Microsoft’s Battle for Europe
1 April 2005 | 0
Entitled the Battle for Europe, Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator 3 returns to Europe 1942 to 1945-style. This is the third in this series from Microsoft’s Game studio promising a whole new level of realism for the player. From the outset Combat Flight Simulator 3 (CFS3) immerses the player into the world of Aerial combat in the European Theatre of Operations and throws in a few ‘what ifs’ as well.
Two CDs are required to load the game and installation of the software is painless. The start-up screen is a wonderful collage depicting the era while the animation of the pilot hanging around waiting for his next op is an original touch. The menu layout is clear and crisp and extremely user friendly. The accompanying booklet plus the online documentation detailing interesting facts about the planes and tactics of the period should whet the players appetite for more information about the air war.
There are 18 aircraft with a staggering 34 variations to choose from. As CFS3 concentrates on low level flying and aerial bombardment, you get to fly some of the fastest planes of the era plus a few experimental aircraft as well. For example there is the P51 Mustang, Mosquito, B25 Mitchell, JU88, Spitfire and P38 Lightning to mention but a few. For the hell of it you can try out the De Havilland Vampire and Arrow Do-335A jets. As expected the aircraft visuals are gorgeous and each aircraft has its own characteristic flight model. Setting the flight model to hard really shows up the difference in each plane.
A serious omission by Microsoft is leaving out the venerable Lancaster and B17 flying fortress, two heavy bombers synonymous with the later stages of the European air war. Virtual cockpits are well rendered and when flying the bombers one can change to the many gunner positions while artificial intelligence flies the plane. Scenery wise, the biggest improvement is the clouds and detail in enemy targets like bridges, trucks, ships and tanks. The terrain is similar to Flight Simulator 2002 and, unless you are flying low, is rather bland.
As with this genre of simulations you can start as Squadron leader and earn merits to fly faster or experimental aircraft as your skill builds. Interestingly, the pilots’ health, vision and his ability to handle G-Forces are factors that increase with skill. The ability to pick out targets from afar is an example of the vision factor. The theatre of operations is presented on a map and your skill and actions influence the front line. A lot of operations and patience is needed before you see the map move towards the enemy.
If campaigning is too much like hard work, you can take the quick and nasty route. The aim of these short missions is to build up skill and range, from free flight to blasting away at ships, trains, bridges or a quick dogfight. A visual aid like a directional finder is optional to help you locate targets and keep your orientation. You can fly online if that’s your bag or with friends over a home network.
Visually and aurally CFS3 is stunning but comes at a price. If you want to see all the effects, you need a fast PC with a fast video card. During installation, we had to upgrade the video driver and this sorted out the jerky and intermittent display of the desktop while hunting down the enemy. For gameplay, the campaign mode is tough and unforgiving but will keep the avid simmer-happy for quite some time.
If you are new to this type of simulation, CFS3 is quite accessible and this is where Microsoft score highly. The die-hards will compare this to IL-2 Sturmovik, rightly or wrongly each has their own strengths and weaknesses.