PC REVIEW: BATTLE OF BRITAIN II: WINGS OF VICTORY

One of the better WWII sims you'll play. Jump into the cockpit. by Darwin Chance

February 15, 2006 - Simulations are a dying breed. These games just cost too much to produce and have limited demographics. It's much more lucrative for companies to create games with talking penguins searching for enchanted ice crystals.

For the intelligent player that really wants to experience a sense of unrivaled realism, Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory is the closest that you're going to get to reliving the 1940 WWII battle for air supremacy over Britain. This isn't so much a sequel as it is a remake of the original. With some new missions, modes and other features it also wanders into expansion pack territory.

This is a great game but it's not without some technical issues. There are patches that need to be installed and unless you have a killer PC you are going to be turning off lots of graphical effects to achieve a steady framerate.

Play as either side. Fly with the RAF and show Hitler who commands British air space. Or take part in the Luftwaffe blitz and try to bomb strategic British targets. There are lots of historical campaigns from raids to bombing missions and dogfights. You can choose to take on as much responsibility as you want such as taking on the role of commander or you can just fly your plane and take orders from your superiors.

All of the planes in the original game are here. The list includes the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf109, Stuka, Me-109, Dornier Do17and the Heinkel He111. They look amazing and come with accurate cockpit models with all functioning switches and gauges. All of the various characteristics of each plane are simulated to great effect - both the bad and the good. The British planes employ a carburetor system that is affected by gravity. Too many G forces and the plane will go into a stall. Quick maneuvers will also cause them to choke and sputter. The German Me-109 is a very powerful weapon but because of its narrow undercarriage its landing capabilities are extremely sensitive. It's easy to get in the air and it handles extremely well but you're not always assured of a perfect landing.

Speaking of crashes, the game itself is very prone to crashes in addition to huge drops in framerate and some teleporting of enemy craft which was evidenced in the first game. There are some patches available online but so far there is no one magic patch. To keep things running smoothly you will have to turn off different effects such as the weather. You will also want to take the resolution down and above all make sure that your PC exceeds the minimum requirements.

Different players will prefer different planes but for my money there's nothing like an old Spitty. These planes have great handling characteristic and are extremely fast. They aren't very resilient due to the lightweight construction, and because they carry huge Merlin motors they have to store a lot of fuel which enemies can turn into a huge fireball with a few well-placed shots.

Beginners can get a lot of practice in the Instant Action mode where they can choose various training sessions or just dive into various historical battles.

Strategic campaigns give us a lot more input into the game of war than just flying a plane. Not that that's any small feat but when you find yourself in a squadron it's hard to imagine that you are making much of a difference. If you decide to take on the role of Commander Downing on the British side, you will be faced with the task of defending your country from the air strikes of the Luftwaffe which requires various strategies. The further away inland that you can intercept them the better. This might mean leaving your planes close to the channel but it also makes them more vulnerable. At the same time you will want to defend your airstrips, radar facilities and factories where planes are manufactured. These are key targets for the Luftwaffe as putting factories out of commission will ensure that the British have fewer planes available to them in the immediate future. Taking out the radar stations will result in less reaction time as the British airforce is now reliant on ground spotters.

There are lots of strategic options available on the interface. You can commands fighters to escort bombers or have them fly ahead to intercept enemy fighters. Targets can be suggested, including primary and secondary ones. Altitude, speed, direction and time of day are also variables that must be considered as well as weather conditions. Clouds make for great cover and nighttime raids can generate a lot of damage when the British radar defenses are down.

Dogfights are always fun and it's during these skirmishes that you feel liberated from the pack. You become an individual and are able to show off your flying skills as though your life depends on it - and it does. Keep in mind that because of the historical accuracy of the air battles you are going to encounter a lot of planes and not just one-on-one battles. The Germans were known for keeping a tight formation even when under severe attack. They would literally darken the sky with their massive mobile mechanical flying machines.

You're not just relegated to the role of the pilot. You can take the gunner position and really let your frustrations fly as you destroy wave after wave of enemy planes.

Displaying dirt, grime, grease, chips and bullet holes, the plane models look very realistic. They break apart in the air leaving streams of particles and metallic chunks to return to Earth on their own volition. Aerial perspectives are great but the closer you get to the ground the uglier it might look if you've adjusted the resolution.

The engine sounds are equally authentic. You can hear them purr, race or sputter depending on your piloting skills. When flying in formation you'll hear a symphony of engine sounds surround you in relative harmony. Weapon sounds are good but not much different from the five-year-old version. I wouldn't be surprised if these were the exact same weapon sounds just processed a bit.

Battle of Britain 2 does a good job of making you feel part of one of the most decisive campaigns the free world has ever known. But it still allows you to display your cocky side when you mix it up solo style. If you're not into patching you might want to check with some forums to see if most of the patches are available before purchasing this game.

By Darwin Chance
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Battle Of Britain II: Wings Of Victory (PC)
3.5
Graphics
Good detail. Nice looking plane models with new skins. Shows destruction very well.
4.5
Control
Planes handle realistically. Must be careful when piloting British planes with carbs as they are prone to stall being subject to gravity.
3.3
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Engines are loud and proud. Each has been authentically recreated.
3.4
Play Value
Patches are required to make the multi-player component more playable.
4.0
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PC
Dev: Shockwave
Pub: Shockwave
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1
Review by Darwin

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best