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Steve Bradley donned his flying jacket, white silk scarf and goggles to review Virgin's flight sim. But we gave the game to Steve McGill instead. Ack! Ack!

Modern jet planes and flight sims aren't much cop. They're too sterile, shiny, and impersonal. Oh for the days when you could get so close to your enemy that you could see what he was thinking, the days when you had to aim and keep your plane in a steady line to hit targets rather than read a Head Up Display and press a button.

Overlord - the codename for the D-Day landings in 1944 - is just about the perfect scenario on which to base a good old-fashioned flight sim. Air support is needed before, during and after the main assault on the beaches. Ground targets have to be combed, rocketed and destroyed. Enemy air units have to be tackled, intercepted and neutralised.

The secret lies in tactics, approach and pilot orientation. And that's where Overlord scores big points. Traditionally, standard views aren't up to the pace of the fight - n sooner have you lined an enemy in your sights and let lose a couple of bursts of cannon fire, than he jinks out of view and tries to manoeuvre into a better position.

To follow him, you either have to guess hif flight path or follow his progress by flicking between left, right and behind views.

Anyone who's tried to do this knows the problem. Disorientation rules. The heat of the battle shouldn't be about hitting keys, but outflying and outshooting your enemy.

That's where the Overlord combat lock views come into play. The two most important are the inside and outside locks. The inside one centres on and follows the enemy planes and the outside lock offers an exterior view of your plane with the enemy in the middle of the screen. Using this view lets you point your plane in the right direction and then switch back to the inside lock.

High times
There are also several tracking options which give you all sorts of views of impending targets. You have a choice of three planes suitable for the different types of mission. There's the Typhoon, famous for its low-level ground attacks, the Spitfire and the Mustang, the US version of the Spitfire which had a longer range and a more powerful engine.

All of the planes' nuances are explored in the manual, as is the background ant philosophy of aerial combat which increases atmosphere and realism. The coastline of France 1944 is historically accurate - the archive of reconnaissance photographs at Keele University was trawled for the game - and the targets are in the original positions.

If you want a flight sim that offers more than most in game mechanics and atmosphere, look no further than Overlord. It lets you engage your imagination, intelligence and ability in a way that's utterly absorbing.


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Planning and viewing your flight route through the skies of war-torn France is a major element of all the Overlord missions.

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Tonight, instead of viewing some film of a Typhoon in action, we'll watch the replay of last night's cup final at Wembley.

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As an interesting aside, you can view the different types of planes you fly and find out more about their flight windows.

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Sometimes Ginger liked to sneak into a darkened room and watch video footage of aeroplanes while he was alone.

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If you decide to sneak out on a lone wolf-style of mission, you can choose the type of plane you want to fly from here.

 

Jubiläum ohne Jubel

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Einen Blick zurück im Zorn: Vor anderthalb Jahren konnte uns Rowan Software mit der Flugsimulation "Reach for the Skies" nur ein müdes Gähnen abringen - dem Nachfolger gelingt nicht einmal das.

Feste muß man feiern, wie sie fallen, und seien es die Feierlichkeiten zum 50sten Jahrestag der Landung der Alliierten in der Normandie. Allerdings ist dieses Game am Amiga alles andere als ein Fest - dabei hat es sich doch am PC vor knapp einem halben Jahr noch ganz gut angelassen...

Nach wie vor wird ein forscher RAF-Pilot für den Luftwaffenstützpunkt Tangmere gesucht, um binnen fünf Monaten freie Bahn für die Alliierten zu schaffen. Damit die nachher den Zweiten Weltkrieg für sich entscheiden können, müssen (für deutsche Gegenseite) wichtige Brücken beseitigt, Bahnstrecken ausradiert und Militärflughäfen eingeebnet werden.

Drei Flieger stehen für diese Einsätze bereit, nämlich schweres Geschütz in Form einer Hurricane und eines Mitchel-Bombers sowie eine wendige und damit auf Jagdausflüge abonnierte Spitfire.

