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Combat Wings: Battle Of Britain (PC)


by John Erikson - 8th Jan 2009

Polish developer City Interactive release budget games for the PC and their previous outings haven't been that wonderful. Today however we are looking at their latest air combat game, Combat Wings: Battle Of Britain which actually turns out to be quite an enjoyable game.

Those of you heavily into your complex flight simulations will be probably disappointed as this is an arcade look at air combat with a strong emphasis on fun. The game begins by putting you immediately into the middle of a firefight and you never spend time travelling for weeks within a complex mission objective. While this might alienate the flight aficionados amongst us for the average gamer this is a welcome change, because you can get to focus on the interesting things, like fighting !

To be fair, while this isn't clearly a simulation by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly is more indepth that previous City Interactive games especially when it comes to realism. You can now, for example communicate with your wing men and although its limited to four commands it does add somewhat to the overall experience, especially later when the skies become filled with enemy aircraft.

Combat wings also asks the player to handle the raising and lowering of flaps as well as landing gear. This design change has meant that players now have more control over their craft and surroundings and no longer will the game automatically adjust your speed or trajectory to suit the situation.

The difficulty level is not really that challenging until you set it to hard and the control system to advanced (from arcade) but mainly the difficulty is down to how many enemy aircraft you can destroy, because there are literally hundreds in any given mission.

Additionally, the developer has improved the selection of aircraft to create a little more diversity and there are a plethora of scenarios involving land based targets, defense, offense and ships at sea. This helps to break up the missions with a little variation.

Special mention also needs to be made of the aircraft modelling because this is the first time that City Interactive have released a game with realistic looking aircraft. There is plenty of fine detail on the hulls which really brings the whole experience to life.

The damage model is also extremely appealing, because the planes can start to smoke at first, then they can catch fire and start smouldering. When a critical hit lands, then they can explode with parts of the aircraft spraying in all directions. It is a very rewarding sight after a long and challenging dog fight.

Equally so they deserve some points for enhancing the environmental details. Coastline missions can take place under the cover of darkness for example which means everything takes on a rather surreal look. The german bombing raids over London can occur in a haze of English fog that means making anything out can be tricky. The oceans at times can reflect the sunlight and the cities and towns can be densely detailed which makes it all appear very realistic. Terrain detail is also worth a mention as clearly a lot of development work took place to create a genuine appearance.

Aurally, the game is also strong with some great dialogue happening on the radio systems. Your wingmen converse regularly in  their Polish, Scots and English accents over such topics as the situation they are currently in, or who is going to buy the first round in the local afterwards.

Equally so, the enemy can converse with you and they do so normally within the confines of a barrage of insults.

The control method however is not without fault and if you are using a joystick or flightstick rather than a mouse and keyboard then sometimes control just doesn't work at all. There are some bugs with the control support that need addressing with a patch as reports abound of issues.

Mid air collisions are also rather painful, because they literally happen on a regular basis during combat. They skies are full of enemy aircraft which sometimes makes it difficult to avoid a head on collision or even a high speed glance (still enough to kill you ). The software unfortunately does not support the use of a POV hat to look to the sides or up and down while in the cockpit. There is no option to turn off mid air collisions either which is another negative point.

Longevity isn't great either as it will take only a few days to complete all twenty three missions. You can however go back and replay any mission you have completed during the campaign as a one off mission.

Multiplayer has deathmatch and team deathmatch support with up to 10 players in the mix. The only downside is you need to know everyone's IP address beforehand which isn't wonderfully user friendly. The game does not offer a matchmaking service or even a central server to coordinate the pairings.

Combat Wings: Battle Of Britain is a fun and entertaining air combat title. It won't satisfy or appeal to a hard core simulator fanatic, but for those of us who like to jump into an action heavy dogfight it can be rewarding. There are some controller issues which mean it will be most rewarding with keyboard and mouse, but for those who find this type of game appealing then there is much to recommend. Hopefully we see more from developer City Interactive, because their budget games keep getting stronger with every release.


Gameplay

81/100

Good arcade action fun.

Graphics
79/100
Airplane models are well created and the environments are impressive.
Sound
80/100
acting is quite good and the music matches the context of the game well.
Value
70/100
It is a budget title but the game will not last for more than a few days.
Overall
(not an average)
75/100

Good fun but not for flight simulation junkies.


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