B-17 Flying Fortress logo

Ben Styles gets all tearful over the changes in flight sims and the state of things to come. Somewhere in there he mentions B17...

It's been strange to watch the changes in certain types of gmes over the last year. Flight sims especially have undergone a drastic shift in the way that the programmers construct the games.

In the middle of last year I made several jokes about the laborious process of getting into a flight sim. It was hopeless if you just wanted to have a quick fly about and shoot down a couple of planes.
That aspect or facility no longer exists in this genre. They have become progressively more strategic as the months have gone on. It is not uncommon for you to be able to contorl ground troops or artillery, and the attributes of the staff with whom you fly the craft have become more and more complex as time has gone on. After a hard day of work you don't want to listen to your co-pilot's life story!

There are also different ways of getting around the problems encountered when playing such games. Instead of there being a training mode for inexperienced pilots, it is not uncommon for the game to include a simulator - a simulator within a simulator, as it were.

But the evolution of the flight simulation isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just the fact that we have lost the old style - the flying has become almost peripheral to the game. But enough of my moaning, I shall tell you about B17.

To start with I was most disappointed with the compatibility level. I much prefer to play flight sims on a fast, accelerated machine so I installed it on an A4000 - the software did not like at all. So I installed it on an A1500 with an 030 accelerator and it flipped out again.

Next I tried an A3000 with an 030 accelerator and once again I had no joy. I finally gave up and ran the game off disks on an A1200, encountering no trouble at all. Still, it was quite slow even on the A1200 which does not bode well for A500/600 users.

You have control of an eight man team who fly the aircraft. Each different man has a particular job whether it be radio man or bomber. You don't have to control them all at any one time - you just have to assume different roles as and when needs dictate. They will quite happily get on with their jobs at other times.

You can shoot down enemy planes from any of the gun turrets move - obviously planes built in the 40s weren't going to have state-of-the-art motorised equipment. It's a very personal game. Not only do you have to choose your bomber, you have to choose the artwork which goes on the nose and you have to name it.

After you have the plane sorted you can have a photo taken with you and your crew. Graphically it's very effective but it's not much use!

As with most flight sims, you have to choose the mission you wish to fly. One very clever extra feature is a reconnaissance film. It even has the crackly black and white opening sequence I was most impressed with.

I found that B17 got very irritating at times for a number of reasons. The first is the laborious way you have to get around the craft and change your role - it's very complicated and fiddly. Reason two is the slowness of the game. Sometimes it almost comes to a standstill.

Flight sim purists will have field day with this but it is definitely a question of taste. Personally I wouldn't touch it with barge pole, but decide for yourself.

B-17 Flying Fortress logo

Do you want a flight sim that takes more than joystick-waggling to master? Well then, do MicroProse have a simulation for you!

Let's get one thing straight. This isn't your normal flight simulator, where you leap into the cockpit and destroy the entire German/Russian/Iraqi airforce within the first five minutes, using your super hi-tec megadeath missiles. This one is going to take you a long time to learn about, and a long time to really get to grips with.

As you may have guessed, this game is based on the B17 Flying Fortress, which was first unveiled on 16 July 1935. After the US declared war on Germany in 1941, the 8th Air Force was sent to England to join the British in the high-altitude precision bombing of occupied Europe. Which is where you come in.

Overpaid and over there
The manual contains a wealth of information on the history and tactics of bombing and bombers, but it's a little sparse on flying the plane. I would have preferred a bit more on the mechanics of using the bombsight and a bit less on the history of the British bombing campaign 1940-41.

There's a good run-through of a typical combat mission, but it would have been better if it had been related to the game itself, with screenshots showing the sort of thing you're likely to come across. I'd recommend you give the manual a thorough read through before starting the game.

There are some nice intro screens, but the music is abysmal. It tries to give a Forties feel to the game, but just ends up making you want to rip out your sound lead. Fortunately, once you get into the game, this music is consigned to the great bomb crater in the sky, and is replaced by a variety of well-sampled sounds.

The B17 had a crew of 10: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio operator, engineer and four gunners. You take the position of airplane commander, which means that you can step in and take over any of the positions.