Ist die Entscheidung gefallen, geht es in ein ausführliches Briefing, wo man alles Wissenswerte zu den jeweiligen Einsatzzielen und dem allgemeinen Verlauf der Kampagne erfährt. Dazu kommen immer ein paar kleine Filmchen über die zu vernichtenden Objekte, was deren spätere Identifizierung erheblich vereinfacht.

Nun darf man hier zwar wahlweise auch in zahlreichen Einzelmissionen in die Luft gehen und in einem umfangreichen Menü nicht nur den Detailgrad der Grafik variieren, sondern das Flugverhalten, die Feindintelligenz und sogar die eigene (Un-)Verwundbarkeit einstellen, doch hilft das letztlich alles nicht viel: Am Himmel erweist sich Overlord als unsäglicher Langeweiler, und das quasi schon auf den ersten Blick.

So hat sich die 3D-Grafik gegenüber dem Vorgänger nur unwesentlich verändert, immer noch bestimmen detailarme Grün- oder Blauflächen das Bild, nur gelegentlich wird die Tristesse von ein paar einfarbigen Polygonen unterbrochen. Dagegen wirken die netten Zwischenmenüs dann fast schon wie Meisterwerke und der 08/15-Sound wie eine Symphonie.

Schön, das Handling ist solide und unterstützt auch Analogsticks. Zugegeben, das Spieltempo ist bereits auf Standard-Amigas vertretbar und wird mit einem 1200er oder A4000/030 sogar richtig flott.

Andererseits hat ein A4000/040 Startverbot; außerdem hinkt das Spiel dem technischen Standard, wie ihn z.B. "Tornado" repräsentiert, um Jahre hinterher.

Besonders schlimm ist, daß das auch für das Gameplay gilt, denn im Grunde gleicht hier eine Mission der anderen. Da verwundert es kaum noch, daß dem Spieler nur die englische Seite offensteht und sich die einzelnen Maschinen flugtechnisch ganz erstaunlich gleichen...

So, und jetzt wißt Ihr auch, warum Overlord am Amiga nicht nur die 76-Prozent-Marke der insbesondere grafisch um klassen besseren PC-Version verfehlt, sondern sogar noch unter der ohnehin lauwarmen 60er-Wertung seines Vorfliegers bleibt. (mic)



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Flight sims are, on the whole, great. But, no matter how authentic their performance envelopes, how detailed the scenery, and how many little dials and knobs there are on the instrument panel, they all tend to suffer from the same problem.

Whereas in a real plane you view the world through a bubble-shaped canopy, allowing you to see what's above and to the sides of you simply by moving your head about, in a flight sim you've just got a rectangular window in front of you. It's a bit like you're looking out of a porthole the whole time, or you've contacted a rare tropical disease that's left you with tunnel version and a stiff neck.

DRESDEN
This is fine if enemy planes are obliging enough to fly along in a straight line in front of you while you shoot at them. But, the human survival instinct being what it is, they tend to start swerving about as soon as they see bullets flying past their ears.

And pretty soon they've disappeared off the side of the screen. Recalling the stuff about Yo-Yos and Scissors you read in the manual =, you bank your plane over and head off in pursuit. But - oh no - he's turned again and is going in the opposite direction. If only you'd been able to turn your head a bit you'd have known.

Your prey flits briefly across the screen, you roll the plane again over again to follow him, but it's too late. While you've been slewing drunkenly across the sky, he's got behind you and the game is up.

Most flight sims, Overlord included, make an attempt to solve the problem by offering you views to the left and right, selected by pressing keys. But the last thing you want to be doing in an intense combat situation is fumbling around with the keys, disorientating yourself by flipping the view through 90 degrees all over the place.

BERLIN
So what Rowan have done with Overlord is introduce a view they call 'inside combat lock'. When you're flying along behind a plane, you look forward out of the cockpit as normal. But as soon as the enemy starts to turn and disappear from view, you can press the Backspace key. The view then swings smoothly round in 3D keeping the baddy in the centre of the screen, just as if you're turning your head to follow him.

