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Don your flying leathers, wrap your scarf and trudge through the mud to the waiting collection of wood, cloth and piano wire known as a World War One fighter. If you think today's fighter pilots are brave people, try out Flying Corps and experience the thrill and terror as you listen to your fighter groan, shudder and shriek in the throes of a dog fight. Flying Corps, by Empire Interactive, is bringing you back to the simple days of flying where instinct and intuition were as important to pilot as radar is to today's fighter pilots.
This is real "Seat of the pants" flying and you won't need a Weapons Systems Officer sitting in the back to get the job done. You will, however, need a fair amount of courage and spirit to get into your choice of a Camel, Se5a, Foker, and Albatross; to name a few. Just think about this for second. Planes made of the same stuff a typical painting on your wall is made of. Bolt an engine to it, add a seat, and the barest minimum of controls, instrumentation and weapons and you've got yourself a World War One fighter.
Flying Corps allows you to take off from airfields in Germany and Britain while honing your dogfighting and bombing skills. Rowan Software Ltd. has done an excellent job of rendering the fields, terrain and buildings you will encounter. Take-offs start "on the go" at full throttle and they are done in formation with your wingmen. The control interface allows the use of all the features of a four button joystick equipped with a "Coolie Hat". This is a very useful device designed to let you look around smoothly in many directions without using the keyboard. Since your eyes become your biggest combat sensors in this simulator, you'll appreciate being able to use them. There are at least seventeen different view keys enabled plus variations of these such as zooming in and panning. One interesting feature that has been executed well is the "Padlock" view. This basically looks for an enemy fighter in the same manor that you would. It is like locking your eyes onto the fighter and steering the plane around until it is in front of you; all the while never taking your eyes off the plane. Until a Virtual Reality viewer or helmet comes out that is practical, this is the next best thing. It really does duplicate the kind of looking around you do in a real plane. For the best gunning visibility, there is a cross hair type of view that gives you an uncluttered forward look. The two views work very well in conjunction as you use the padlock to establish a direction and then angle towards it using the wide view. The artwork on the planes is first rate both on the exterior and interior. Enemy planes look realistic from a long way off. Hitting a plane with your synchronized machine guns is no easy task. When you do manage to hit a plane, pieces fly off and it will break up in various ways. Sometimes the landing gear will drop off or the wings may fold but it is another nice feature that keeps up the interest.
Much work has been put into the simulated video features that run during the opening of different sections of the game as well as at the beginning of each campaign. The motion and sound are the best I've seen and it is nearly full screen. The previews do a good job of setting the mood and preparing you for what lies ahead. The map is detailed but if you get lost, pressing "Tab" will get you back into the campaign. Since the planes fly relatively slowly, you'll find tab to be a frequently used key to get you to a point of action in the scenario. It speeds up time and will also group you back with your squadron as it whisks you to the next battle. Your wingmen will act in unison to your movements as you look back at them using the coolie hat. When enemy planes show up, you are on your own. The pilots with you seem to be on the more adventurous side and will break off and leave you. If you are into surviving a battle, this is not necessarily a bad thing. You may wish to hold back and let your group engage and see what you are up against. You can call them in to regroup and sometimes they listen to you or you can send them home back to base.
Flying these motorized box kites is truly a thrill and the designers have really tried to make it as real as possible. The weight and balance will change on some planes due to fuel consumed and the controls will get sloppy as your speed decreases. The sounds are unique from any simulator I've flown before. I have never heard the spruce wings crack before or heard the piano wire sing! Other details of realism include the sound of the elevator hitting the stops as you stall the plane and your prop starting and stopping as you glide with the power off. Height is definitely your friend in this game and once you have lost it, you will be hard pressed to gain it back. A couple of things to be aware of are that you do not have an ejection seat and whatever happens to you must be rode out to the end. Damage to you and your plane will be as varied as what you dish out and you will know helpless terror as you realize your tail and empennage has been completely shot or hacked off and there is nothing you can do but wait for you and the ground to get re-acquainted. When you see your screen go red, it's pretty much over for you and you'll feel that "Flying Corpse" is a better way of pronouncing this game.
