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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: February 10, 2001
When walking into the room of an average young male, one tends to notice that certain predictable items may be found, either due to the interest of the parents or the desires of the child. How many of us have heard the stereotypical story of a father buying baseball bats and catching gloves in the hopes that exposure to these “masculine” items will develop a love of sports in his young son? Conventional sports aside, many males who have grown up in a status quo household had some of the same toys as kids. I remember quite well the first He-Man action figure to grace my toybox. It wasn’t the first toy to find its way into that box, nor was it the last. Having had relatives who served in the military during various wars, I also grew up hearing about snipers, tanks, infantry and aircraft. Like many other children, I was also fascinated with aeroplane and automobile models. To this day, I retain several of the models upon which so many restless hours were spent. Airfix, one of Europe’s most well-known model manufacturers, has teamed up with the folks at EON Digital and Paradox Entertainment to bring the world of model airplanes home in the form of an action-flight game. Grab the kids and settle in for a gore-free romp through the halls and rooms of a large house in Airfix Dogfighter.
Airfix Dogfighter has a very lighthearted storyline based loosely on the events in World War II. Regardless of the fact that you are blowing things up and shooting down enemy pilots, there is no lasting feel of malice that wells up when you play. The explanation given by EON is that you assume the role of an imaginative youngster who is playing ‘pretend’ while the family is away from the house. Pretending to be a World War II fighter pilot gives rise to numerous scenarios where the player will take on the roles of either Axis or Allied pilots. Stick and throttle in hand, you will attempt to master control over various model planes as you dodge table legs and end-chairs all while trying to outwit a host of enemy forces.
Riding the World War II theme, there are two campaigns you can fight through: one for the Axis and one for the Allies. Each campaign has ten missions, wherein you will take on the role of both fighter and bomber as you carry out strikes, escorts and base defenses. Upon launching the game, you are required to create a pilot profile, using one of several included portraits. Once you choose the portrait that best suits your personality, you are dropped into the actual in-game menu, which takes a cue from older combat sims existing in the form of various objects strewn about the screen, each one representing a different option. To drop quickly into a mission requires only that you select the campaign hangar and choose one of the two major world forces to fight beside. Mission briefings will follow, which include reconnaissance photographs of your targets and objectives. After looking carefully through the briefing, it is time to select your model airplane.
Each side in the war begins the game with one model plane in their arsenal. For the allies, it’s a Hawker Hurricane and for the Axis, a Focke Wulf fw190. During certain missions you will be able to discover new blueprints and model kits for more advanced aircraft; each side has between six and seven aircraft available once you complete the game. The allied side will net you such famous fighters as the P-51 Mustang and the Grumman F6F; Axis forces have access to models from Fiat, Messerschmitt and Mitsubishi. All aircraft have different strengths and weaknesses that you will need to take into consideration when selecting a fighter for each mission.
Speed, Control, Fuel and Armor are the four classes of statistics that will be mixed around between the different fighters. Every one is extremely important, since some missions might require you to engage in a slow bombing run over an enemy bunker or airfield, while flak cannons explode shrapnel all around you. In such a case, you would need to choose an aircraft with heavy armor — normally this would also indicate a slower speed or control rating — whereas if you were taking on a quick strike to steal supplies, a faster, more maneuverable fighter would be the wiser choice beyond a shadow of a doubt. After making an educated guess as to the needs of your fighter in contrast to the mission objectives, it is time to engage the enemy.
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