Big arrows on the windows make sure you know which way you're flying, and if you start to get confused it's pretty easy to flip back to the ordinary view. I'm not sure that the system works quite as well as it does on the PC version, whose more detailed graphics give you extra visual clues that prevent you from getting lost, but it's still a great thing to have.

Apart from that, Overlord is pretty much a standard flight sim treatment of Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings. You get a choice of three planes to fly - the Spitfire, the Mustang and the Typhoon. The Spitfire's best in close combat, while the Mustang's got a longer range, and the Typhoon carries rockets for attacking trains and ships. You're based at RAF Tangmere, and your missions involve popping across the channels to stir up trouble in occupied France.

Initially it's not the most impressive-looking of games. It draws on that old flight sim cliché of dressing up all the options screens as roughly-hewn scenes from military life, with you clicking on doors and maps on the wall to jump to briefings and things. Please could we all stop doing this? It takes ages to work out what does what, it's easy to overlook important options, and the contrast between the 3D flying sequences and the flat, badly-drawn world back at base is jarring.

And then, once you're up in the air, Overlord doesn't exactly grab you as a thrilling step forward for Amiga polygon graphics. The power-hungry texture-mapping of the PC version has had to go, and there isn't even a graduated horizon.

But it does move smoothly, especially on a 1200, and once you've flown around for a bit you'll begin to appreciate the car that's gone into assembling a replica o 1940s France. The ports along the coast are actually port-shaped, with harbor walls and everything, and the towns around them are, er, town-shaped (rather than just being generic squares like you usually get).

Big cities have lots of roads and railways coming out of them, trains have carriages, radar stations have gun emplacements defending them, and targets fall to pieces and let off huge plumes of smoke when you blow them up.


Big arrows on the windows

LONDON
The planes look good, too, with invasion stripes on the allied ones assisting identification, and Swastikas on the wings of the German ones. And they leave smoke trails behind them when they get shot down. The only slight snag here is that there aren't many different sorts - aside from the three you can control, there are Me109s, Fw190s, Ju68s, He111s and B-25s, and that's it. Aerial combat can therefore get a bit samey, but it doesn't matter too much when attacking ground targets is so satisfying.

And to examine it all, you've got what probably add up to more viewing options than every other flight sim put together in the World. Through various combinations of the function keys, the number keys and Control and Alt and things you can get views of just about everything in the game from every conceivable angle. You can watch your bombs as they drop on buildings, and arrange it so that, if you shoot down any planes, the view switches to them. You can do anything you like, although the enormous number of keys involved can be intensely confusing.

So Overlord's got a great environment to fly around in, but does it work as a game as well? Undoubtedly. Tedious things like take-off and landing are optional, and long flights can be cut down using a time compression option, so you're always in the thick of it.

The missions are varied, with you able to switch between aircraft-types (and hence mission styles) at will. You've got three lives, represented by three pilots, and amusingly you can make them switch places with pilots in other planes during combat - for example, if you're about to hit the ground.

Heck, Overlord even runs perfectly happily on an A600 off floppies, although a second disk drive saves quite a bit of swapping between missions.

With Rowan's other new game, the WW1-based Dawn Patrol, due from Virgin next month, along with TFX from Ocean, pretty soon you'll be able to buy swish new games encompassing the whole of aviation history. If you've got enough money.


CHOOSE ONE OF THESE

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The mighty Typhoon excels at air-to-ground rocket attacks. Use it to destroy trains or, as in this picture, factories producing children's clothing and soft cheeses for the German war effort. Then watch the smoke rising.

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The mighty Spitfire, seen here challenging a formation of Heinkel 11 bombers, is your best bet for dogfighting at close quarters. Its elliptical wings strike terror into the hearts of more sensitive Germans.

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The mighty Mustang is actually of American origin, but is powered by a Rolls Royce engine, so that's okay. And in actual fact, all these planes look pretty similar in Overlord. You've really got to eamine them quite closely.


