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There is a price to pay for this attention to detail in performance and you are going to need a well specified processor and graphics card to get the most from this game. It is recommend a Pentium 4 and GeForce 4 combination, or equivalent to get full satisfaction from this game. Anything less and you have to start compromising on the in game detail settings, or accept stuttering frame rates. There are 18 aircraft that you can fly in the game, plus many variant models, though there are some notable omissions. While you can happily take control of a Spitfire, Me-109, P51 Mustang, or Junkers 88, you won't come across a Flying Fortress anywhere in the game, which considering the theatre of operations seems strange. Criticisms aside, there is still plenty to enjoy. The flight models are excellent, especially when you switch on the realism settings, with each aircraft having distinct characteristics.
The missions are well thought out, as is the campaign system, which enables you to gain access to more aircraft as you progress and acquire skills, which can improve your tolerance to G-forces for example. Combat Flight Simulator 3 is a worthy addition to the genre. It has enough to keep long time flight-sim fans entertained and is also accessible enough for novices to pick up and play.--Jason Weston
As a US Army Air Force, Royal Air Force, or Luftwaffe pilot in Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3 you fly in the historical framework of the tactical air war in northwest Europe starting in mid-1943, but there's a significant difference. The skill and perseverance you and your squadron or Staffel bring to each battle can alter the tactical situation and the timeline of the campaign. This open-ended and flexible campaign means you can influence events, alter history, and extend the timeline to add new technology to your arsenal. How you handle these tactical and technological advantages will determine the outcome.
New features include: enhanced campaign play sends you on involved tactical missions in a campaign where success or failure can move the front line, influence the quality of equipment available, and even change the outcome of the war. New collection of 18 aircraft featuring crewable bombers (fly medium bombers and take control of the bombardier or gunner position), stunning 3-D cockpit detail, accurate performance and damage modelling, medium bomber operations, WWII state of the art aircraft (including the first jet fighters). Custom graphics engine powers super high detail ground attack targets and improved scenery with enhanced 3-D modelling and texturing Cooperative multiplayer missions and free-for-all dogfights via the Internet and LAN. Reactive world: areas of the campaign world will trigger events, spawn aircraft, generate flak and so on, in response to your presence. Role playing elements: pilots have qualities such as Bombing Skill, Vision, and Health. Strategy: you make decisions that influence how the war is fought, where to put the pressure on the enemy, and what aircraft improvements are crucial to the war effort.
Its not all bad though: for starters the graphics are generally very nice, especially the planes, weather and clouds. The engine includes dynamic lighting effects too (I suspect this is a prime suspect for the 'stuttering' effect though). Sound is OK.. not exactly mind blowing, but it occasionally surprises with some nice, immersive sounds (prime example is the creaking of you planes airframe as you pull excessive G). Flight modelling also seems generally hard to fault, with things like torque and gyro effects present, and the ability to change fuel mixtures on the ground.
Given that the core of CFS3 is a good flight sim, the developers then seem to have gone out of their way to make it 'seem' like an arcade game. Gunnery seems too easy and dogfights seem to take place at much too long a range, also there are a variety of unrealistic 'radar' type devices and 2002 style jet-plane HUD overlays active by default (although it is possible to turn them off). Locked in a knife-fight with a German BF-109, I was in a Spit taking pot shots at the enemy from about 550 meters range. The only confirmation I had that my bullets were hitting at that distance was a text alert on screen. After taking a few hits he dissapeared from view (I lost him) and I was informed sometime later that he'd 'Bought the Farm' (in the words of Chuck Yeager). This is all very different to similar experiences in IL2, where the only way you can confirm your hits is by seeing the smoke, burning oil and shrapnel fly off the enemy airfraft. Somehow, after Sturmovik, dogfights in CFS3 just don't feel 'visceral' enough..
Talking of planes, I actually think the selection of planes is a redeeming feature of the whole game. Not only the Spit, Mustang, Bf109 and FW190 are modelled, but also the Mosquito, the previously forgotten Typhoon and Lightning are in too. To add some variety, theres also some medium range bombers and three early jet fighters! Furthermore, you can take gunnery poitions in any of the bombers. Its a shame Miscrosoft felt they couldn't add some non-flyable planes too.. the skies feel oddly empty wihth only a few dozen aircraft types around.
Almost as though Miscrosoft realized they couldn't compete with IL2 in terms of the fidelity of the combat simulation, the developers have spent a lot of attention implementing a full blown dynamic campaign, as well as loads of single missions and a (fankly great fun) quick combat mode. This also manages to save the game from the dustbin, as its something thats lacking in IL2.
It came as a shock to find that the manual in the CD case was even smaller than that of 'Age of Mythology'. Fortunately, I soon realized that just about all the information usually available on paper has been included in the game via a database you can accesss at nearly any time whilst in the air, or on the ground. This is a great idea, and a first as far as I'm aware.. want to know about that plane your shooting at? hit F1 and look it up in the database. Think your cruising at too low an altitude? hit F2 and see how it should be done on the relevent checklist. This is much better than having to reach for the manual all the time and certainly accellerates the learning process. I can't help wondering weather the availability of the on-line documentation somehow affects the game performance though.
To summarize, if a certain other WWII Flight simulator didn't exist (think in Russian) CFS3 would be a great purchase, theres loads of fun stuff to do and a varied (if not representative) selection of planes to fly. Theres also enough depth in the simulation and campaign to keep both the hardcore and the casual gamer pretty happy for a good while. Unfortunately (for Microsoft anyway) it has to contend with being a poor second. And as such is only really recommended for those who are NUTS about flight simulators (guilty as charged).
A lot of the problems with CFS2 can be fixed in patches. Wether this happens or not is another question entirely.. and if it does, it would still be the inferior title for the real enthusiast. For the casual gamer with a fast PC whos interested in WW2 airplanes though, its not a bad way into the flight sim genre. Which can only be a good thing.
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