All of them can be computer-controlled, so you can just sit and watch if you want. However, your crew are not too experienced to begin with, so you'll need to keep an eye on them - a helping hand improves their skills. For instance, the navigator has the annoying habit of getting lost on the way home, but if you put him right, he learns from his mistakes.

You begin by choosing your bomber, its noise art and name. Then you can choose either a training flight (bomb the Isle of Sheppey) or a proper mission over occupied territory. Whichever you choose, you get the option of viewing a short film of a reconnaissance flight over both the primary and secondary targets.

You've got to find the target yourself (none of the laser-guided nonsense), so it makes sense to pay attention to this and not attack the local nursery school by mistake.

Once you're happy with it, you accept the mission, and you're deposited on the airfield. Taxi over to the runway behind the other members of the squadron, and take off in order.

You're in the pilot's seat to begin with, but if you're not sure about this, you can switch over to computer control by pressing 'M'. For the first couple of missions, it may be an idea to let the computer take control while you look around and familiarise yourself with the plane.

As you'd expect, there's a lot of waiting around while you're flying to your destination. You can jump through to the next point when something's happening by pressing Alt T, or accelerate time by pressing Alt A. But the careful that you are where you think you are - it's easy for a small error in navigation to send you several hundreds miles off target.

If you do get lost, you'll need to have a look around and see what local sights you can spot. The tactical view is also useful, because it tells you what the nearest significant tow or airfield is.

Freeze, sucker
It's well put together, with one or two exceptions. The samples used for the sound are OK, but there's little variation. The engine noise is the same whatever the revs, and it gets on the nerves after a bit. On an A500 with only 1Mb of memory, it's pretty jerky, and there's rather a lot of disk accessing.

For some reason, the machine freezes while this is happening, which interrupts the flow of the gameplay. For instance, when you first encounter a German plane and start blasting, the screen freezes while the graphics for the bullet-bursts are loaded. However, on an A1200 with a hard disk it all runs smoothly.

However, on an A1200 with a hard disk it all runs smoothly. The plane's graphics are fairly simple, but what there is, is well designed, and it all moves very convincingly.

Flying Fortress is a game that will last and last, which is why it earns itself a coveted Amiga Format Gold award. Once you get into it, the challenge of getting your crew more experienced, without getting them killed will keep you coming back for more, time after time.

Your crew can retire after 25 missions, but you'll probably want to start off a new one. If you're after a quick thrill, you won't find it here. But if you're looking for something that's accurate and atmospheric, this is The one to get.

B-17 Flying Fortress logo

Vor einem halben Jahrhundert mischten US-Piloten mit diesen schweren Bombern Nazi-Deutschland auf, seit knapp einem Jahr dürfen auch PC-Zocker ran, und dem Amiga hat Microprose nun ebenfalls den Luftkrieg erklärt.

Nachdem man sich eine der sechs vorrätigen Flugfestungen ausgesucht und mitt seinem persönlichen Emblem versehen hat, darf man entweder trainieren oder gleich zur Front aufbrechen. Die Angriffsziele werden bei der Einsatzbesprechung in einem kleinen Film präsentiert; danach wählt man sich durch das Optionsmenu und stellt dort das Können der Gegner auf Tölpel-Niveau ein, schanzt seinen Kanonieren unbegrenzte Munition zu und baut unzerstörbare Motoren in die Maschine ein. Freilich kann man es auch realistischer haben, doch unabhängig davon folgt der Spielablauf stets demselben Schema:

Kurz nach dem Abheben formiert sich die Staffel, fliegt Richtung Feind, wirft ihre Bomben ab und kehrt zur Ordensverleihung nach Hause zurück. Die Einsatzziele der 25 Missionen sind dabei stets klar umrissen - meist stehen Fabriken, Hafenanlagen oder Munitionsdepots auf der Bombardierungsliste. Sollte man es auch zusammen mit dem Computer-Geschwäder nicht schaffen, das Hauptziel einzuschern, darf man ersatzweise über ein Nebenziel herfallen.

