John Wilbur Stealy Senior, aka 'Wild Bill', isn't exactly the most likely of candidates for a senior position at a games company. He founded Microprose alongside Sid Meier in 1982, managed, financed and tested games like Civilization and F-15 Strike Eagle and has since become the CEO of iEntertainment. He's currently pushing the 2008 version of the World War II combat simulator Warbirds - appropriate, considering he's a retired US Air Force Lt. Colonel and Command Pilot. So we joined Wild Bill with two of his wingmen, 'Bomber' and 'Tedboy', for a test flight in several of Warbird's aircraft.
As a combat flight sim you have the option of flying fighter and bomber aircraft, featuring Lancasters, Spitfires and Hurricanes among the roster that includes aircraft from both axis and allied forces. As newbies, Bill took us up in a P38-C bomber escorted by his flyboys, to show us the ropes. Bill was in the cockpit, but you can take control of any one of the four gun turrets on the Lancaster with a single keystroke. It's probably one of the easiest roles in the game, and after strafing a rival Bomber with an AA machine-gun it was time to give us the rudder stick of a P47 fighter and join Bill for a bit of tandem dogfighting. Tedboy and Bomber's flight experience prove too much, however, and, with mincemeat made of his wingman, Bill soon succumbs to their clinical aerial assault.
With military consultancy provided by iEntertainment's own CEO and his colleagues, Warbirds is a highly accurate and tough game to play. If you're not used to flight sims then you'll have some difficulty just holding an aircraft steady, and even those with simulator experience can end a chandelle or barrel roll in a terminal nose dive. But new pilots shouldn't be put off: Warbirds has fully furnished tutorial missions for every aspect of combat flight simulation that you can play offline, as well as offline scenarios for you to hone your flight basics before you tackle other players in an online arena. Pay a monthly subscription fee and get onto Warbirds' persistent airspace, and you can even meet up with pilot trainers that teach basic and advanced manoeuvres on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. But if you have no head for heights then you still have the option of manning a fixed ack-ack gun or a tank to protect landing strips and airfields from enemy attack - a simple case of pointing the gun at the enemy and pulling the trigger. It might not win you the hot chicks, but there's nothing more satisfying than clipping the wings of one of those cocky flyboys and seeing them crash and burn.
Warbirds has been around a couple of years but the latest update brings ten new aircraft into the fold, new terrains and graphical features. Tap into the persistent online world and you'll be rewarded with a mature multiplayer experience with dozens of gamers, some who will hound you out of the sky and others that a beginner will be able to compete with on an equal footing. So if you feel you're missing the bite from your flight sims, your career with Warbirds could really take off.
People who downloaded Warbirds have also downloaded:
U.S. Navy Fighters Gold, Rowan's Battle of Britain, Red Baron 3D, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theater, Wings of Glory, Operation Overlord, Mig Alley, Jane's WWII Fighters
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