Autumn.. it's a time to watch the leaves change to bright reds and yellows. It's a time to sit back and watch football. Hmmmm..but this fall it's time to break out the joysticks and strap yourself into some good old fashioned dog fighting. It's been awhile since any World War II flight sims of any worth have been released and it was getting about time for someone to make a comeback into the classic era of man and machine combat. Microsoft was the first, putting out their spruced up Flight Simulator engine and throwing some guns on those planes, creating Combat Flight Simulator. The second of the big four to be released is European Air War by Microprose. (The two remaining are Janes WWII Fighters and Activision's Screaming Demons).
EAW got quite a bit of early press as a game to watch, not quite so much as WWII Fighters did, but nonetheless, many people have been eagerly awaiting this game. It's of course a WWII flight sim so no missiles or onboard radar. Frankly all these high-tech planes flown basically by computers take all the glory out of the real combat. I'm glad I'll once again be able to pull some Hammerhead's and rip the tail off a pesky German FW-190. EAW creates a very detailed world that follows the path of WWII. You can start at three different periods throughout the war, 1940, 1943, and 1944 and you can fly for the British, the Germans, and of course the Americans. This not only allows you play both sides of the war, but it gives you the opportunity to fly quite a few different planes, twenty in all.
It's extremely detailed. How many other games can you say will support up to 256 planes on the screen at the same time? That's
just amazing. The graphics are well done and the landscape is also well textured. It does however lack the Jane's gloss. EAW feels like it could have used a little more polishing, but even so, the game looks spectacular. Great job with smoke trails and debris, though it could have used better damage modeling. It includes support for 3DFX and D3D, so it should run crisp and clear on any decent 3D card.
Sound is just what you'd expect from a sim. All the sound effects are pretty well done. It has a small degree of positional sound but still not enough to really be helpful. The engine noise is a little bit lacking, I want my desktop to be throbbing realistically since I do have 1700 horses sitting up in front of me. Oh well, no game yet has realistically sounded like an authentic meaty horse of a prop engine that were in these warbirds.
Realism is the name of the game here. Your missions follow realistic plans and range from defending bomber groups to bombing
small targets. It provides you with three game types: Quick Mission, Single Mission, or Career Mode. It's quite spectacular to see huge formations of airplanes. No other sim I've ever played created such a powerful sight as twelve plane fighter squadrons and huge bomber wings. The gameplay is pretty good. I was definitely not used to swarms of enemies all over the place because routinely I'd be jumping a Gerry and suddenly my tail was getting chewed up by one of his buddies. It has pretty good ordering structure. Press a button and it brings up a list of groups for you to send commands to. It was structured quite similarily to the orders in Descent Freespace. It made it pretty easy to direct units to go here and to attack there. The one flaw was the AI was spotty at times. I'd get right behind a fighter on occasion and he wouldn't do anything to shake me. For the most part, it was great though. The zoom feature is interesting. It zooms up your forward view for better targeting. I found it very helpful, but thought it sort of lessened the realism. The control was pretty well done. Each plane had its own flight characteristics and I found the two-engined planes to handle pretty realistically on one engine. Good flight models make EAW pretty authentic.
It's quite fun, especially if you're into flight sims. You do have periods of flight that are uneventful, but that's how it really was. It does give you the time multiplyer to make the slow times go faster so it's definitely bearable. It's got a few different difficulty settings so even a first time "ace" shouldn't have many problems. Great dogfighting, nice graphics, good package.
Multiplayer is well done. You've got all the bells and whistles and plenty of options for mutliplayer. It also supports quite a number of players, so in addition to teaming up with friends, you can team up against other teams. It'll definitely gain online squadrons as it starts rolling off the shelves.
Microprose has created another classic. It certainly stays true to the example they laid down in 1942: Pacific Air War and adds technology to enhance and modernize classic aviation. It's hard to find a sim with better realism, so definitely, if you're at all interested in flight sims and/or World War II aviation, check this one out.