Im eigenen Vogel hat der Spieler Pilot und Copilot, Navigator, Bombenschütze, Funker, Techniker und vier MG Kanoniere unter seinen Fittichen, wobei er jederzeit per Keyboard zwischen den Stationen hin- und herwechseln und die Sache selbst in die Hand nehmen kann. Die Mannschaft läßt sich zwar austauschen, was aber kaum zu empfehlen ist, weil die Jungs mit wachsender Erfahrung immer besser funktionieren. Das lernt man spätestens dann zu schatzen, wenn die deutsche Luftwaffe die Wolken mit Blei vollpumpt und bei den Schützen die große Hektik ausbricht.

Kommt's hart auf hart, kriegen die Verwundeten an Ort und Stelle schnell ein Pflasterchen verpaßt, die Hardware macht dagegen mehr Arbeit: Wird z.B. einer der vier Motoren getroffen, muß man schleunigst das Feuer löschen und auf der mehrere Bildschirmen umfassenden Instrumententafel den richtigen Ausschaltknopf finden. Kommt auch das Fahrwerk unter die Rader, ist die Notlandung bereits vorprogrammiert - oder der Griff zum Fallschirm...

Die gegenüber der PC-Version leicht abgespeckte Grafik hat zwar immer noch allerlei zoombare Außenperspectiven und nette Zwischenscreens vorzuweisen, die ehemals vorhandenen Detailansichten der einzelnen Stationen sucht man allerdings vergebens.

Außerdem ruckeln die Vektoren auf einem Standard-Amiga beträchtlich und kommen auch nur mühsam vorwarts.

Die Steuerung per Tastatur und Maus/Joystick ist dafür recht passabel ausgefallen, dasselbe gilt für die Geräuschkulisse und die abschaltbare Musik. Doch so richtig zufriedengestellt haben uns eigentlich bloß die ausführliche deutsche Anleitung und der Flug auf dem 1200er mit einer Festplatte an Bord: Wer hier vor dem Booten die Display Options auf "Enhanced" umpolt, wird mit flüssigem Bildaufbau und dem völligen Fehlen von Nachladepausen belohnt. (rf)

B-17 Flying Fortress logo

Your very own 'castle in the air', featuring nose artwork, helpful cabine staff and in-flight movies.

Flight sims are terrifying to us reviewers. You see, most games have a fairly accessible angle on them: the controls are easy to grasp, the characters are identifiable and the manuals are slim affairs with all the obvious information on how to load the game and what the joystick does, which are as useful as an instruction manual on how to breathe.

And this is great, because we reviewers are not into poring through loads of text when we're itching to get the thing loaded and start killing/jumping/bouncing/racing/scoring/hitting, or whatever other dubiously anti-social activities the game allows us to partake in.

Apart, of course, from flying. Now as we all know, flying is not easy. It takes months of arduous training with complex equipment to recreate the real-world sensation of controlling those huge metal beasts. We reviewers are chucked this thing in a box which boasts 'Just like the real thing', and we're thinking "But we've got to have this reviewed for the next issue". We've tried to persuade our Publisher to give us all flying lessons, but he won't agree, so we're stuck in this terrible panic of having to learn to fly in an unfeasibly short amount of time.

I say all this because I'm not usually given them. You see we've got Jonathan down as a bit of a flying ace. If there was a terrible disaster on a trans-Atlantic flight, and both pilots went down with food poisoning, forcing one of the stewardesses to scream "Is there anybody on board who can fly an aeroplane?", Jonathan would stroll casually to the front, raking his hands through his hair with implausible coolness, and mumble "I think I'm your man."

Because we give him so many flight sims, he's practically convinced that he's flown the real thing. The only problem would occur when he started awkward questions like "How many disks is it on?" and "Have you got a Bug Joystick?".

So, I'm trembling as I open the box, thinking "Well, I guess I won't be seeing my family for a while", and there's the manual, size of The Complete Works of Tolstoy, and it looks my social life is going down the drain rapidly. And what do you know, but 30 minutes later I'm totally engrossed in a fascinating recreation of life as a flying ace in the Second World War (except they didn't call them flying aces then, but you know what I mean).

This game has atmosphere points a-plenty. From the start, when you're asked to choose your name, your nose art and bomber name, you're fully entrenched in World War 2 land.

