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JediMaster

Il-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover Final Patch Review

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Il-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover

 

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In The Beginning

 

The name invokes certain feelings in flight simmers. For the last 18 months, those feelings have generally been a mix of rage and disappointment, judging from the comments from the online community. Using "Il-2 Sturmovik" for a sim which has not only no Il-2 Sturmoviks in it, but not even any Russian planes (aside from the recent addition of the non-WWII Su-26), is an attempt to trade on the reputation of the series before it. The original name, Storm of War: Battle of Britain, would've been more appropriate. I suppose Ubisoft felt they needed the extra marketing muscle, but it didn't matter. The retitled acronym for the sim, CloD, turned out strangely prophetic.

 

The release in the West in July 2011 was a mess. Quite frankly it wasn't even a beta, it was an alpha. There have been multiple patches, official and beta, with the last official release in Sept 2011. Now the "final" (more about that in a bit) CloD patch is here. Everything that is going to be changed or fixed has been. At $30 on Steam, is it worth the asking price for those who don't have it? For those who do, does it deserve a second look? Read on my fellow suffering simmers...

 

 

 

What The Sim Is

 

CloD has both offline and online play. Offline is simply not up to the standards set by the previous Il-2 titles. Two scripted campaigns, a few single missions, and a dozen or so quick missions are all that you are given. The single and quick missions have some inaccuracies, but are generally fine if you're not overly picky. There is an RAF campaign and a Luftwaffe campaign. The RAF one is a sad attempt at having a storyline and its reach exceeds its grasp. The consensus is you shouldn't bother with its historical anachronisms and the bizarre "Spitfire girl" scenario. There are better free RAF campaigns to play instead. The Luftwaffe one is better, but not amazingly so. It's a decent representation of the German side of the BoB with the ability to fly multiple types, but it has no real cohesion. You're not proceeding chronologically, it's more "here are some 109 missions" followed by "here are some Ju-87 missions". If you want to like it, you probably will. If you're expecting a great campaign experience, you probably won't. There are also the quick and full mission builders for those who want to go the do-it-yourself route, although I've always preferred to play others' missions to my own. Something is always inadequate about any I've made for myself.

 

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There's also a good little training module more or less teaching you to fly in the Tiger Moth. It's good for what it offers, much better than the previous Il-2 sims had. You won't spend too much time there, there are only half a dozen scenarios teaching things from takeoff to landing to spin recovery, but it will be a good experience while it lasts. It's purely about flying, no combat is included.

 

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Online was supposed to consist of coop and massive dogfight missions, like the previous Il-2 releases. So much for that plan.

While the original release and early patches made MP a frustrating affair, the final patch has smoothed it out. There are several servers that are regularly teeming with players in massive dogfight arenas, getting the most out of what CloD offers. I'd dare say the bulk of the developer's attentions were spent on this mode and it shows. There are several large servers out there supporting dozens of players, and if you liked this in Il-2 before, you'll like it here as well.

 

Coop is another matter. It doesn't work like it did in older Il-2 games. It doesn't work like in most other sims. Usually, it doesn't work. Some enterprising and determined community members have tried to cobble together a way to fly coop in CloD, consisting of using "dummy" planes and other sleights of hand, but it's a pale substitute for what the title should have had out-of-the-box, or at least after a final patch...namely at least what the original Il-2 in 2001 offered. If this is what you want CloD for, don't waste your time. Remember the great experiences, starting with Il-2 Forgotten Battles, of either single missions or a dynamic campaign in coop? Cherish those memories. Or load up Il-2: 1946 or its predecessors. Don't look to CloD.

