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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: March 7, 2001
Every nation involved in the great conflict that was World War II has their own set of collective memories as to the times of greatest trials and the moments of most powerful anxiety. For the part of the United States, it was perhaps, our finest hour. Equally well-known to our culture is the treachery that we experienced from the Japanese government during the bombing of Pearl Harbor; December 7th, 1941 is certainly a day that the entire world will remember. Despite the fact that some U.S. citizens believe our great country to be the center of the universe, it can be said with absolute certainty that other nations have played great parts in the events of the last two World Wars.
Our powerful allies over in the United Kingdom were one of the two nations to first oppose Hitler when his blitzkrieg campaign across Europe began in 1939; towards the end of 1940, things seemed quite grim for the English troops. Nazi regiments had pushed the last remnants of the British military out of France and General Hermann Goering brought much of the dreaded Luftwaffe to bear on Britain’s Royal Air Force. Hitler’s forces were slowly planning an invasion of the British mainland itself. Their plan, however, was contingent on the ability of Goering’s Luftwaffe to wipe out the RAF. Without a decisive air-victory, German troop transports would be subjected to dive-bombings and strafing attacks when they attempted to cross the English Channel. The air war over Britain lasted from the 10th of July 1940 up until September 15th, 1940. That last date is probably the most well known to English citizens as the Battle of Britain, where an underpowered and outnumbered RAF took to the skies against overwhelming odds and summarily defeated the mighty Luftwaffe, crippling the German air power on the Western front, and forcing Hitler to rethink his plans for an invasion of the UK.
Though this day was known specifically as the Battle of Britain, that term can safely encompass the entire period of the air war for supremacy over the English Channel, and ultimately England itself. There have been a small number of computer flight simulations detailing this period in world history, with Their Finest Hour by LucasArts being the most famous. Sim giant Rowan Software has taken up the challenge of creating a modern day simulation of Britain’s crowning modern achievement in the form of Rowan’s Battle of Britain, an air-combat title covering the entire period of Germany’s offensive air campaign.
Like any good combat-centered flight simulator, Battle of Britain gives you a fleet of options to play around with. The first area players will notice on the large menu is the Quick Shots option. This simulator is certainly designed with the more discerning veteran in mind, but Rowan has not completely forgotten about the segment of the gaming population with little flight experience. In the Quick Shots area, there are a small number of training missions included that give basic instruction on taking off, landing, and combat maneuvers. Even experienced pilots should consider trying out the basics before they jump right into a campaign, since some of the aircraft in Battle of Britain are much more difficult to handle than their Pacific Theatre compatriots.
Whereas the Pacific Theatre saw the introduction of powerful aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, the older planes in the RAF and Luftwaffe operated at slower speeds and were somewhat more difficult to control. The flight models used in Battle of Britain reflect an obvious change for players who might be used to flying later models in games like Combat Flight Sim 2. It would be a great mistake to think that flying one prop-fighter is like flying another, and all of the different aircraft in Battle of Britain handle differently. Even the change in the force feedback output can be felt from plane to plane. The number of aircraft you will have control over is somewhat limited: Should you choose to fight with the RAF, you will be able to step into the cockpit of either the Hawker Hurricane or the Supermarine Spitfire. On the Axis side you actually have more choices, as both the Messerschmitt Bf-109 and Bf-110 can be yours, as well as the Junkers JU87 Dive Bomber. Taking these virtual babies to the sky is only one part of the enjoyment in Battle of Britain, as you can also enter a complex campaign mode from either the perspective of the RAF or the Luftwaffe.
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