Muddy Funster is MY machine. It's got a picture of my favourite gal on the side, to remind me what we're fighting for - our loves, our lives, and the democracy that allows us to put up sexist pictures of semi-clad girls wherever we like.

Then, you're sitting in the briefing room, where you're generously offered a mission, which always involves bombing the Hun (forgive me, it's all part of the training).

The mission consists of two objectives, primary and secondary, so if you achieve the primary objective you can always go back and have a crack at the secondary. There's a very impressive scrolling map which gives all the details of flight paths and targets, and even a film of what to look out for when you get close to your targets. Once you've got all the details, you're ready to fly.

Don't expect Top-Gun-style aviation antics

There's a configuration menu before you get going, where you can choose your difficulty settings, the amount of enemy attack you'll come under, how accurate at landing you need to be and so on. This is all good news - as it says in the manual, even if you're an old hand at flight sims (a 'Jonathan', as we call them), you'll still find B17 quite tricky at first.

Next thing you know you're in the driving seat of a throbbing B17, ready to take off on your mission. You can tackle the take-off yourself, or let the computer do it for you (more on this soon). You fly as part of a formation of B17s, so your pals are nearby to help you out in the heat of combat.

Now don't expect super-fast, super-sooth scrolling, flash turns and Top Gun-style aviation antics. This aims for realism, and the heavy B17 just wasn't that type of plane - it was used for strategic bombing campaigns. It must be said that the game is a bit lumpy on an A500, although certainly not as unplayable as AV8B Harrier. On an A1200 it's fine, no problems. However, don't let this put you off if you haven't got the faster machine.

You see, B17 is more than a flight sim. Not only do you fly the plane, you also take control of all the gunners, the navigation, and the ultimate objective, the bombing. Of course you can't do this all at once. Using the 'crew members' screen you allocate tasks to the guys who make up your crew, and can then flip between them.

When you're not controlling something it comes under computer control, so you can easily start a campaign by assuming the role of the pilot to take off from the runway, switch to navigation to check your course, control the top gunner when enemy aircraft approach, then become the bombardier to drop your load.

The choice is yours, though. If you want to, you can simply watch the action unfold before you and leave it all up to the computer to accomplish the mission, but there'll be less chance of success and it would be extremely boring. Or you can pilot the plane for the whole mission, and let your gunners take care of the action. But overall the best approach is to skip around between all the different posts, getting involved in all the action.

Said action takes place in real time(ish), so it can be a little tiresome waiting for your plane to chug across the channel to its first way point. Thankfully, this can be overcome by skipping time, although it won't allow you to bypass enemy attacks. What you get with this is a nice balance between realism and action.

With all the different tasks you can take on, there's no real shortage of things to do, and often you'll be grateful for the breathing space that real-time control gives you. It's one of those games that's going to last you ages, just because it's all so realistic that anything could happen, even when you've ploughed your way through all the missions at all the difficulty levels.

It seems that we're getting a bit soft here at AMIGA POWER, what with Body Blows, Lemmings 2 and Walker all getting good reviews last month, while this issue Desert Strike, Flashback and Arabian Nights are all given our hearty recommendation.

The truth is, it's been a good spell for Amiga games recently, with some serious quality making up for the smallish quantity. So, I've been trying to think of some bad things to say about B17 to try and even all this wimpishness out. Sure, there's the dull in-flight graphics, and a slightly sluggish feel (on the A500), but since when did you expect slick 3D graphics at good speed on a 500? (How about No Second Prize? - Ed). B17 is no worse, and in general better, than most Amiga flight sims.

How about the price, then? Forty quid is a bit excessive, but I'm afraid that's the biggest fault I can come up with. No, I've got to bow to journalistic integrity and tell you that this is a thoroughly engaging flight sim, which while not offering you the thrills and spills of the super-fast-scrolling efforts, has a lot more to offer in the way of strategy, and a highly charged World War 2 atmosphere that'll keep you on the edge of your seat. It's just another recommended game from me, I'm afraid.

