Combat Wings: Battle of Britain (2008)

Hey, all, another video game review. Yes, I understand your frustration but I don't care. First off, get a mousepad, because the tracking on the aiming reticle is terrrrrfuckingrrrrible. I know this because at first I had my mouse just flat on my kitchen table like always and the plane was virtually uncontrollable, janking around the sky like a meth'd-up hillbilly running for an overturned beer truck. But with a mousepad to smooth out the rolls, the plane handles remarkably well once you get the knack of it (if that takes you more than ten minutes to master then you need a new hobby).

It plays well in minimized windows.

As the title would suggest, you are fighting off the evil sausage-eating Jerries as they attempt to bomb fair Avalon into submission in the 1940-41 period. You will be tasked to fight off waves of bombers and fighters and even venture a wee bit across the Channel to smack some Nazis around on their own turf. It's a pretty fun, low-stress, arcade-style simulation, not too hard but not super easier, either. The enemy AI is pretty fair, especially on max difficulty, and there are often dozens and dozens of enemy fighters gunning for you, so you're going to get murdered numerous times no matter how good you think are. Even when you have the game down pat, it's still a fun challenge to make it through some missions alive. A capable time-waster in the final analysis, but the 23 levels only took me a single afternoon of sporadic computer time to finish. Got this for free via a Russian torrent site, so I don't feel like I threw away any real money on this game (I think it's abandonware anyway).

Watch your ammo!

Not sure I want to go back and play any of the levels again, especially since you're pretty limited in the types of planes you can fly. You only fly for the Royal Air Force and you only have four planes to choose from, all signs of the small budget the programmers were working with. Your options are the basic Hurricane/Spitfire duo that every WWII game since the dawn of time features (yawn) and the one-off prototype Hawker Tornado single-engine fighter and the limited-production Westland Whirlwind twin-engine heavy fighter. These last two are exceptional choices in almost every mission (once they are unlocked), if just for the oddball factor if nothing else. Sometimes in these cheap games you look for anything worth the effort.

Gives you a little history, too.

What did stand out? Hmm.. well, the voice acting is awesome. And there's a lot of it, both in the pre-mission cutscenes and in the constant radio chatter buzzing through your ears every damn second when you are just trying to nail that last sonofabitch Me-109 that seems to be flown by the ghost of Adolf Galland himself (for the love of god can a brother get a deflection shot up in here!) This is a Polish production, so the voice talent all have Polish accents as they are trying (mangling) to do Scottish, British, and French accents. It's often laugh-out-loud hilarious, but I'm quite sure that wasn't the reaction they were going for. Was there not one single ex-pat Brit in all of Warsaw who they could pay a couple Euros to yell “Blimey that's a lot of Messers!” into a mic?

There are even a couple turret missions.

Oh, and the aircraft damage effects are maybe the best part of the game (and the most surprising considering the budget). When your target takes that last critical hit, it explodes and breaks apart in the air in a beautiful flower of flame and debris. Chunks of wings and airframes and propellers tumble down to earth, you can follow them if you want, pouring wasted bullets into a torn-off wing as it lazily cartwheels down from the sky is quite cathartic. Sometimes little pilots on parachutes are ejected from shoot-downs, and I've committed quite a few wanton violations of the Geneva Convention on War Crimes on helpless dudes as they swing beneath their silk canopies, which I don't feel bad about at all because fuck Nazis.

Oh that's pretty cool.

There are some wonky environment aspects to the game, including invisible walls that you can literally bounce off of and ocean waves that are maddeningly the exact same texture as the sky (I crashed a lot). Most levels you can skim just above the treetops (and crash, again) but those missions set over urbanized London or Berlin have an artificial floor that you can't descend past. You might want to fly down there and zip between the buildings of London like a crazy barnstormer, but you can't, because it's a matte painting.

I just wanna go a little lower.

But that's OK because the action is up in the sky, and what a pretty sky it can be. With a wide variety of weather effects, sunlight, night, JJ Abrams lensflares, clouds, dusk, haze, fog, and even a tad bit of rain, it's certainly a very visually impressive game to play (even if those clouds hide from your view that 110 who is currently ventilating your plane with laser-like precision). Plus, and I can't commend this enough, there are NO timers to keep you from flying around and checking out the gorgeous scenery if you want.

I particularly like the dusk missions.

Ok, that's probably enough of a review on this one. If you can find a super cheap (free) copy online somewhere, I'd say give it a try, it's not bad.

The End.

Written in August 2016 by Nathan Decker.

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