Red Baron 2
Okay, Name Your Favourite War. From a spectator's point of view, as it were. Like one you'd bother to watch on telly, sprawled out on the sofa, sandwich in one hand and cup of tea in the other, as you punctuate the commentary with an occasional yelp of "Wow, look at that explosion!". Let's have a list of wars, eh?
(1) Chechen was a tiny skirmish, so that's out: not a war at all. (Those Russian helicopters never fail to impress though. The ones that look like the scary fish-submarines from Stingray. I saw one at an airshow once and virtually cacked my pants - and it wasn't even airborne.)
(2) Bosnia's not so hot either, when you get right down to the body-count and the lack of in-your-face visuals. They should do it properly or just stop.
(3) The Gulf war? Well, yes, it was nicely staged, 1 agree... but the playing area was a bit drab. Don't you think? And anyway, there wasn't a proper 'ending'.
(4) The Falklands? Forget about it. A couple of Harriers, an Exocet, some sheep, and Prince Andrew. Nice one, Thatch.
(5) So Vietnam, then. Now that was a good one. A real epic. What a plot! And Dennis Hopper was in it! Completely out of his tree! And there was some really brilliant '60s music, too. Hendrix! Wah-wah! Drop a trip! Mental! The Stones! Excellent!
(6) The Korean War takes a back seat mainly due to the fact that the vile Elvis Presley was spawned thereabouts.
(7) World War Two. An excellent war, yes, and with plenty of enjoyable footage. Air. land and sea! The whole route! However, it's been done to death - and the goodies and baddies are too cltearly defined. John Mills was in it, by the way. So were Gordon Jackson and Dickie Attenborough.
(8) The Spanish Civil War. Hmmm. I won't say much here, actually, because I don't know anything about it - other than it involved, er. Spain.
(9) World War One! Yippee! We're finally there. (Alrnit time - Ed.) The main problem with World War One. though, is that although there was action by the bucketload, it was in black and white... and everyone moved in a sort of speeded up jerko-motion. Come Autumn 1996. however, we'll be able to enjoy the whole spectacle again, and this time round it'll be in colour! (What a link, huh?)
Those magnificent men...
If you're into flight sims (and if you bothered to get beyond that link then you probably are), there's a good chance you've played the original Red Baron. And jolly good it was too. wasn't it? But technology marches inexorably forwards, and poor old Red Baron has aged badly in the process. So what exactly is the new blood. Red Baron II. going to be offering over and above its old man? Let's have a gander.
In their flying machines...
This time around you won't be forced to choose between being just a Tommy or a Kraut. Why? Because you'll be allowed to be a Frog or a Yank as well, that's why. (Not that anyone in their right mind is going to want to play a 'simulated French person'.) Having chosen your nationality, you'll encounter the'ground bits' of the game: you know, those before and after mission' sections. And they're going to be along the same lines as they were in Red Baron... except that we're on cds this time round, meaning there'll be loads of bad acting the fmv officer's mess - including igin-style 'multiple choice conversa-ins'. ("Hey, Buzz, I hear Von Richtofen kons you got yourself a cotton-candied butt!" someone might tell you. You'll len choose to reply either "Yeah, I guess the dude's got me pegged!" or maybe at sonuvabitch! He ain't a-dealin' with no darned chicken farmer here... I'm a cockney!" You know the drill.) Oh, and I'm guessing at the naffness quotient: it's possible that the accents and acting will be superb. There'll also be daily newspapers to pore over, letters from loved ones (with the odd Dear John thrown in), grillings from the top brass, and lengthy discourses with the intelligence bods. And whatever else Sierra care to throw in: this project's got ten months to go, after all.
They go up diddly up...
So the planes and the flight models then. Er, well, look at the screenshots. That's all I've got to go on as well. I can, however, tell you that Gary Sottlemyer -the Red Baron II artistic and technical director - is an aeronautical prop-head: he worked on Falcon 3 and Falcon 4.
Good credentials. "What's more," added the proud Sierra spokesperson, "his father was a pilot in the US Air Force!" Not that that means anything of course... my dad was a helicopter pilot, but my sister can't even park a car! Still, expect the flight engine to be getting on for superb. The ai, too, if we're to believe these Sierra bods.
And what about the planes themselves? Thirty-five of the buggers: each reconstructed, apparently, to the smallest detail - and all ready and waiting to be taken into the 70,000 square mile playing area.
The airbase, incidentally, is going to be a hive of activity. Planes taking off, returning damaged, crash landing, and so on. From the sound of things, it's going to be a feat in itself just taxiing to the take-off point without a collision.
They come down tiddly down...
The front-end structure of the game is going to be familiar to anyone who's played any Sierra simulation. There'll be the bevvy of single historic missions (user definable, as always), instant dogfighting shenanigans (with enemy aces of your own choosing), and then, of course, the meat of the game - the full-blown 1914-18 campaign (containing the aforementioned fmv fests, and missions taken from a historical database). Possibly more brilliant than all of this, though, are going to be the network and modem options. At last!
