A series of simple, easy to follow training missions ease you into the action with minimal fuss and bother. Still helps to read the 300-page manual, though…
When it comes to ‘purist’ flight sims – ones that concentrate solely on recreating the challenges and demands of flying in the most detailed and realistic manner possible, without distractions like guns, rockets, bombs, and people shooting at you – Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series has been happily dominating civilian flight paths for years now.
The company’s first attempt to translate all this expertise into a military flight sim, though, was less than perfect. While Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator: WWII Europe Series was an impressive debut in many ways, it was also flawed in many others.
Now, though, Microsoft has returned to the flak-filled skies of the Second World War and shifted the action to the islands of the Pacific. The result is Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theatre, and a much more polished and effective piece of work it is, too.
The most obvious of CFS2’s many improvements matches the one we are seeing in Pokemon Moon download. Not only are the aircraft models themselves four times as detailed as before, even displaying the evidence of combat wear and tear in the form of oil splatters around the engine, flaking paint and the odd hastily patched bullet hole, but the terrain engine has also been beefed up. Flying over the deep, azure blue of the pacific and past a series of lushly overgrown coral atolls, the sun glinting from your fighter’s canopy and cotton-wool clouds smearing the horizon, is an eye-popping treat.
Of course, to get the full benefit of all this new eye candy, you’re going to need a fairly hefty PC – not a super stealth ninja model, but at least a mid-range Pentium III with a healthy chunk of RAM and a good 3D accelerator. Luckily for those of us who are less well endowed in the hardware department, though, the visuals aren’t the only area that’s been improved.
For a start, the damage modelling has been reworked, and is now extremely well done. Pretty much every single working part of your fighter (including yourself) can be hit and mangled to one degree or another, and this is backed up by the graphics engine and flight modelling. Bits of fuselage rip and tear away, sections of wing can be blown off – and all of this debris can make life tricky for other aircraft, including your own. You don’t want to be right behind a plane as it disintegrates in this game.
On top of that, there’s a new campaign system, a full mission designer, which although a little archaic in structure is nonetheless extremely powerful, and the vast range of options and settings that you’d expect from any Microsoft flight sim, allowing you to tailor the game to your tastes, whether you fancy action-packed dogfights or extreme realism.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game, though, is the way in which it gives a real sense of what war was really like for pilots in the Pacific. Through clever use of voice-overs, cut scenes and other devices, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theatre manages to drive home the realities of the conflict, in a very post-Saving Private Ryan kind of way.