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Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: March 12, 1998
Between the years of 1914 and 1918, the world experienced what some would argue was the most devastating conflict known to humankind. World War I became known as the “war to end all wars,” an epic struggle between opposing ideologies, opposing factions, opposing armies. When the fighting was over, nearly 40 million casualties had been claimed. There is one element of World War I, however, which makes the conflict particularly horrific. Perhaps even more important than where the fighting took place, or who was killed, is how those lives were claimed. For World War I marked a decisive turning point in the history of warfare. It was in fact the first modern war, defined by a terrible marriage of 19th Century combat tactics with 20th Century technology. For the first time, killing became a true science. Deadly mustard gas burned soldiers’ internal organs; frightening, nearly unstoppable tanks lumbered across shell-blasted battlefields like dragons of steel; bullets sliced the air at speeds once thought unimaginable. And high in the smoke-filled skies, circling the trenches like vultures, soared the airplanes. Bright, colorful, the incredible flying machines flew in stark contrast to the bleak browns and reds of the trenches of France. They looked almost beautiful…until they started raining down death onto the defenseless troops below.
At the time, the biplanes and triplanes of World War I were more than revolutionary; they were modern day miracles. We had defied the laws of nature and gravity: We had actually gained the ability to fly. But leave it to the human race to ruin a good miracle. We had to take our ability to the next step. Instead of just learning how to fly, we did the unthinkable — we learned how to kill from the air. Empire Interactive’s Flying Corps Gold reproduces the challenges and horrors of World War I aviation with remarkable accuracy. The player must take to the skies as a German, British, and American fighter pilot, and maybe, just maybe, alter the course of this terrible struggle.
Before launching into an in-depth description of Flying Corps Gold, or examining every little element of gameplay, it’s important that I first explain the unique nature of a World War I flight sim. They may have been revolutionary at the turn of the century, but don’t let that fool you; World War I era biplanes, and triplanes to a lesser extent, are as sluggish and difficult to handle as they come. Forget everything you’ve learned playing Joint Strike Fighter or even Flight Unlimited 2. A Sopwith Camel is as about as technologically similar to an F-22 as an F-22 is to an X-Wing. One of these classic planes barely even fits into the category of “aircraft” as we have come to envision it; it’s more like a kid’s go-cart with wings and an engine, and that’s pretty much the way it flies, too. These babies didn’t even have a throttle control. The pilot would have to “blip” the engine on and off (the only two settings) constantly during flight in order to produce the desired speed, all the while trying to avoid a burnout. A pilot during World War I could actually consider himself lucky to be involved in a life or death dogfight; at least he had survived his training.
There are eight planes available to the player in Flying Corps Gold, and they represent aviation technology from every year of World War I, and all factions involved in the air war. They are, in no particular order, the Nieuport 28, Spad, French Spad, Fokker DRI triplane, Fokker DVII, Albatross D3, Sopwith Camel, and SE5a. The performance of each plane varies greatly, as do their flight dynamics. Pilots during the “Great War” often had to drastically alter their tactics depending on the aircraft they flew. For example, whereas the Spad XIII was perfectly suited for “climb and dive” attacks on enemy planes, due to its high speed but poor turning rate, such a maneuver would likely prove catastrophic for the Nieuport 28, which had a great turn rate, but also a nasty tendency to lose a wing during a high-speed dive. Players of Flying Corps Gold would be wise to study the plane profiles in the game’s manual; the information there could save their planes, their campaigns, and their lives.
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