Nations WWII Fighter Command
The last twelve months have been pure jubilation for World War II flight sim fans. Beginning with the commendable European Air War, we have seen more than the usual amount of WWII flight simulations come through the GameFabrique offices this year. The latest sim to be put to the test is Nations WWII Fighter Command. This is the first attempt from Psygnosis at a flight simulator and they claimed on the box that Nations would have 'True flight physics,'? 'Incredibly realistic and detailed fighters,'? and 'Unsurpassed graphics.'? Did they succeed Not one bit!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The main menu offers the usual options such as Campaign, Multiplayer, Instant Action, Training, etc. In the training missions, you can choose takeoff/landing practice, target practice, and 'shake one off'? where you start the mission in a defensive position. The training missions allow you to get used to the very unusual flight model. Unusual, because it is so unrealistic. Your plane will not stall or go into an uncontrolled spin if you are too excessive at the controls. As a matter of fact, you can shut off the engine and drift practically to a dead stop before you begin losing altitude. This is at the Ultra-Realistic setting for the flight model! I couldn't tell much difference between this and the other two settings: Realistic and Relaxed.
Some other strange quirks are the fact that you have to press the 'J'? key to activate your joystick for each mission and bringing your throttle back to idle actually shuts off the engines. Applying a bit more throttle than the minimum will keep the engines running at an idle. The Instant Action option would be better named Single Missions because there is nothing instant about them. From the Instant Action menu there are ten missions from which to choose, ranging from ground strike, escort, and intercept missions to air-to-air duels. After selecting your mission, you can choose which airplane you wish to fly, set the AI difficulty and flight model realism, and read the mission briefing then you are ready to go. There is one campaign which consists of 15 canned missions for each of the three nationalities: U.S., British, and German. You cannot advance to the next mission until you have successfully flown the prior one. There are 12 flyable aircraft including some unique aircraft that are not usually featured in WWII flight simulations. Most notably, the Me-163 rocket powered plane is featured along with the Curtiss P-40, Hawker Typhoon, and DeHavilland Mosquito. The other more usual planes consist of the P-51, P-38, P-47, Hurricane and Spitfire, and the Me-262, Fw-190, and Bf-109.
Nations supports IPX (LAN) and TCP/IP (Internet) connections. Multiplayer games feature various power ups that you can fly through to gain shields, speed up effects, invincibility, health, 2x damage, and so on that will help you forget about the 'Incredibly Realistic'? flight simulation that Psygnosis boasts about on the box. The real trick will be finding someone else who has the game and is willing to invest the time and frustration playing with such a poor simulation.
The terrain graphics consist of repeating green farmlands with some mountain textures placed between them every now and then. The mountains are all pyramid shaped and the clouds are blocky and blurry to look at either from far away or at close range. There are occasionally some cool graphic effects in Nations when your plane takes damage. For example, if you lower your landing gear above 180 MPH, they will rip off in the wind and some of the crash effects are done well. Blue smoke can be seen coming out of the engine manifolds when the engine sputters from starting and stopping. For some planes, your forward view is looking through the motion-blurred propeller which is a cool and realistic effect not seen in most of the other WWII simulations.
Probably the best feature of this game is the sound effects. They are realistic sounding and the explosions, gunfire, and rocket sounds are all crisp and clear and done right. The aircraft engines will cough at low idle however the engine sounds don't always seem to correspond with the engine RPMs.
Minimum: Pentium 233 MHz with MMX, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95/98, 4 MB Direct3D compatible video card, 150 MB hard drive space, 4X CD-ROM drive, and a DirectX Sound compatible sound card.
Recommended: Pentium II 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 8 MB AGP Direct3D compatible video card, 800 MB hard drive space, and a 16X CD-ROM drive.
The 92-page manual is split into two sections. The first half is a good read that tells some of the history of World War II while the second half focuses on the game and the basic combat flying strategies. It's disappointing to see that there was no quick reference card included because I had to flatten it to keep it open to the two pages of keyboard controls which couldn't both be seen without flipping a single page back and forth.
Nations leaves me with a feeling that this game was released before it was finished. There are some very nice details but even more incomplete features. A terrible flight model, inconsistent graphics, and poor campaigns make this simulation boring and lacking immersion. Fortunately for World War II flight simulation fans, there are still numerous titles to choose from that were released in the past year that outperform Nations by a mile.