in a massively multiplayer simulation is what brings WarBirds to life for me. The fact that it models a large number of air and ground vehicles helps too.
WarBirds III models a huge variety of aircraft, including the Me-262-A1, plus eight bombers. The flyable bombers are the B-17G, B-24D, B-24J, B-25C, Ju-52, Ju-87, Ju-87G and Ju-88-A4. The SBD-5 dive bomber has been added for carrier flight.
|Pair of B-24 Liberators |
|A Single B-24 in flight |
The Ju-88, by comparison, offers five positions: pilot, bomber, nose gunner, top gunner and lower turret.
|Ju-88 cockpit |
|Ju-88 carrying torpedoes |
The Ju-88-A4 is beautifully modeled. It is the only aircraft you can currently use to carry torpedoes for a shot at the carrier. But note that the launch altitude and speed are very exacting. Trying to drop a torpedo from 500m and 400 knots wonít get you the result you want. 30 meters is the preferred altitude and your speed should be less than 300 km/h.
While I have never seen a bomber in WarBirds III crewed with more than three players, it is not uncommon to enter the combat area near a target and get a request from someone to crew in your bomber.
Naturally, many players will be more interested in the gun positions and the bombardier task than in actually flying the plane. Last year I must have spent well over a hundred hours flying and bombing with the Lancaster in Aces High. More recently Iíve been flying the B-24J Lancaster in the main arena in WarBirds III.
A few nights ago I joined an airborne crew as a gunner in the Lancaster. The pilot stuck with flying and bombing, while two of us swapped gun positions. I manned the top turret and waist guns, while the other player moved between the nose and tail gun as well as the ball turret under the fuselage. This makes for a very active session, particularly when you have two or three fighters bearing down on you.
Oddly, I havenít seen many formations in the strategic war. I have occasionally flown with a single other bomber, but I have yet to fly with more than one bomber in my flight. The multi-bomber flight appears to be a little more common in WarBirds with the fast bombers like the Ju-88.
|Norden bombsight in nose of B-24 |
Just how easy is it to get the iron on the target? Let me walk you through what you need to know by walking you through a single strike mission in WarBirds III.
We are going to strike green base Fl1. This designation tells us that F1 is a large base. The first thing we need to know is the type of base and the layout. We need to be able to plan the bomb run from the most advantageous position.
The position of advantage is one that allows us to make an effective attack on the first pass. We donít want to waste time by having to overfly the target to determine the layout. The more time over the target, the greater the opportunity for the enemy to attack the bomber.
|Map layout of large airbase |
By checking the European terrain map, I verify that the base type is a triple runway layout. A single runway runs north and south, and two other runways cross the single in a horizontal ďxĒ pattern, giving the appearance of a left tilted and straggling ďA.Ē
In earlier versions of WarBirds hitting the hangars meant that players could not respawn. This has changed, and now the only way to prevent respawn is to actually close the base. Closure requires destruction of key structures: hangars, radar station and AAA positions. (The ammo and fuel storage count for points, and donít actually affect the ability of pilots to load fuel or ammo.)
Since I am flying in from the east, I opt for hitting the hangars on my first pass, and the radar stations on my second pass. This way I take care of the hardened targets immediately and blind the base on my second pass. The next priority is AAA positions.
|Bomb run set for hangars |
The map shows the path of my first and second runs. A well planned approach saves time and iron, and makes it easier to hit the priority targets. Of course, if you fly with another bomber it makes this much quicker and easier, and you also double your defensive fire if you are attacked. Two B-24Js can close a base if their hits are well placed. The first B-24J hits the major structures, and the second loads bombs for the ack-ack positions.
|Bomb run for AAA |
If I am flying the B-17 Flying Fortress I usually load 12x500. If I am flying the B-24J Liberator I usually load either 12x500 or 8x1000 pound bombs. The larger ordnance isnít really necessary but if you get a near miss with a 1000 pound bomb you may still score a hit.
The Liberator is a great bird: powerful and well defended. It will take a good deal of damage, but you donít want an F-4U sitting on your tail! The tailplane tends to be vulnerable, and of course thatís why you have twin 50s out there making life tough for attackers.
Unless you are flying a very long distance, 25 percent fuel will get you there and back safely. Carrying a small fuel load has advantages: your climb rate and cruise speed improve. Climb rate is a critical factor since the longer it takes you to get to your cruise altitude the more vulnerable you are to interceptors.
TIP: I have frequently lost a single engine to gunfire. No matter. The B-24J will cruise happily at 20,000 feet on only three engines.
Choose your target, usually in consultation with pilots currently fighting for your side, and then load up your ordnance and fuel and hit START. Youíll find yourself on the runway in your mount of choice. Move your throttle to zero and hit ďEĒ to start the engines, the same as you do in the offline game.
Increase your throttle all the way to full. If you are carrying 8000 pounds of bombs and 25 percent fuel, you wonít need flaps. Rotate at around 140 knots, but you can rotate at lower speed with flaps. Pull up your gear immediately, you want to build airspeed as quickly as you can. About fifteen seconds after gear up you can raise flaps if you have used them. The aircraft will lose lift so you will have to adjust slightly by adding up elevator.
You donít have to worry about heading immediately, so stay on a straight course off the runway and when you hit 150 knots adjust your climb rate to around 1000 feet per minute. Hold your joystick steady at the climbrate you want, and then lock in the rate of climb with the Angle AP using CTL X. I usually climb to 4000 feet before I worry about my heading to the target.
Once you are climbing nicely, 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.
|Transparent map in B24 cockpit |
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.
|My imagined flight path |
Use a zoom view and a solid map to plan your approach to the target. In this image I have pulled up the in flight map. The white line shows the plan that I have made. I will fly south halfway to the green position (probably only about 2000 feet) then turn sharply to the northwest. When I am around 7500 feet I will turn to the southwest toward my planned IP.
The ďIP,Ē or initial point, is the point at which I will begin my bomb run. By this time I want to be at my cruise altitude and ready to make any final adjustments to my approach.
Next: The IP and the Bomb Run