Here we are — the final part of the History of History: World War II feature! This has been a long and fun ride and I hope everyone has found some games they enjoy. This last feature will talk about all the little guys of the World War II simulation genre. Notice that this is a very niche market. Even the most popular franchises get less than 50,000 sales, if they even hit that mark they are considered run-away successes.
Air Warrior II
Release Date: 2/28/1997
Air Warrior was one of the first WWII flight simulators out of the gate. It had a lot of feedback and some complex gameplay but was knocked for the chunky graphics and so-so network play (it was modem to modem back them). Still, man air simulation nuts loved it until the next great game came out.
Air Warrior III
Release Date: 11/30/1997
And not less than 6 months later the sequel is pretty much just an online game. After hearing about the problems with the second one, Kesmai went ahead and made it actually online and not LAN. The graphics were enhanced thanks to DirectX graphics to the issue of the chunky plane was gone. The gameplay itself didn’t change much from the last game, and it did have some pretty lame explosions.
Release Date: 1/1/1998
At the time, Jane’s flight series was top of the line. WWII Fighters pushed PCs to their limits (you needed at least a Pentium 233…GASP!) and had a bunch of cool extras like interviews and full specs on all the planes. The gameplay was tight, the graphics were awesome, and the online play was great. There wasn’t too much to complain about here, WWII simulation aficionados had something to brag about.
Release Date: 6/30/1998
Online games have come a long way. No longer do you need to host conventions or LAN parties just to play with someone. No longer do you need special paid server fees to go online. WarBirds was one of those, as many as 200 people could dogfight online, and a special convention was held in Texas every year just to play this game. Playing these flight sim combat games was all about online play. It will take you tens of hours just to learn the characteristic of one plane — then you have 49 more to learn…you do the math.
Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator: WWII Europe Series
Release Date: 9/30/1998
Microsoft Flight was popular because the community could create stuff to expand the game. This series and Quake were the two biggest and most modded games back in the late 90s (and a year later Unreal Tournament was added to that list). This expansion added WWII planes and a campaign, but with the communities help it made the expansion that much better.
Nations: WWII Fighter Command
Release Date: 10/31/1999
This game had an identity crisis. It was both an action arcade and simulation that didn’t work well. Up to this point, the mid-late ’90s were the best ear from flight simulation games. Nation was a disaster, the online component was completely action-oriented with simple controls. Many gamers took the game back due to “false advertising” on the box. This was not a fun time for Psygnosis.
B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th
Release Date: 12/13/2000
B-17 was a very ambitious and highly anticipated flight-sim at the time. You played as an entire crew in a warplane. The issues were the lack of an online component, the game had a horrible frame rate, and there were many bugs to be had. That said, fans still liked it and it had a not-so-great sequel.
Release Date: 2/6/2001
A flight sim on DreamCast?! No way! Yes way, but it wasn’t all that great. It tried to please the impatient arcade console players while trying to lure PC sim players to consoles. This led to a boring experience and couldn’t get it right on either side. The Dreamcast had this issue with many PC games that went to consoles, it might have helped its quick demise.
B-17 Gunner: Air War Over Germany
Release Date: 5/20/2001
While not exactly a simulator, it spawned from the B-17 simulation series. The entire game suffered from an unplayable framerate that crippled the entire game. Despite this, it was only fun for 20 minutes at a time, probably something that would have been better on the PS2 at the time. Still worth a look if you like the series.
Release Date: 3/19/2002
WarBirds was one of the kings of online flight sims at the time. Its biggest issue was the poor implementation of ground vehicles, something that Air Warrior II made a staple in the series. Why drive a vehicle to a base when you can fly there in a fraction of the time? It didn’t make any sense. Jumping into an AA gun was great from some instant action, yet despite these flaws, it was a-rockin’ online game.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy
Release Date: 11/18/2003
Systems: PS2, Xbox, PC
PS2 — 79%
Xbox — 75%
PC — 73%
PS2 — 480,000
Xbox — 250,000
PC — <10,000
Wow, finally a slight sim on consoles! Not really. It has a hint of simulation to it, a first-person cockpit, and that’s about it. The PS2 version looks the worst, but the graphics are very bland. It plays the best on PC, yet all the flight sim players turned their nose up at it. They “let those console players have it” while they continued to fight it out in WarBirds and IL-2 Sturmovik.
The History Channel: Battle of Britain: World War II 1940
Release Date: 10/16/2003
This game is pretty much a flight sim for casual players. There are a lot of auto options, easy difficulty, low system requirements, and various other things to bring in newcomers without making them pay hundreds of dollars for weird controllers and a fancy computer. The game plays surprisingly well, but it’s still a flight simulator. A lot of hardcore fans scoffed at it, but it is still a good entry for newcomers today.