 

The World of CloD

 

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So how does CloD look? Overall excellent, with several exceptions. The planes and cockpits are flawless. The lighting on and in them is wondrous as you turn and dive, changing the angle of the sun. There is a slider for weathering and its amazing how much it adds to the overall effect. I can't imagine anyone would be displeased with the cockpits, they set a new standard. The damage looks great, albeit not as good as it was before. For performance enhancement reasons, in the last patches the level of detail was reduced. That applies to all the graphics in CloD, actually...the unpatched and unplayable slow and buggy release version looked better for the most part. It still is as good as any other out there, it's just no longer clearly the best. This is most clearly seen in the terrain. The terrain is ok. Better than the older Il-2s, on a par with DCS, but not quite up to Rise of Flight. The weather has a meager implementation aside from a nice little frosting of the windows in clouds. While time of day is done well, there just isn't that dynamic weather that was discussed during the sim's development, and even the static weather is simple. What clouds exist are certainly not best-in-class. Compared to older Il-2, it's somewhat better, but CloD's level has been surpassed by other sims.

 

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Now to be clear, all this is with the graphics at top levels. On my i7-2600k/GTX570/4 GB RAM Win 7 64-bit machine, I'm satisfied overall with how the sim looks and flies. The performance is as good as say ROF without making odd tweaks to my system or the game files to achieve it. One jarring exception is FSAA. The sim has an option for it, but it really doesn't make much difference. While on the positive side it barely affects performance, on the negative side it barely affects the visuals! Instead, I have the in-game FSAA off and turned on FXAA in my nVidia driver panel (because forcing FSAA on there didn't work either). I'm not sure if AMD owners have SMAA or a similar option in their drivers as I've not had an AMD card in a couple of years now, but FXAA gives the best improvement in appearance/performance hit tradeoff for my system.

 

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Artificial Myopia

 

The AI in CloD is not an improvement over the Il-2s that came before. Perhaps if you specify "when X happens" you can point out an improvement here or a lesser reaction there, but overall I'd say the AI is more or less the same. Those who found the AI in Il-2's gone by lackluster performers will have a similar reaction here. The increased tendency to sit ALMOST on a target's six and then fire the entire ammo load, missing by a wingspan or more, is certainly a worsening of the old AI behavior. What seemed to then happen only on occasion is now a regular routine. In fact, the best way to avoid getting shot down by the AI is to get them on your six and fly straight-and-level while they run out of ammo. Then you turn around and chase them down, and as they will often RTB on some sort of autopilot in that case it's very easy to drop on THEIR six and take them out.

Friendly AI is abominable, as always in the Il-2 series. Radio commands to them are an exercise in futility. If you enjoy getting attacked by the enemy while your wingmen watch mutely, only to have them bravely charge in and deliver the coup de grace as you hammer away at an enemy's six, robbing you of the gratification, then look no further than CloD!

 

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The Planes

 

CloD has a decent array of planes that fought in the Battle of Britain. It unusually includes a couple of Italian planes, and likewise excludes a few more-pertinent-to-the-conflict planes like the Do17. It has as flyable:

 

Bf109E1,3/3b, and 4/4b

Bf110C4/7

Blenheim IV

Br20M

G50

He111H2/P2

Hurricane DH5-20/Rotol

Ju87B2

Ju88A1

Spitfire I/II/IIa

Tiger Moth

Su26 (or more aptly named Sir Not Appearing In This War)

 

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In the AI-only list, we have:

 

Avro Anson

Bristol Beaufighter

Bf108

CR42

Defiant

Fw200

Gladiator

He115

Sunderland

Walrus

Wellington

 

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I'm not what many would define as a hardcore simmer (any more, 15 years ago was another life). I don't really care if the Spit IIa's time to climb is 10% too slow, or the speed at which a 109E's wings rip off is 10% too low. I just care that every plane is relatively the same; that all the planes time to climbs are 10% too large or whatever. If the 109E errs 10% high and the Spit is 10% below, that means the historical comparison between the two is blown. As long as they're both wrong in the same direction, the relative performance differences will be maintained.

I'm not flying time trials or other test pilot stuff, I'm a combat pilot. I want tactics that worked in the war to work here, and tactics that failed to fail here. I don't want to see a plane that got nowhere in the war be an F-16 in comparison to its contemporaries! The rest is rivet-counting fluff that doesn't affect actual gameplay. If my top speed is 30kt too low, but so is my adversary's, I'm fine with that.

