SCORE 87 Bally good show
1992. A time of great change. The Bosnian conflict entered its second fun-packed year, the United States recovered from four years of George Bush by appointing a sex-mad yokel as president, and Manchester United began an annoyingly unstoppable assault on the newly formed Premier League. Meanwhile, the flight sim genre was about to be rocked by a bold new approach as then-mighty publisher MicroProse unveiled B-17 Flying Fortress to an astonished public. Eight years on and we've got a sequel. Who says this is a fast moving business?
Bally Jerry's on the move
Essentially this is the same game as the original, albeit with vastly improved graphics (there is a shot of the 1992 version on page 58 if you want to compare and contrast). You control every aspect of life in a ten-man B-17 crew. Everything. From planning missions and directing the war as a Squadron Commander to twiddling the knobs on the wind drift scale as a navigator.
Surprisingly, it isn't the nightmare of administration you might think. Once you're in mid-air it quickly becomes second nature to jump around from one station to the next, and you spend as much of the game in crew management mode as you do in simulation mode. Perhaps more. Flying is actually pretty secondary to the whole game. The computer does a good job of running things in your absence. As soon as you leave a station the AI takes over so you never have to worry about flying into the side of a hill while you examine the map or scan for fighters.
Despite that, it's something of a surprise just how attached you do get to the crews, probably down to the fact you get to see them physically moving about the plane during a flight. This is especially true if you rename the crews and planes. Our advice is to name them after the cast of favourite films and TV shows. Watching 'Linda Lovelace' bailing out of a crippled 'Deep Throat' is enough to bring a tear to the eye, so to speak.
On your own
'We've had to take the multiplayer code out.'
'Do you think that will affect things much? Will it get marked down as a result?'
I've been pondering this ever since Hasbro's PR lass thrust a beer into my hand and asked the question during a press trip to Duxford Air Museum. On the one hand it seems that everything has to have some sort of online facility to it these days, even where it isn't warranted. On the other, is the online audience really that large in the flight sim market? Doing a spot of research on the newsgroups elicits a mixed response. Some are feeling let down by the lack of a multiplayer B-17 game, even to the point of saying they won't be buying it as a result. Others, and this does seem to be a much larger share of the crowd, aren't too fussed. Just make sure it works, they say, memories of Gunship! and Falcon 4.0 still fresh in their minds.
The thing about B-17 is that I can't really see how it would make for an effective multiplayer experience. Yes, of course, you could have up to ten humans all in the same bird at once, each at a different station (although the radio operator would get pretty bored). But this would only really become fun during Luftwaffe attacks and they tend to be few and far between for the most part. So what about having one player controlling each plane, Mr I Have All The Answers? The problem there is co-ordination. How many of you - and be honest here, even you really, really dedicated flight sim nuts - are actually going to fly through an entire mission in real time? You're going to sit there for anything up to six hours, holding a steady course, occasionally responding to an attack, mostly just keeping things ticking over are you? You might do it once, but I guarantee you'll be using the time skip function more often than the fire button before long. So how do you do that online? How do you deal with the switch between crew management screens and simulation world, while randomly jumping forward through time, across up to eight different PCs all connecting to each other at different speeds? You don't. It would be a logistical nightmare and you know it. There isn't a viable multiplayer game in here that would provide satisfying gaming experience.
Oh and don't throw the Air Warrior/Warbirds/World War II Online argument at me. 'They do real-time bombing runs with multiple players, why can't B-17?' They're not dealing with a real-world scale. At most, a bombing run by a dozen planes takes an hour, most of which is spent getting into formation. Distances are either compressed big time or the game takes place in fictional locales designed for quick action. B-17 provides an accurate map of northern Europe. You do the maths.
So be told. No multiplayer doesn't equal less fun. If anything it has meant that Wayward has been able to focus on making the single-player game a thing of beauty. Will it appeal to everyone? Probably not. The fact that it isn't purely a flight sim may attract a larger crowd than usual, but what might hinder B-17's progress is it can become repetitive over time.
Sure there's the option to jump into the fighter craft and zip around in a dogfight or two, or there's the strategic element involved with planning missions and managing your crew (you don't have to fly at all if you don't want), but essentially each flight boils down to the same thing.
That's hardly Wayward's fault though. If you must point the finger, blame WW II for not being more varied. There is a crop of WW II sims on the way that may have more thrills in the dogfighting department (Rowan's Battle Of Britain looks nice in this respect), but nothing is going to top B-17 for painting an accurate picture of life in a bomber crew. Except maybe Memphis Belle. But that was a film. So it doesn't count. I'll shut up now.
***** Err thats it - IMO one of THE worst loads of pish I've heard for a while,unfortunately I have no idea which hack wrote this advertising trash but it stinks big time.
Lex Morton AKA BazookaJock
"If you want to get laid go to college, if you want to learn something go to the library" (Frank Zappa).
[This message has been edited by Lex (edited 11-25-2000).]