Do you want a flight sim that takes more than joystick-waggling to master? Well then, do MicroProse have a simulation for you!
Let's get one thing straight. This isn't your normal flight simulator, where you leap into the cockpit and destroy the entire German/Russian/lraqi airforce within the first five minutes, using your super hi-tec megadeath missiles. This one is going to take you a long time to learn about, and a long time to really get to grips with.
As you may have guessed, this game is based on the BI7 Flying Fortress, which was first unveiled on 16 July 1935. After the US declared war on Germany in 1941, the 8th Air Force was sent to England to join the British in the high-altitude precision bombing of occu-pied Europe. Which is where you come in....
Overpaid and over there
The manual contains a wealth of information on the history and tactics of bombing and bombers, but it's a little sparse on flying the plane. I would have preferred a bit more on the mechanics of using the bombsight and a bit less on the history of the British bombing campaign 1940-41. There's a good run-through of a typical combat mission, but it would have been better if it had been related to the game itself, with screenshots showing the sort of thing you're likely to come across. I'd recommend you give the manual a thorough read through before starting the game.
There are some nice intro screens, but the music is abysmal. It tries to give a Forties feel to the game, but just ends up making you want to rip out your sound lead. Fortunately, once you get into the game, this music is consigned to the great bomb crater in the sky, and is replaced by a variety of well sampled sounds.
The B17 had a crew of 10: pilol, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio operator, engineer and four gunners. You take the position of airplane commander, which means that you can step in and take over any of the positions. All of them can be computer-controlled, so you can just sit and watch if you want. However, your crew are not too experienced to begin with, so you'll need to keep an eye on them - a helping hand improves their skills. For instance, the navigator has the annoying habit of getting lost on the way home, but if you put him right, he learns from his mistakes.
You begin by choosing your bomber, its nose art and name. Then you can choose cither a training flight (bomb the Isle of Sheppey) or a proper mission over occupied territory. Whichever you choose, you get the option of viewing a short film of a reconnaissance flight over both the primary and secondary targets. You've got to find the target yourself (none of this laser-guided nonsense), so it makes sense to pay attention to this and not attack the local nursery school by mistake.
Once you're happy with it, you accept the mission, and you're deposited on the airfield. Taxi over to the runway behind the other mem- bers of the squadron, and take off in order. You're in the pilot's seat to begin with, but if you're not sure about this, you can switch over to computer control by pressing 'M'. For the first couple of missions, it may be an idea to let the computer take control while you look around and familiarise yourself with the plane.
As you'd expect, there's a lot of waiting around while you're flying to your destination. You can jump through to the next point when something's happening by pressing Alt T. or accelerate time by pressing Alt A. But be careful that you are where you think you are - it's easy for a small error in navigation to send you several hundred miles off target. If you do get lost, you'll need to have a look around and see what local sights you can spot. The tactical view is also useful, because it tells you what the nearest significant town or airfield is.
Of course, there are many people who aren't too happy about you trying to bomb them. German fighters and flak pop up regularly, and you can either let the computer deal with the business of blasting them or step in and deal out the hot lead yourself. You can steer the gun or turret with either the joystick or keys, and analog joysticks are not supported.
It's well put together, with one or two exceptions. The samples used for the sound are OK, but there's little variation. The engine noise is the same whatever the revs, and it gets on the nerves after a bit. On an A500 with only 1Mb of memory, it's pretty jerky, and there's rather a lot of disk accessing. For some reason, the machine freezes while this is happening, which interrupts the (low of the gameplay. For instance, when you first encounter a German plane and start blasting, the screen freezes while the graphics for the bullet-bursts are loaded. However, on an A1200 with a hard disk it all runs smoothly. The plane's graphics are fairly simple, but what there is, is well designed, and it all moves very convincingly.
Flying Fortress is a game that will last and last, which is why it earns itself a coveted Amiga Format Gold award. Once you get into it, the challenge of getting your crew more experienced, without getting them killed will keep you coming back for more, time after time. Your crew can retire after 25 missions, but you'll probably want to start off a new one. If you're after a quick thrill, you won't find it here. But if you're looking for something that's accurate and atmospheric, this is the one to get.
People who downloaded B17: Flying Fortress have also downloaded:
Battle of Britain, The, Advanced Destroyer Simulator, A-10 Tank Killer v1.5, B-17 Flying Fortress, Blue Max, Birds of Prey, Back To The Future 2, B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th
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