Falcon 3 head-to-head encounters may be a bit of a titter... but a tight turning dogfight? At 130 mph? In planes that stall if you so much as sneeze on them? Bliss. I here and now lay down the modem-gauntlet to all takers. You will spiral to the earth in flames! I am the king of the air! Kiss my legs!
Download Red Baron 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Few Things In This Crazy Mixed Up world are as depressing as finding out that principles you've always held dear are nothing but false ideals. Since playing Sierra's much hyped sequel Red Baron II, I have discovered to my horror that my long-held belief that gameplay will always triumph over graphical niceties is as false as a porn starlet's chest.
Despite all the hype surrounding this long-awaited and much-delayed follow-up to one of gaming lore's most classic flight sims, Red Boron II is quite clearly flawed at a fundamental yet all too superficial level. It's a crying shame, but unfortunately the wealth of detail to be found in the game's historical content, the flight dynamics and the campaign structure simply cannot disguise the incredibly poor graphical detail. Like so many, I thought I'd be able to see through the graphical quagmire and get to grips with what always promised to be a brilliant sequel to a groundbreaking original game. Isn't it funny how things change?
Tri-linear filtering over the trenches
Unusually for this day and age, Red Baron II is a flight simulator that does not feature any 3D accelerator support at all. While those people who do not have the seemingly prerequisite bit of kit in their PC would be inclined to let out a whoop of delight on hearing this news, allow me to tell you before your rejoicing reaches a fever pitch that Red Baron II doesn't look too good on-screen. Compared to last year's Flying Corps it looks dated and earthy, and when you compare it to the kind of visual delights offered by modern fighter sims such as F-22ADFor JSF it looks positively dire. In fact, eyen without 3D support just about every other flight sim we've seen over the past 12 months or so can more than match it for detail and on-screen lushness.
Of course, you might think that this doesn't effect the way the game plays. But it does. You just get the feeling that the developers have given up and gone home. The landscape texturing doesn't even reach the edge of the visual horizon, for Chrisake! When airborne at a few thousand feet you can see untextured hills looming just ahead, giving the impression that everything beyond a few miles is surrounded by fog.
Just when you could be thinking that Sierra might have done something clever and concentrated on low-level detailing (after all, WWI dogfights took place just a few hundred feet above the ground), let me tell you that the ground objects aren't much cop either. The buildings are pretty plain and seem to 'pop up' out of nowhere (a fatal flaw in any game that relies on low-level flying), and tanks and vehicles are simple box affairs with a crude texturing skin. In fact, when you're cruising at a few hundred feet looking for bogies, the terrain looks so pixelated that if anything dips below the horizon you end up losing sight of it in the graphical mire. Finding it again is akin to finding something in those Magic Eye pictures after six pints of Special Brew.
The only saving grace with regards to the graphics lies with the planes themselves. Bi-planes and tri-planes are things of beauty. There is a sense of elegance and majesty about them that modern aircraft can never hope to achieve, and Red Baron II really does a grand job of capturing their style and grace. Thankfully, this fact, combined with the beauty of the actual flight models, goes a some way towards redeeming the game.
It's not often that we're forced to dwell so much on the physical appearance of a game, but in this case it simply cannot be ignored. In simplest terms, the better a flight sim looks, the more believable it will be and the more immersed you become. Putting this aside for now, it's important to note that the rest of the game, aside from one or two areas detailed elsewhere, is actually pretty well-constructed. One of the most appealing features of the original Red Baron was the historical campaign structure, and thankfully this has remained intact. Developers Dynamix have put together a career-based campaign that has you enlisting in the war at any point you like, and then sees you rise through the ranks as you embark upon a mixture of real and semi-real missions. Unlike in Rowan's Flying Corps, the war continues to progress around you according to historical happenings and everything certainly has a realistic feel to it, even if it is a visual mess.
Annoyingly, the video replay function found in the original Red Baron game has been sacrificed in the sequel. Although it wasn't integral to the game, it did enable you to save your entire mission, view the action from any angle or any cockpit, and cut and paste the action to create some spectacular 'films'. It was a nice little extra that presumably didn't take too much effort to include in the original, but it's sadly omitted here, the question is, why?
So farewell, then
But it's not all bad news. Red Baron II has its good points, it really does. There's, er... a damn good manual which is packed full of historical detail and tactical advice. The sound effects are brilliant and the music isn't bad at all. Surprisingly, there are also a good variety of missions, and as a result there's plenty of long-term scope thanks to being able to fly for any of the four main theatres in the war.
If you're inclined to be just a tad sentimental, you could almost forgive Red Baron II for being so poor. It tries hard in some areas, but unfortunately just falls flat on its face in so many others. Sadly, the holes are just too gaping, the flaws just too prominent to make it a worthwhile purchase. Pull back on the joystick, bank sharply and steer well clear.
More airborne shenanigans are set to erupt on your PC with the release of Red Baron II, a sequel which could be termed rather long overdue given that the original was released in 1990 (as far as productivity is concerned it makes even the Stone Roses look busy).