 

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If I'm flying a plane that should be able to boom and zoom my adversary's plane, it better not be slower! If I'm flying a nimble dogfighter that relied on agility because it had a low top speed, I better not outrun him! The previous Il-2s had some planes that were "off" in that respect, the Pacific Fighters stable being generally the worst offenders. Chase my P-38 down in a Zero will you??

 

CloD seems to avoid this by and large. I've read reports that some find the Stuka TOO good, or that these planes' ceilings are too low, these planes wallow where they should soar, etc. Personally I've not experienced that, with the caveat that while I have hundreds of hours in the Il-2 series, I've only been able to put about 10 hrs into CloD. I just haven't been able to muster the desire to do more than that yet, honestly. So it's possible there are FM weaknesses I will take note of with more flight time that have yet to rear their heads.

 

A pleasant improvement over older Il-2s is the armament. While before every MG was a .22 at best and every cannon shell a virtual grenade, in CloD you can actually shoot down a 109 with nothing but .303s and still have plenty of ammo left over. You can even get several if you're both lucky and frugal with your trigger. The cannons are indeed more powerful, but not overpowerful. Combined with the strides forward in damage modeling, it means you can expect to actually fall to an enemy's MGs but not instantly shatter under their cannons.

 

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Sound, UI, and Other Bits

 

The Sept 2011 patch redid the sound coding for CloD, and it's a vast improvement. Il-2 always had poor sound, and CloD's was actually worse. It's now better than Il-2 ever was. Real engine sounds were sampled and instead of being offensive it is now quite pleasing to the ear. Provided you enjoy the roar of a Merlin, of course. The sound is now one of the highlights of CloD.

 

The UI is what we've come to expect from 21st century sims...bare bones, utilitarian, and serviceable. It's a backhanded compliment to say "the UI isn't a trainwreck", but really the most positive way I can describe it is "it works." Not confusing, clearly laid out, but ultimately sterile. Still, it will not hinder your simming experience, it just does nothing to enhance it.

 

Like its forebears, CloD has Complex Engine Management for those who yearn to do it "like the pilots". It's modeled here in all its complex glory for those who enjoy tweaking their engine and prop configuration for optimal performance in a given flight regime. A confession: I don't care for it. I've heard all the arguments, that it's more "real" to have to contend with flying AND fighting, that it's possible to get the plane to perform better than with the engine on auto, and so on. It's just not for me. I prefer to imagine I'm doing all those things on a "personal autopilot", as those who've driven a car with manual transmission will attest to...you just do it without thinking about it. I'm sure if I had as many hours to dedicate to flying WWII sims as I spent driving a stick shift I could learn those mixtures and prop settings just as well. However, I do not. I let the sim do for it me and concentrate my time on what I enjoy doing--flying the plane and fighting the enemy. Stalls, spins, torque, and wind and turbulence are plenty for me to feel it's real enough. As I said, I'm not what would now be considered a hardcore simmer. I was one in the 90s, when the sims had less to learn and I was either in school or freshly out. My life has changed, and so have my simming habits! To those who scoff and look down their nose because they "let the computer do it", I say back off. It's not your job to decide how others enjoy their sims. Sim and let sim.

 

End of the CloD

 

This last patch was final. There will be no more patches for CloD. Maybe if something is found horribly broken there will be some hotfix, but be assured there will be no more major fixes or changes. 1C has moved on to the sequel, likely to be Battle of Moscow, although as always plans could change. According to 1C, the next time CloD will be updated is when the sequel is installed on top of it. Any features not here now will not appear till then at the earliest, and it will not be free. On the plus side, the sequel will either integrate with CloD (allowing all fixes to back-port to CloD) or it will have all CloD's content inside it in some way allowing you to fly it inside the new sim.

 

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So for those of you who bought the sim a year or more back and have been waiting for the definitive fix, go ahead and try it again. If you've been waiting for this patch to buy, how you feel about it will likely depend on what you expect from it. If you spend your time on servers online flying with and against other humans, chances are you will be satisfied with CloD's state. I won't say "thrilled" necessarily, again your expectations may vary, but CloD is now capable of succeeding Il-2 in the online dogfight arena. I'd say $30 for a product you'll probably spend 100+ hrs in is a great value. If you can find it cheaper elsewhere, I'd say you'd get even better value.

