Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rise of Flight: The First Great Air War

In Rise of Flight the brutal honesty is confined to the physics, damage models and virtual cockpits. Russian outfit Neoqb have created a fleet of fake Fokkers, Albatrosses, Spads and Sopwiths that deceive the inner ear as consummately as they do the eye. We’ve flown every WWI sim since Red Baron and have never experienced anything quite this raw, exhilarating or believable.

The first air warriors perished in numerous hideous ways and RoF lets you try most of them. Burn alive after taking a gas tank hit, drop to your doom after shedding your wings in an over-eager dive, or break every bone in your body after spinning out of a duel. Piloting these wiry war machines is actually pretty straightforward, even with realism options such as engine management active. The challenge is flying them at their limits while some bedroom Boelcke riddles your tail with sizzling lead.

Multiplayer is at the heart of the sim, and most of the servers are ‘full realism’ and crawling with canny aces. The good news is that half those aces will be on your side. Until Neoqb patch-in a dogfight mode, all scenarios are team-based.

Sadly, there are a few lice nestling in the seams of this exquisitely stitched sheepskin flying jacket. Louse number one is the DRM. To fly RoF – even alone – you need an active internet connection. ISP playing silly buggers? Oak tree KOed your phone line? You’re grounded, old son. Louse number two is the spartan single-player mode. Call us old-fashioned if you must, but we like our sky sims to come with configurable dogfight generators and enveloping, dynamic campaigns.

A mission editor, a sprinkle of single sorties and a campaign engine that randomly generates its challenges but doesn’t encourage freelancing or foster a sense of squadron don’t quite cut it. If you demand a rich, colourful career mode, stick with Over Flanders Fields or the venerable Red Baron II, or wait and see what external DCGs the community cook up (there’s already one in the works).

You may also want to hang back if you like your hangars well-stocked. RoF ships with just four flyables: the Fokker D.VII, Spad XIII, Albatross D.Va and Nieuport 28. Extra birds such as the iconic Camel and Dr.I cost money for each. Ah IL-2, how we miss thy generosity.


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