Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: Guerre du Pacifique
There have been quite a few World War II flight sims released recently, and bloody good job too. After years and years of jets in Desert Storm-type scenarios, getting the chance to fly some of the coolest planes in history in massive dogfights over the battlefields of Europe makes a refreshing change.
The first of the current crop of WWII sims was Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator; which was based around their renowned civilian flight sims, but with guns. Although it had plenty to recommend it, CFS wasn't quite as good as some of the other titles that came out shortly afterwards - the planes didn't look quite right, the campaigns were limited and the AI was a bit suspect, making the downing of opponents a bit peasy.
CFS2 has been completely reworked, with improvements in all the above, plus a whole new theatre - the Pacific. As you'd expect from a war zone named after a big ocean, this means lots of sea and ships (including aircraft carriers -hurrah!), and you get to play as either the Americans or Japanese.
The user interface is excellent, and has been done in a kind of '40s comic book style, which is a refreshing change from the usual 3D animation. The game itself is well structured with the usual mix of training, quick combat and campaigns covering most of WWII in the Pacific. The planes cover the same period, from Wildcats and early Zeroes through to the Corsair and George, as well as plenty of bombers, torpedo bombers and other cannon fodder that you can't fly. The campaigns are nicely thought out, and not as linear as those in the first CFS. They're definitely not the all-encompassing dynamic resource management-fests that you get in Mig Alley and Falcon 4, but they're engrossing and give you the feeling of being there.
The in-game graphics in CFS2 are fantastic. The planes themselves look incredibly realistic and definitely 'second hand', with patchy paintwork, and charring round the guns. Unlike the first CFS, the 3D models themselves are spot-on, and rendered using enough polygons to really smooth things out. The scenery is excellent, too, and although a lot of time is spent flying over vast expanses of ocean the excellent quality of the graphics gives a great impression of being stuck in the cockpit of a crappy little plane in the middle of an ocean miles from the nearest toilet. The weather/time of day effects are equally incredible.
Combat has been well spruced up. and both your wingmen and the enemy planes are pretty smart. This means there's no cruising around picking off baddies at your leisure - you have to keep your eyes peeled and really fight for all you're worth to get a kill (or cheat by turning down the difficulty level). Combat damage is also well-modelled, and there's plenty of fun to be had making carrier landings in knackered planes.
Basically, Microsoft has come up with corker. It has some of the best graphics of any WWII sim, great gameplay, a new scenario, and the promise of add-on aircraft as well as the great scenery that comes with all their flight sims. I'd go and get it now if I were you.