 

If your interest is in offline or coop online play, the verdict is different. Minimal offline content and what is there is of questionable value. There are the mission builders if you want to make missions yourself, but personally I've never enjoyed missions I make myself. Others make them, some for free, so go ahead and look online for some, but quality of course varies. There are payware campaigns from Desastersoft that many find worth the money, especially for the features it adds on top of just good missions. It does require spending more for CloD, of course, but it will give you the single player experience that a top end BoB sim would be expected to offer.

 

Coop? Well frankly it's broken. For a feature I used more than any other in Il-2, from 2001 to the present, to be in such a state was particularly hard for me to bear. We won't be seeing a fix for it in CloD, although if you decide to get the successor you might have some hope. Here are the words from the developers themselves on the issue:

"Redoing co-op is a huge task. We are a business. We have to make a profit somewhere somehow. We cannot keep pumping resources and releasing free patches for Cliffs of Dover forever.

And regarding not using our products in the future if we do not redo co-op now. I believe the majority in this community actually will. If we offer a much more comprehensive co-op experience in a future product, and especially if such an experience still allows you a trip back in time to fly some Spits and 109s over the Channel, well, I really hope that most people will want to get the sequel.

To reiterate - I've never said that we'll never address co-op, I've only said we cannot do it within the Cliffs of Dover project."

So there it is, the nonfunctional coop will never work in CloD without buying another product from 1C to enhance or supplant it.

 

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Unlike some in the community, I've never hated CloD, I've just gone from "profound disappointment" to "disappointment." Il-2 was a classic, despite its flaws (which IMO were many, from some quirky FMs for certain radial planes like the Fw190 and P-47 to the maddening friendly and enemy AI), because of everything it had and did right. CloD is now a decent WWII sim...and it will never graduate beyond "decent". Poor to lackluster campaigns, a smattering of single missions that are nothing special, broken coop MP. The online dogfighters and mission makers will likely be satisfied. What will happen with sequels/addons/integration with CloD may make it better if you spend more money on it, but as is it's well...forgettable.

 

It's not the film you see on Saturday and spend the next week raving about (how good or how awful it was), it's the one where you start thinking about dinner before the credits roll, and come Wednesday have a hard time recalling what the details were when someone asks you!

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Good review. I can see I wont be wasting money on this title. Too bad really. Thanks for the heads up. Too many outstanding sims to toy with one this mediocre.

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Nicely written review. I have recently re-installed CLoD but haven't actually fired it up as I've been plugging away at Air Hauler in FSX (I'm not sure if that says anything about my desire to test the new CLoD patch or not...) :)

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Yes, I must say the only reason I picked this up again at all was to do the review! I was otherwise unmotivated, especially after reading what I did about coop....

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And most importantly for me it has to be run with STEAM and its requirements. Thanks for the review. Now I don't feel at all bad about passing on spending money and time for CLoD. I am sorry to say but I get the feeling that Battle for Moscow or whatever may be just a ploy to get more cash for a company whose products and policies are on a downward slide.

Edited by Tuba2

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There have been a bunch of rumors since this review was written as far as 1C and 777 in talks about continuing this franchise alongside "Luthier and CloD team let go" rumors.

 

When an official statement is made as far as the future of the franchise, even though it's irrelevant to CloD itself as now available, I'll update the review with a bit.

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      At time of writing, Atlantic Fleet is distributed via Steam - at a mere £6.99 Sterling. As we will see, for a game with high production values, engaging gameplay and an historical depth and coverage that would put many a full-price simulation in the shade, if not to shame, this is a very considerable bargain, to put it mildly.
       
      I gather there are no plans to offer a different distribution channel and while I prefer the 'good old days' of standalone game installation, I have had no bother at all with any of the excellent Steam-based games I have purchased (Victory at Sea, Wargame: European Escalation and Wargame: AirLand Battle being the others) and would not consider passing up on a good game merely because of that.
       
