Tollkühne Kampfflieger haben zur Zeit Hochsaison: Wem die Kisten in „Their finest Hour“ immer noch zu mondän waren, der kann jetzt dank Cinemaware in einem Doppeldecker den Luftraum des Weltkriegs I unsicher machen. Unser Auslandskorrespondent Timothy Kansas hat buchstäblich Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung gesetzt, um topexclusiv ein erstes Testmuster für Euch an Land zu ziehen!
Wings besteht aus zwei deutlich voneinander getrennten Teilen: Der erste ist ein geradliniges Shoot-‚em-up, bei dem das Geschehen aus der Vogelperspektive zu bewundern ist. In der Regel greifen die Gegner in Formationen zu je acht Fliegern an; die Sache ist also nicht sonderlich schwierig zu meistern. Augenfällif ist, daß das eigene Flugzeuf-Sprite für Cinemaware-Verhältnisse ein bißchen einfallslos gestaltet wurde, dafür ist das Vertical-Scrolling über jeden Zweifel erhaben. Nun, der gesamte Abschnitt ist wohl ohnehin eher zum Aufwärmen für den nun folgenden zweiten Teil gedacht.
Hier sitzt man in einem typischen Weltkrieg I-Flugzeug, unmittelbar hinter dem Piloten. Durch diese „hautnahe“ Perspektive wird einem tatsächlich sehr überzeugend das Gefühl vermittelt, selbst mit an Bord zu sein.
Die einzig nennenswerte Ausrüstung des Fliegen ist die Bordkanone - kein Wunder, daß die durchschnittliche Lebenserwartung eines Piloten damals bei schlappen drei Wochen angesiedelt war! Das Fluggebiet ist riesig, allerorten lauern die verschiedensten Gegner. Immerhin gilt es, über 240 (!) verschiedene Missionen zu absolvieren. Kein Pappenstiel, denn den (einzigen) Hinweis auf herannahende Feinde bekommt man dadurch, daß der Pilot seinen Kopf nach links oder rechts dreht. Dann fliegt man in die jeweilige Richtung und ballert drauf los; etwas schwieriger wird es, wenn die Verfolger einen von hinten unter Beschuß nehmen. Hier sind dann fliegerische Qualitäten gefordert – mit diesen prähistorischen Schaukeln einen lehrbuchmäßigen hinzuzaubern, ist wahrlich keine Kleinigkeit. Auch die Vielzahl der sonstigen möglichen Flugmanöver ist erst nach einer Übung zu meistern, was für die authentische Umsetzung der technischen Beschränkungen spricht, mit denen die Fliegerasse der guten (?) alten Zeit zu kämpfen hatten. Wer abgeschossen wird, bekommt das zum Trost in einer toll gemachten Sequenz zu sehen.
Die Grafik ist, wie von Cinemaware nicht anders zu erwarten, traumhaft schön. Während des Flugs gibt es dahinziehende Wolken, idyllische Täler und etliches mehr zu bewundern. Die farbenprächtigen und klar gezeichneten Sprites sind riesig, allein der Pilot und sein Cockpit füllen mehr als die Hälfte des Screens aus. Soundmäßig wird man durch eine ganze Symphonie von gesampelten Geräusche auch akustisch voll in das Geschehen miteinbezogen. Nur kommt auf Dauer die Abwechslung etwas zu kurz, besonders, wenn man erstmal den Bogen raus hat. Ein Testspielchen sollte sich der begeisterte Computer-Pilot dennoch nicht entgehen lassen! (C. Borgmeier)
Amiga Joker, September 1990, p.18
Paul Lakin has had a somewhat traditional upbringing. He even used to sing soprano in the school choir and as a fan of Aled Jones, couldn't wait to emulate his hero by 'walking in the air'. What we didn't tell him is that Wings is set in the First World War...
Suddenly the First World War is becoming almost fashionable. Hard to imagine how spending four years up to your neck in mud, slogging it out with an equally tired, cold and frightened enemy could ever be regarded as fashionable. Then again some people go to Ibiza on holiday. Whatever the reason there are more than a couple of games set in the killing years of 1914/18 in the offing.
However nobody has yet devised a trench simulator. Companies have looked to the air for their inspiration. This is not really surprising. There is considerable romance surrounding the early days of flight. The days when you flew by the seat of your pants rather than the dials of a computer. Just as a spitfire has a greater sense of romance than a Tornado so a Sopworth Camel is more romantic than either. It dates from an era when combat was more personal. This may not be a good thing but it's certainly an exciting one.
Cinemaware's foray into this arena aims to capture the romance of the air and mix it with the romance of the cinema. The action takes place in France in 1916. As a new pilot you must first earn your wings. This is done at flying school where you have three fairly rudimentary (I thought that's what cows did. Ed.) tests in straffing, bombing and balloon busting. If you can get past one of these then you'll be sent straight to the front. (Well, there was a serious pilot shortage.) You can skip the training section if you wish but you'll be ill prepared and worse still you'll be called Waldo R Barnstormer. (He's the only pilot who starts the game with his wings, presumably because they felt sorry for him at flying school.)