B-17 Flying Fortress
  1. The Waist Section sports a 0.50-calibre machine gun, operated (of course) by a Waist Gunner.
  2. The Radio compartment. DJ Nosebleed broadcasts his fabulously popular 'Bomb Raider Rave' show from here.
  3. The Pilot and Co-Pilot sit here. Well, it's easier to see where you're going when you're at the front.
  4. Each icon represents one of the crew members. Here's Tucker. Lucker and Ducker - the chefs.
  5. Use these icons to move crew members around, give medical attention, put out fires, and so on.
  6. Tail Gunner, for shooting people behind you. This is also where all the crisps are kept.
  7. Waist Gunners, who force people to die. Not to be confused with 'Weight Watchers', who force people to diet.


B-17 Flying Fortress
This is my machine. It is in fact a euphemism for Mo... (That's enough. - Ed).

B-17 Flying Fortress
Dave G sports this nice mouse on a bomb. No-one knows why

B-17 Flying Fortress
Stuart chose this politically-correct artwork. His plane is anachronistic, because they only had one flavour of crisps then.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Mark W's artwork is very tasteful. The name is a mistyping of Frogster B, out of Hitchhikers Guide.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Linda thought this chap resembled Erroll Flynn, hence the name of the plane.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Jacquie has her own personal reasons for this. The significance of 'Chunky' eludes us.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Lisa named Taboo after her favourite drink. "It certainly gets me bombed" she said, today.

B-17 Flying Fortress logo

Tony Horgan considers himself a high flyer, so when B-17 came into the office he was the obvious person to take a closer look.

The year: 1943.The place: a USAF base in Southern England. The Allies are gradually nosing ahead in the fight against the Nazis, but it's not over yet.

American B-17 bombers are playing a vital role in the struggle, and you've just been assigned the job of Commander of the local B-17 team. It takes a crew of 10 to operate the plane, and its up to you to make sure everyone does their bit.

Before you get airborne you need to select your plane. You can either take one 'off the shelf', or have a new, personalised one. Name your plane, spruce it up with some nose artwork, and it's off for the mission brief. The briefing session is made more tolerable with some grainy black and white reconnaissance films and maps.

Once you think you've swallowed that lot, you get a chance to customise the game to suit your skill level. There's an overall difficulty level, and all kinds of other parameters can be independently tweaked, from the levels of flak, to whether or not the bombs are liable to malfunction.

So far, it's all going fine, but the first irritations start when you find yourself at the controls of the beast. Instead of lining you up for take-off, the computer makes you go through an exceedingly tedious few minutes as you taxi onto the runway. You can use the 'time-skip' function to minimise the boredom, but then you'll probably miss the take-off itself, which is about the most exciting part of the game, until you get to your target.

Once airborne, it's best to delegate the flying duties to your co-pilot, otherwise you run the risk of colliding with your fellow airmen in the three-plane formation. This means that you're free to admire the beautiful green English countryside, which has been completely stripped of hills, towns, farms, and any other distinguishing features that may have helped pass the time.

Using the time skip feature again, you can jump forward to your first encounter with the enemy. This is usually a gun battle with a small group of German fighter planes. The B-1 7 would be a sitting duck, were it not for the various gun turrets that just about cover all the angles.

You're free to swap your control between any of the gunners at any time. Considering this is one of the few 'action' stages in the game, it's fairly low on excitement. Most of the time, the bandits are no more than single pixels wobbling around in the sky, out of the range of your guns. When they do come up close, they usually just shoot past in an instant. The controls are no help either - not only do they react with a very noticeable delay, but the guns have an irritating habit of moving in big steps. On top of that, the game accesses the disk intermittently throughout the gun battles. Accurate marksmanship goes out of the window - realism has taken precedence over gameplay once again.

It's obvious that Microprose have put a lot of time and effort into B-17. Some of the pre-flight screens are excellent, and before you get into the main part of the game, there are plenty of details to keep the enthusiast interested. What a shame, then, that they've come up with a very slow and uneventful flight sim. All the bells and whistles will never make up for the shortfalls in the heart of the game.

Even if a few buildings or hills had been added to the landscapes, it would only make things slower. Concessions to realism mean that you can't even try out a bit of trick flying when you get bored - well, you can try, but you'll find it's a one-way ticket to death.

Flight sims can be fast, fun, and even exciting. Unfortunately, B-l7 is none of the above. It's all well and good going for factual accuracy, but you've got to remember that you're actually producing a game.