      I must start with Atlantic Fleet's high production values - these you will see from the moment the game loads. Here's the main menu screen. The ship seen here is the famous German battlecruiser Scharnhorst,* lost fighting against the odds at the Battle of the North Cape - which you can re-fight in Atlantic Fleet. Scharnhorst's brave showing prompted Admiral Fraser in Duke of York to say afterwards to his officers "Gentlemen, the battle against Scharnhorst has ended in victory for us. I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today". Such is the world of steel ships and iron men that Atlantic Fleet re-creates for us. But I digress...can't help it, I feel the hand of history on my shoulder, as TCB once said.
       

       
      *...and yes, before you start posting corrections, I know the ship above is actually a Hipper class heavy cruiser - Prinz Eugen, probably -  not Scharnhorst, but I couldn't resist the quote above and don't have a menu pic of Scharnhorst, to hand .
       
      The point is, it looks great, it's animated, with camera pivoting around the ship, and there's a different ship each time. See, here's another menu shot, and this time, it's one of the big German destroyers, several variations of which appear in the game:
       

       
      Atlantic Fleet is single-player only, so you will not find here any way to blow up anything other than an entirely virtual foe-man. You do, however, get a sombre but really effective musical theme to accompany the menu, and you can have music in-game, too.
       
      Taking the menu options from the top, first there is 'Training Missions'. These missions are actually rather useful, and a good way of ensuring that it is the enemy who ends up like this, and not you:
       

       
      And again yes, you heard right, you can drop the camera below the waves, to get this view, complete with rather scary grinding and booming ship sinking sounds;
       

       
      As for those training missions, which will hopefully reduce the frequency with which your own ships feature in such scenes, here's what you get. Again it's nicely presented, with good artwork and a clean, crisp interface. I did mention the high production values, didn't I?
       

       
      Here's the intro screen for the torpedo training mission. I really like Atlantic Fleet's artwork and the general design:
       

       
      Load the mission and you get a little scenario, here a Royal Navy destroyer steaming alongside a hapless German merchantman. You click your way through a series of topic boxes, to learn the lesson. You can toggle the topic box on and off, for a better view. They each do a very good job of taking you through the relevant drill.
       

       
      This is where you may first get to see the Atlantic Fleet mode of gameplay, and its most prominent feature is that it is turn-based, like a wargame. The sequence is: You move-You shoot-The enemy moves-The enemy shoots. We'll see how this works in more detail, later. Continuous gameplay would be better, and certainly more simulation-like, but it is what it is, and I soon got quite comfortable with it.
       
      Jumping ahead to the last menu option, we come to 'Options/Help', and here's what you get:
       

       
      As the menu title suggests, some of the things listed on the right of the screen above are options screens, others are help. The 'home' screen, above, lets you tweak various gameplay and difficulty options, as you can see. The 'Default controls' screen lets you re-map keyboard commands, like this...
       

       
      ...while the 'Damage Report' is a help option and looks like this:
       

       
      I find it all very well-presented and impressively thorough, very well up to the standards of PC sims and better than many I've seen, including the very best.
       
      My main interest in a WW2 naval sim or game is the ability to re-fight historical or hypothetical battles, and it's that option we will look at next. Here, we will see how Atlantic Fleet's gameplay comes together, when the shells, torpedoes and bombs start flying.
       

       
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      Flying World War 1 from the start, with some new campaigns for Il-2's CUP mod!
       

       
      The recent Combined User Patch (CUP) for Il-2 1946 now has four modules: Dawn of Flight for World War 1, Golden Age for the inter-war period, Wings at War for WW2, and the Jet Age for the post-war era. For the first of these, SAS's Monty, of The Full Monty fame - the Il-2 mod, not the movie! - has just released a set of scripted-mission campaigns. And naturally, being long interested in the air war of that period, this was one that I wasted no time in trying out.
       
