Red Baron 2
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.
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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.