If a week's a long time in football, seven years is one bejesus of a long time in games. Dynamix' original Red Baron was indeed a seminal game, introducing many aspects to the genre that are now common place. However, PC gaming was still in its infancy at that point, and as a result Red Baron 2 should be barely recognisable from its predecessor. Billed as a complete revision of the original, Dynamix promise all-new graphics (you'd certainly hope so), enhanced Als, more nationalities and, of course, a new flight engine which aims to accurately replicate the true feeling of being a WWI pilot.
A great deal of time has been spent on the ground detail, which is based on actual WWI maps of the Western Front, from the English Channel to Switzerland. Airbases and towns have their own distinguishing features, such as churches that ring their bells when enemy aircraft pass over them, and trains that slowly crawl along their tracks, virtually asking to be shot at.
Each of the planes you'll be flying has the specific limitations of the actual craft from which they're modelled, so various manoeuvres will only be possible in certain aircraft. There'll be a wide variety to choose from though, as the French and Americans have put in an appearance (unlike the first version which featured only Good Old Blighty against the Evil Hun).
There'll be a host of predefined scenarios to try your hand at, and hopefully the replay value will be maintained by a mission builder and random mission generator. Naturally, all manner of multi-player madness will also be included, so prepare for chocks away in November.
The sequel to one of the most popular PC flight sims. Red Baron II is finally on the horizon. As a pilot for one of the great powers (Britain, France, Germany. and America) during World War I, you can fly single missions or you can build a career by completing bombing runs, dogfights, and other sorties. Success earns you promotions through the ranks to mission commander, where you make strategic plans for your flight squadron. Technically, Baron II boasts better graphics than its predecessor, as well as texture-mapped historically accurate landscapes, an advanced A,I. and a mission generator.
When I was sixteen years old I went on a trip that very much changed my life. My grandfather took me to a place in New York State called the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. It is to this day one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited -- quite literally a living air museum. The Aerodrome puts on an air show every weekend and displays some of the oldest flying machine still in use. It specializes in World War I planes and you can even take a ride in an open cockpit 1927 New Standard bi-plane. Flying in such a craft opened up an entirely new flying experience for me. Flying was no longer so claustrophobic and since then I’ve never been able to fly in a closed cockpit plane or passenger jet with the same joy. Simply put, nothing compares to being open to the world while you’re a thousand feet above the earth. It is truly exhilarating.
When I received Red Baron 2 I had hoped it would help recapture some of that exhilaration. The game accomplished minor success, but it had some problems that inhibited it from reaching its full potential.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Red Baron 2 offers some very interesting and innovative gameplay options. The game has 40 aircraft, 22 of which are pilotable. A small side note: the Fokker tri-plane is not a flyable craft. This didn’t make sense to me because it is the ship the Red Baron is most famous for flying. I found this a little silly myself.
Aside from that the game offers some nice options. You can enlist with one of four air forces: English, French, German, or American. There are a number of classic planes from each air force you can fly. There is also an option for setting the degree of realism in the simulation; however the "Authentic" setting isn’t as authentic as it should be. I noticed several things that were there, such as a rotary engine trying to take the fuselage of the plane with it. This means you must constantly fight the torque of the engine while trying to fly, a problem that almost all the WWI pilots faced at one time or another. I also noticed some very obvious flaws. One such flaw being that the planes were way too maneuverable. If you’ve ever flown in one of these planes or even seen one in flight, you’d know that they aren’t the most powerful things in the world and have a rather slow rate of climb, but some of the planes in this game practically flew like jets; way too fast and way too powerful for the planes being simulated. Sierra has promised a patch to help deal with this.
The enemy AI in Red Baron 2 isn’t anything super special, but it gets the job done. The enemy pilots as well as your wingmen are competent enough to pose a good challenge. On the harder settings they can be downright nasty. A good point to mention is that they don’t become overwhelming in the later stages of the game. The odds are stacked against you, but victory is possible with a lot of practice and patience, which is really what AI is meant to accomplish.
The graphics in Red Baron 2 are good if you’re not used to playing with a 3Dfx card. However, if you do have a card you won’t think very highly of them. Unfortunately, no 3D cards are supported. Although a 3Dfx patch is in the works, it will not be available for a month or two at the very least.
The audio in Red Baron 2 is excellent. You can hear the sputter and roar of the engine, the guy behind you spraying machine gun fire in your ear, the creaks and groans of the plane’s frame as you pull a maneuver and put stress on everything. A lot of thought and time went into the sound effects and it paid off. It made the game that much more enjoyable.
Once again, Sierra has done a wonderful job of going above and beyond the call of duty for documentation. The manual that comes with the game is in depth. It gives you a great deal of historical information and does a good job of illustrating the amount of painstaking research the developers went through. The manual also goes into a lot of the maneuvers these planes are capable of, as well as some troubleshooting should you run into problems.
Pentium 133, 16 MB RAM, 130 MB hard drive space, mouse, 4X CD-ROM drive, SVGA 256 colors
If you’re getting fed up with the high technology, high speed, high firepower combat simulations that are becoming the industry standard, Red Baron 2 is definitely one to consider. There are some obvious problems with the flight model, and the graphics aren’t as good as they could be, but with patches on the horizon to fix these problems Red Baron 2 could become a classic, much like its predecessor.