      So far, the first part of an eventual 32 'mission set campaigns' is available, and you can find the details over at the SAS forum, here. Most unusually for a WW1 sim, what this first part gives us is the ability to fly from the very start of the First World War, in August 1914. The first mission set - 'Demarcation' - kicks off in the Vosges, where the demarcation line ran between the French and German empires or that period.
       
      Up to now, the earliest WW1 flight sim missions have flown have been from the era of the Fokker Scourge in the summer of 1915. So while I knew not to expect too much in the way of air combat at a time when most aircraft were unarmed and those that were, generally relied on carbines or pistols carried aloft by their crew, I was keen to try out something new, with the option of jumping ahead any time I wanted; in particular, the 1916 Verdun campaign tickled my fancy, with the opportunity it seemed to fly as the famous Jean Navarre, whose Nieuport Bébé, painted red before von Richthofen copied him, was the terror of the Boches and the hero of the Poilus.
       
      The 'Demarcation' campaign is the first mission-set in the series and sees the player flying a Nieuport N4 monoplane. This famous French company is of course more famous for their V-strutted fighters starting with the Nieuport 10 and 11. But pre-war, Nieuport was noted for its racing or sports planes including a line of neat monoplanes, from which comes the aircraft I’ll be flying on this campaign. There’s some more info about the type on Wikipedia, here; evidently the type was quite widely used, albeit in small numbers, notably by the Russian Air Service. For this campaign I’m with the French air service, which was probably the biggest and best of the combatant air forces at the start of the war and in the thick of it from start to last.

      In the early months of WW1, aircraft were purely for visual reconnaissance and were not routinely armed. Rare exceptions included the Farman of Louis Strange, 5 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, who contrived to fit a Lewis Gun, only to be ordered to remove it after the extra weight resulted in the aircraft failing to get high enough to intercept a snooping German warplane. Thereafter, pistols and carbines remained the only (generally ineffectual) option for aircrew who fancied having a crack at their opposite numbers in the air. The first air-to-air ‘kill’ came in October 1914, when Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault brought down a German Aviatik; Quénault reportedly had to finish the job with a rifle after his Hotckhiss MG packed it in.

      As I was soon to discover, my single-seater Nieuport is armed from the get-go, with what looks like a Danish Masden mag-fed LMG. The real catch is that it’s mounted to fire upwards to clear the propeller arc, this being before the introduction of deflectors or interrupter gear. Lanoe Hawker had some success in 1915 in a Bristol Scout with a Lewis gun mounted to fire left and ahead so this arrangement isn’t entirely untypical of the sort of lash-ups early aviators made from early in the war, to get a decent crack at the enemy in a single-seater, with no observer to man a flexibly-mounted gun.
       

       
      Here’s the mission brief. It's just as well I've got the MG, because apparently, the enemy fliers have been activer over our territory. While my patrol zone is marked as a recce objective (eye graphic on a yellow triangle) our aims are offensive in nature. It's a defensive patrol, for two of us, though by the sound of it, my companion’s dodgy motor means that I might be alone. We don’t have far to go, in the horizontal sense anyway. But this is the Vosges and elevation will be a different matter, as I will soon find out. Typically for these new missions, you can forget about one of IL-2's most useful navigational map aids - there's no minimap path. This is 1914 after all, just over ten years from Kittyhawk and Orville and Wilbur's first successful flights in a heavier-than-air flying machine.
       

       
      Intrigued to find out how my first venture into virtual 1914 military aviation will work out, I wasted no time launching the mission, having made sure that in the difficulty settings, I had turned off flutter and wind effects (which the WW1 flight models can’t cope with – IIRC they result in planes having regular attacks of ‘the wobbles’).

      And this is what I saw. Truly, our airfield is a veritable diorama, packed with people, vehicles and other aircraft. While the people aren’t animated, it’s still an impressive spectacle, packed with interest.
       

       
      My number two tried a couple of times to get his engine running but each time it spluttered to a stop; possibly just as well as the bloke in front of him seemed disinclined to get out of his way. My motor showed no such reluctance and after a quick look around I decided to take off straight ahead, without worrying about runways. This worked out just fine, my lightweight aircraft lifting off at a speed which didn’t seem much faster than some of the trucks motoring around the airfield.
       