FirePower for Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3
Release Date: 6/11/2004
This expansion added over 50 planes and a new campaign to the WWII lovers out there. One notable feature was being able to stick your head out the cockpit while taxing — something that every WWII sim couldn’t really do. While IL-2 was dominating the online flight sim pack — FirePower added more thrills to one of the most modded game series of all time.
Wings of Power: WWII Heavy Bombers and Jets
Release Date: 9/13/2004
Wings of Power was praised for the immaculate detail to the texture work and sound of the planes, the only downside was no combat. This is because the Flight Simulator 2004 engine was used and that engine doesn’t have combat built into it. If you just love flying planes this is your game, if you want some action, look elsewhere.
Release Date: 10/26/2004
Pacific Fighters was probably a bit too real. It takes several minutes to prep yourself to make contact with the enemy and this is boring. The campaign was plagued with this, and no manner of great graphics will remedy it. You have to either make the scenarios yourself or download community-made ones. This one is for the very patient only.
Heroes of the Pacific
Release Date: 10/25/2005
Systems: PC, PS2, Xbox
Xbox — 77%
PS2 — 76%
PC — 75%
PS2 — 290,000
Xbox — 130,000
PC — 10,000
Yet another flight game that tried to appeal to both sides. It had solid gameplay, but was just repetitive and got boring after a while. The consoles mean dumbed-down arcadey gameplay that flight sim fans hated. It was a decent rental back in the day, but PC flight sim players stayed far away from it.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
Release Date: 3/23/2006
Systems: PC, Xbox, PS2, X360, PS3, Wii
Xbox — 72%
X360, PS3 — 66%
PC — 63%
Wii — 57%
Wii — 810,000
PS3 — 630,000
X360 — 390,000
Xbox — 80,000
PC — <10,000
So it begins. Now that the consoles are powerful enough to have flight sims on them, they instead turn into mediocre arcade shooters. Blazing Angels was looked down upon with PC flight sim fanatics, and the console gamers ate it up. Surprisingly, the worst version, the Wii version, sold the most. It had dull mission objectives, bad voice acting, and just very middle of the road.
Wings of Power II: WWII Fighters
Release Date: 7/11/2006
One of the few WWII flight sims that didn’t focus on combat. This game was all about the approach, it had fantastic graphics (for its time) and was well-liked by fans. This game didn’t get much attention, even with hardcore sim fans which is sad.
Combat Wings: Battle of Britain
Release Date: 12/30/2006
Combat Wings was kind of so-so. It was all about the combat, forget everything else. Hardcore sim fans gave it a wide berth while casual players could enjoy it. The voices were in German only (while authentic it was distracting to read the subtitles) and the graphics were nice but cartoonish.
B-17: Fortress in the Sky
Release Date: 7/19/2007
One of the only WWII games on DS and the only WWII flight sim game. Taking a PC game and smashing it on the DS is a bad idea. The graphics were just awful and made everything an unrecognizable blur. The missions were all the same, and you just gunned down the same planes over and over again. Just stay away from this.
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII
Release Date: 11/6/2007
Systems: PC, PS3, X360
X360 — 72%
PS3 — 70%
PC — 69%
X360 — 120,000
PS3 — 110,000
PC — <10,000
Blazing Angels 2 was pretty enjoyable in the sense that there was a lot to do. Tons of upgrades, a lot of planes, but no one was playing online and that’s what dogfighting is all about. Hardcore PC fans turned this down (as you can see by the sales). Consoles were taking over the flight sim market and turning into a bunch of arcade shooters. However, this niche market was dwindling fast and is the result of hardly any new flight sim games on PC.
Release Date: 3/21/2008
Another crappy flight game on Wii. Everything that could go wrong went wrong here. Awful motion controls, dated graphics, bland and boring missions, overly difficult. I actually saw this sitting in a bargain bin last month for $5. It’s sad that this is where the flight sim genre has wound up.
WWII Battle Tanks: T-34 vs Tiger
Release Date: 10/17/2008
This game is a decent simulator (for how rare tank simulators are). It had horrible graphics and bad controls but also featured a super short campaign. It was well-liked by sim fans, but quickly got overrun by World of Tanks.
Wings of Prey
Release Date: 12/25/2009
With so few flight sim games these days Wings of Prey was well received. While it was lacking in a few departments, it had plenty of planes to fly and some of the best flight sim graphics ever seen. If you want to play something more modern this is a good start.
Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII
Release Date: 8/28/2012
Systems: PC, PS3, X360
X360 — 49%
PS3 — 44%
PC — 40%
X360 — 30,000
PS3, PC — <10,000
It’s sad the great flight sim genre has to go out like this. Like being put down like a sick dog, Damage Inc ruined the whole genre. Being packaged with a cheap flight stick, consoles gamers will never know the glory of a true sim. The game was ugly, had horrible controls, was unresponsive, and had dull missions.