Flying damaged is possible as you watch your engine RPMs drop and you'll have to look for a field to land in. Luckily, this is circa 1917-1918 and there is plenty of undeveloped real estate! The topography has been well thought out and even on the low detail graphic settings that the game offers, you will not get the wavy distorted ground features found in other bitmap scenery games like Looking Glass Technologies "Flight Unlimited `95". The atmospheric effects are as real as it gets and I had an IFR rated pilot confirm the look of the clouds flying conditions above a given ceiling. Diving after a flight of enemy fighters into a soup of overcast sky gives you a feeling similar to standing at the top of a skyscraper with your back to the edge and your eyes closed. You want to fly with your hand out of the cockpit feeling for the ground and if you see mountain goat standing in the clouds, pull up! Landing these birds at a selected place will take a bit of practice. There were no flaps on these fighters to give more lift at lower speeds so your tendency might be to come in a bit fast. If you do decide to scream in a landing, you'll find out in a hurry how well wood, fabric, and dope burns! The planes are light and will glide quite well; just keep it off the ground until your speed dies and the gear touches. As I mentioned, the controls do get sloppy as the speed decreases and they will need more input as you decelerate.
The major down side to this game is the fact that because it is bitmap based, you will need a ton of computing power and I am not exaggerating. In order to get this game to run , I had to do so out of DOS. To get the motion barely smooth enough to play, I had to set the resolution to 640x480 with medium pixels. I recommend nothing less than a Pentium 133 to run this software. There is a setting for 1600x1200, but I don't think there is a computer out there (that the average consumer could afford) that could run it. This is a game that will definitely grow with your ability to upgrade your processing power. Another caution that I feel compelled to mention is that this software is using DirectX 3.0 when used with Windows 95. You may find as I did that once you have installed version three, you will not be able to run games that have been written utilizing DirectX 2.0; Activision's A-10, for example. The CD gives you the option of restoring the original drivers from your Windows `95 CD but this isn't enough. After you have done this, you must run Windows in "Safe Mode" and delete the DLL files and reinstall DirectX 2.0 to be able to run the game without completely locking up your computer. The game's only real fault is that it is a bit ahead of its time.
Even at a low resolution, the game is still exciting to play. The way it has been set up, reducing resolution affects largest objects first like the general terrain. The buildings still have excellent detail right down to lighted windows. When you bomb or shoot these, they will show the smoke and show damage. The planes will keep good detail as well. Rowan Software must have anticipated the lack of computing power out there and they managed to make a good compromise. The motion will still get kind of stop-action or jerky when things start to happen fast. The artificial intelligence in this simulator is good and you will be shot down plenty before as you learn their fighting tactics. You will have to deal with flak while going after your targets. Balloons are a fun target since you can actually watch them deflate when you hit them! They have really used their imagination to make things real.
The software claims to be able to network up to twelve players, but I did not have the opportunity to try this feature out. Because of the lower plane speeds involved, I think this would be a much closer experience than networking a jet simulator. Combat would be much more up close and personal and this will be something I look forward to seeing.
Written by Jeffrey Waters
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Pentium 90 Mhz or higher processor,
Windows 95 or DOS,
Min 16 MB RAM,
Hard disk drive with 5 MB free space,
SVGA Video Graphic Card DirectX 3.0 compatible,
Quadruple speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
Sound card DirectX 3.0 compatible,
Microsoft Mouse or 100% compatible.
Thrustmaster, CH Sticks, Throttle, Rudder Pedals supported.
A Windows 95 multiplayer mode will be freely available to download from the Empire Interactive websites.
13220 Wisteria Drive,
Germantown, MD 20874.
|Technical Support:||301-916-9303 Monday through Friday|
Internet Support: Empire Interactive USA
Web site: Empire Interactive USA
677 High Road,
London, N12 0DA.
|Technical Support:||+44-(0)181-343-9143 Monday through Friday 9:30am to 6:00pm GMT|
Internet Support: Empire Interactive UK
Web site: Empire Interactive UK
28, rue Armand Carrel
93108 Montreuil sous Bois Cedex
Web site: Ubi Soft
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