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IL-2 WW1, Part 2

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IL2 - World War One

Fighting the First World War in the air, IL-2 style - part two

Code of Honour - the campaign continues...

Plan for this mission report was, I'd fly one in a different campaign. But my first mission in the Code of Honour campaign left me wanting to have another crack at the Huns in my Dark Blue World 1916 SE5...considering I'd barely seen the enemy, on the first outing.

So back I went to 56 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps and the Third Battle of Ypres, July 1917; which battle the campaign designer had moved south from its actual location, so as to make use of DBW 1916's excellent Somme map.

I loaded up the next mission...and got my first surprise. Here's the briefing screen:

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As before, the mission seemed to be in the form of a Line Patrol, flying up to, then along, the area of the trenches. My task could have been stated more clearly, I think, as it is, for example, in the Rise of Flight missions you get with Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator. But the surprising thing in this briefing was the warning to look out for low-flying Zeppelins! Now, the French and the Germans - the main operators of large airships in WW1 - had learned much earlier in the war, through painful experience, that the front was no place for airships, especially in daylight or at low level. I dare say that attacking Zeppelins can be fun - I haven't done that since the last time I played Crimson Skies! - but I don't care for such departures from historical reality in a flight sim. Modern jargon like 'Primary Recon Marker' also jars a bit, in a WW1 briefing.

"Oh well, I've started, so I'll finish", I thought to myself. I needn't have worried.

The mission loaded, putting me in the virtual cockpit view for the briefest of moments, before there was a series of bangs as my SE5 and the others lined up for take off blew up noisily. I reloaded the mission; same result. The 'Frankenplanes' and balloon ground crew looked on sadly, as our SE5s burned.

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Fortunately, this was a campaign formed of a succession of single missions, so my virtual pilot suffered no long-term harm in this unpleasant mishap. On to the next mission, then! This turned out to be a solo effort. Again, my destination was the Lines, but this time, my target was rather more realistic...though there were rather a lot of them. Apparently, the Old Man, perhaps understandably unimpressed at my performance against enemy aircraft in my first mission, had decided that I would benefit from some target practice, under operational conditions, against some rather larger and less mobile potential victims - a string of Hun observation balloons. These were tethered in a long row just on the enemy side of the trenches.

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Off I went, and whatever it was had caused the flight line explosions last time, it was gone, now. The rain had showed up, though, and it was a thoroughly murky day to go balloon-busting, with visibility quite limited. For a bit of variety, I had chosen a different skin, one of 60 Squadron's short-lived but colourful schemes.

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Anyway, off I went and I was soon airborne and heading up to the front, just a short distance from our airfield.

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As my virtual pilot climbs east towards Hunland for his intended fiery rendezvous with the German observation balloons, I'll digress to offer a few of my impressions of the DBW 1916 Flight Model and the in-flight experience, generally. If you don't like digressions, you may want to bypass this next bit and read it last.    :biggrin:

The FM for the DBW 1916 SE5 (or early SE5a, if that's what it is) has a few features which stand out. Firstly, the aircraft is quite tail-heavy. In this respect it is reminiscent of the Rise of Flight equivalent. I believe the real SE5 was one of the few WW1 aircraft which had a facility for trim in pitch, in the form of a variable-incidence tailplane. Other aircraft may have been able to be trimmed to fly level at a given speed, by rigging the elevator accordingly. Given the choice I would have done this in preference to having to maintain continual forward pressure on the joystick, especially as I find it makes flying level turns harder. Doubtless IL2 trim controls can be used here.

The other noticeable feature of the FM is torque, which is significant at high throttle settings. Between this and the tail-heaviness, flying the DBW 1916 SE5 takes a bit of concentration, but it's otherwise a fine ride. Rate of roll is perhaps a little faster than the Over Flanders Fields SE, perhaps a bit slower than the (modded) First Eagles version. General manoeuvrability appears good and I have not noticed any tendency to stall, spin easily or to sideslip too much in turns. Climb and dive rates I've not attempted to assess. Likewise damage models; all I've noticed is a possible 'glass nose', from a head-on hit on a quick mission, which immediately stopped the engine dead.

The DBW 1916 aircraft I've flown so far - SE5, Albatros DIII and Nieuport 28 - all seem to fly faster when flown by Artificial Intelligence pilots. En route, they take full advantage of this and you have to cut corners in turns to catch up; or at least, I do. I tend to fly without 'complex engine management' and don't know if being able to adjust fuel mixture manually would help. Anyway, the speedy AI is another reason why flying as leader rather than wingman is a good idea, to my mind. The AI also seem to be very agile, plane for plane, capable of suspiciously sudden or violent manoeuvres, which I seem to recall from IL2-WW2.

Engine sound in the DBW 1916 SE5 is distinctly underwhelming, even in the cockpit view. I know WW1 pilots wore helmets (apart from a few exceptions, which actually included 56 Squadron's Albert Ball) but even so...I have never been in an open-cockpit aircraft but this made sitting in a Cessna with headphones over my ears seem rather noisy.

OK, let's get back to the mission. The murky weather was a good excuse to call up the in-flight map to navigate (although I tend to do this anyway, murk or no murk). As you can see, I have elected to display my own plane's icon and the 'mimap path', but I have it set to hide other aircraft icons.

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Looking down as I came up to the Lines, I noticed a balloon well below; not far from the ground, in fact. This I judged to be a British one and therefore left severely alone. You can see this balloon just off my starboard wingtips.

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A little further on, with shells bursting below, I looked down again. Another balloon! This time, it could only be a Hun 'sausage', hopefully the northernmost in the string that I was expected to clobber. Like its opposite number, this gasbag was very low indeed. Undeterred, I throttled well back, banked hard left, and spiraled down, right onto him.

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I opened fire as my sights came on and was surprised to see my target blow up immediately. That was easy...too easy, really. No need for le Prieur rockets or anything fancy.

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I pulled up hard, into a steep climb. No sooner had the thought occurred to me, 'Wot about the anti-aircraft guns, then?' than there was a flash and the first of a series of very loud bangs, as the Hun Archie woke up to my presence. I reckon it was about their fifth or sixth round that abolished most of my tailplane.

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Making the best of what control I had remaining, I managed to swing around and point my nose towards friendly territory. My engine was still running, at least....

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...or it was, until another Hun salvo arrived, neatly and simultaneously placing rounds right under my nose and what was left of my tailplane.

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This could not go on much longer and in fact, it didn't.

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Well, that was that. I don't know if I would have been any more fortunate had I refused to be drawn into an attack at virtually ground level and instead continued down the Lines in search of easier and higher prey. But even so, I really think the accuracy of the enemy AA fire was as excessive as the anti-balloon properties of my .303 rounds.

If you bypassed my earlier digression into Flight Models and stuff, you might want to read it now.

But this isn't quite the end of my Code of Honour campaign. Not just yet! I was determined to get a better flavour of DBW 1916's air-to-air combat. And I'll report on just how that turned out, in the next installment. Watch this space!

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