       
      Sitting roughly at mid-chord above a broad wing, it was obvious I wasn’t going to see much from the cockpit. The Voisins and Farmans parked around the airfield would have made much better reconnaissance machines, and indeed they served on after Nieuport monoplanes had disappeared from the front lines. Flying from the external view, I got a much better view of both my aircraft and its surroundings.
       

       

       
      And fine surroundings they were. Our airfield turned out to be on a little plateau set into the side of an impressive mountain, which comprised a series of peaks with lower ‘saddles’ in between. I resisted the temptation to play that song from that musical, but the hills, if not alive with the sound of music, certainly looked worth the trip.
       



       
      After a bit of sight-seeing, orienting myself with the help of the map, I realised that my reconnaissance objective had been rather inconveniently sited at the top of the highest peak. As my rate of climb seemed to be rather close to the  ‘imperceptible’ end of the scale, this presented me with a bit of a problem. Throttle fully open, I settled into the best climb I could manage on a course parallel to the long side of the ridge or peaks. Compared to the WW2 planes I’m used to flying in Il-2, it felt like I was in a powered glider, and a nose-heavy one at that. Heck, this ‘racing’ plane felt slow, compared to the WW1 planes I’d flown in other sims. Slow...but not too sedate, with a tendency to dive away or begin a roll to either side, if I didn’t concentrate on keeping things level. With little dihedral, a small unbalanced rudder and wing warping for lateral control, this seemed to make sense. Quite an interesting experience in itself, the flight was shaping up to be.
       

       

       
      Realising that I was not going to gain enough height on one leg, I could not resist the temptation of turning right and crossing the ridgeline over one of the saddles. Even getting high enough to do this, took a certain amount of time and effort and I just scraped across. Having gone over the mountain to see what I could see, like the bear in the song the result was not unexpected – the other side of the mountain.
       

       

       
      I now flew a long leg away from the objective to gain sufficient height. That done, I turned around - gently, so as not to lose any of my precious height - and made my way back, aiming for the top of the correct peak.
       


       
       
      Finally I was right over the summit. I should have over-flown my objective to one side or the other, but I was quite keen for my track on the map to intersect the centre of the target marker, lest such precision was needed for mission success or to trigger some necessary mission event.

      In fact it worked – I got the ‘mission completed’ text so that was it. And I didn’t get shot at, or even see a single enemy aircraft. They were there, though, but I only realised that later, when I noticed an enemy aircraft icon on a screenshot which I had taken with the mini-map view briefly turned on!!! To be honest, I'd sort of forgotten the briefing, having been so taken up with the actual flying side of the challenge. And I had become rather fixated on overflying that big marker, as if I were genuinely on a recce flight. Anyway, the top of that mountain was about as bare as a mountain-top can be. Giving up on earlier ideas about putting in a flypast at the castle I’d seen on a lower peak nearby, I decided that honour had been satisfied; it was time to go home. A nice hot brandy in the Mess would help me recover from the rigours of flying amongst the mountains in my little powered glider. Down we went. The early aviators were in the habit of turning off their motors during a descent but I just cut the throttle to idle and experimented a bit with diving angle and airspeed. The unfamiliar flight model I found quite convincing; I have no idea at all how a real Nieuport 4 handled but this one felt just about perfect, for such an aircraft.
       

       
      It wasn't long before I was turning onto my final approach...although to the wrong airfield I believe, a deceptively-similar one on a similar mountainside plateau. I must have had my mind firmly set on that brandy!
       

       
      For a sortie on which I'd missed my opportunity to have my first air fight, I'd actually found the experience surprisingly absorbing. I think I'll try at least one more campaign mission in the Nieuport 4, before moving on to something more warlike. There's just something about the mission which seemed to capture so well the experience of stooging around in an aircraft that is little more than a docile but ungainly powered glider..albeit one with a sting.
       
      ...to be continued!
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