Once at the front line you meet the tough, stern and not-at-all-interested-in-boy-scouts-no-sirree Colonel Farrah. It doesn't take him long to gauge your prowess and he swiftly entrusts you with looking after his collection of interesting tea pots. Well perhaps that's not quite fair. He entrusts you with the Squadron Diary. This allows you to write a brief description of your bowel movements and the weather conditions as well as much less interesting things like a description of each mission. Except the one you don't return from of course.
The missions vary from downing an enemy observation balloon (easy peasy) and strafing enemy convoys (pretty much a cinch) to taking on a squadron of the Bosche. (Deadly.) As well as different missions there are also different perspectives. For strafing and bombing runs you view the plane from above whereas for dogfights you're in the cockpit. Well just behind it to be exact, your view is over the pilot's shoulder. His head turns from side to side to let you know where danger lies. One handy tip is - if the head slumps forwards and tomato ketchup starts to flow from the neck start worrying. You're dead.
Paul: This game ought to include a free bag of sweeties in special rustley wrappers. Not because WWI pilots were particularly partial to a mint humbug between sorties but because Cinemaware have produced a game dripping with cinematic atmosphere. The opening sequence, complete with Orville and Wright inventing flight, could easily have come from a film. This is the First World War not as it was but as Hollywood would like it to be. Accurate? Well maybe. Atmospheric? You bet your prop it is.
A lot of the atmosphere is built up before you're in the air. The screens of the airfield and Colonel Farrah's office are beautifully detailed. The flight journal, which you write up before each mission, attempts to capture the feelings of a young pilot stuck in a field in a foreign land. To be honest it reads more like the feelings of a Hollywood scriptwriter though the language jars slightly if you're trying to play a French or British pilot. Still it's an imaginative idea and a nice touch.
Once you're in the air, the main things you notice are not the graphics, though they're fairly effective. It's the sound that grips you. Take off and all the arty farty music stuff is replaced by the roar of engines, the chattering of machine guns and the tightwire zing as bullets tear through canvas and wood.
It's almost worth getting shot down to hear the screaming engines and wind as you plummet to earth. As you haul back on the joystick will the last sound you hear be the comforting thud of your wheels on mud or the explosion of oblivion? Read on and find out.
There are two styles of combat in Wings, each has its strengths and weaknesses. The most fun and atmospheric is the dogfight. Although the graphics (with the exception of your own cockpit) are fairly basic, the gameplay isn't. Banking and turning are all smooth and there's a real sensation of action going on around you. As well as the tension of killing and avoiding being killed there's an element of competition involved. Nothing is more frustrating than doing all the hard work against an opponent only for your wing man to nip in and steal the kill and all the glory. One solution to this is to shoot down your wingman first of course.
Less successful are the arcade sequences, involving strafing and bombing runs. And although the graphics on these sections are a lot more detailed than in the dogfights the game-play soon becomes rather tedious; something that has to be gone through in between dogfights. In fact one of the faults of Wings is the amount that has to be gone through before getting into the air. The missions themselves are fairly short and don't require you to return to base once they're completed. Sometimes the whole thing's over in seconds, then you're back with the Squadron journal and dear old never-worn-a-black-silk corset-no-not-on-your-life Colonel Farrah. You seem to spend more time on the ground than in the air. This might be realistic but it's also a bit boring.
Zero, November 1990, pp.36-37
Cinemaware/Mirrorsoft, Amiga £29.99
Not for you the slime and ignominy of the trenches, ratburgers for
tea and mustard gas for cologne. Nope, you're an Allied fighter pilot, a glamour puss outfitted with a silk scart and designer leather jacket. Your life expectancy may not be more than a few days, but you look good and that's all that matters.
But before you can experience that stylish going down-in-flames death, you must complete flight school. First you must create your pilot by naming him and attributing a set number of ability points to four skills: flying, shooting, mechanical aptitude and stamina. Then you must successfully complete a training mission (strafing, bombing, or flying) to join the 56th Aerosquadron.
Once in the squadron, your Commanding Officer, Colonel Farrah, will give you the job of writing the squadron journal - a diary which often contains useful information about your next mission. There are three basic mission types: a Zaxxon- style strafing run, an overhead- view bombing run, and a 3-D aerial combat section. The first two have specified targets to destroy - a bridge, convoy, or even a moving train - while avoiding anti-aircraft fire.
Aerial combat missions include dogfighting with enemy planes (including Eindeckers and Fokkers), bursting enemy recon balloons, and protecting allied bombers and balloons. For all these you're accompanied by one or more computer-controlled pilots. Your 'backseat' cockpit viewpoint shows the pilot's head turning to spot enemy planes - in addition you can look around using four external views. For such a basic biplane, controls are simple: bank left/right and pitch up/down - there's no speed control. Your only weapons are twin machine guns which have a tendency to jam every so often, leaving you a sitting duck! Like your enemies, you can take a number of hits before being downed. Sometimes you may be able to ditch your damaged plane and survive, though Colonel Farrah won't be too pleased - three warnings from him and you're thrown out of the force.
Back at base your performance is evaluated and the league table of pilots shown with number of missions flown and kills. Do well and you could win a medal or even promotion. However, your real aim is simply to survive 230 missions until the end of the war. If you die, your next pilot starts off at that date, so you can play through the war with a number of different pilots.
Zzap! Issue 67, November 1990, Pp.84-85