WHO? WHAT? WHERE?

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You're crossing the French coast, and your radio is buzzing with reports of nearby German planes. "Bandits at 3 o'clock!" That sort of thing.

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Back inside the cockpit again - but where's he gone? Aaarghh. Surely Douglas 'Stumpy' Bader never used to have this problem.

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But where are they? You can't see much out of the cockpit like this, so you cut to a chase view. Hmm. A nice view of Calais, but where's Jerry?.

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But of course! Overlord's special inside combat lock shows Frits and his chums to be to the right, and above your head. If we can just turn around a bit...

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Well, the tracking view reveals him to be a Heinkel 111, ripe for the kill. But where is he? Which direction should we be shooting in?

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...or maybe show a nice picture of your plane flying over the sea instead. Note the distinctive shape of the Spitfire's wings. ANd the invasion stripes.

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This exterior tracking view has the answer. It holds your Spitfire in view while keeping the enemy plane in the middle of the screen behind it.

 

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Price: £29.99 Publisher: Virgin 081 960 2255

Achtung, baby! Rik Skews swops lead with the Hun courtesy of Rowan's latest flight sim.

If there is one area where the Amiga has fallen behind in compared to the evil PC it has to be the flight sim genre. Developers Rowan are doing their best to change that however, with a string of quality titles.

First of was the decent Reach for the Skies which has recently been released on budget for £14.99. Next up was Dawn Patrol, a conversion of the brilliant PC original and which you may have seen previewed in CU Amiga Magazine last month. Right now though it's Overlord which unusually for a flight sim has floppy and hard disk access times kept to a minimum.

D-Day landings
Taking place around Operation Overlord, the compelx series of missions leading up to and including the D Day landings in 1944, Overlord offers the player a choice of three planes to swoop about in and pump the enemy full of lead with.

The famous Spitfire is the plane for the combat connoisseur thanks to its unrivalled close combat fighting abilities. The other two aircraft on offer are the Mustang, which with its larger fuel capacity is useful for long range missions, and the Typhoon. The Typhoon is used more as a bomber than a fighter and comes equipped with rockets, handy for taking out ground based enemies such as ships and trains.

Numerous missions are available; escort, bombing and interception being typical examples. Mission parameters can be altered so if one has already been completed and you wish to play it again, it's possible to alter the number of enemy planes that you'll encounter, at what height and so on.

These options take place against some highly detailed backdrops which make a change from the boring presentation screens common to many flight sim games. This helps add to the atmosphere no end.

The player's bedroom which acts as a pause screen is faithfully recreated in period style for instance, and is preferable to staring at a dull paused message. Some people might find these pictures irritating though, as it involves moving the mouse around the screen and discovering which filing cabinets represent which sections of the game.

Overlord is definitely more of an arcade game than flight simulation, and despite all the dials whizzing round in the cockpit it's safe to ignore all but the really important ones, like the plane's height and how much ammunition is left. Taking off and landing are optional too and there's an accelerated time mode for fast-forwarding through the quiet bits, as well as a super engine for making stalls almost non-existent and out-manoeuvring the enemy a lot easier.

No shading
Graphically the game is competent. The still screens in particular are excellent, but if you're familiar with the PC version expect to be disappointed as the Amiga game lacks the power-sucking Gouraud shaded planes and graduated skyline loveliness. Thankfully the planes are not completely bare but are marked with clear insignia, so there's no danger of shooting down your mates Ginger and Taffy in the heat of battle.

Numerous external views are selectable, and these can be zoomed in and out to your heart's content until an ideal view is found. Overlord also features a 'revolutionary' inside combat lock view. This scrolls the viewing window to continually focus on an enemy, mimicking real life where the pilot turns his head to keep track of a target.

The direction that the player is flying in is represented by an arrow. Sound is disappointing however, with corny music and raspy FX, especially the engine noise. Still I'm not really concerned about the audio visuals as long as the game plays well and in that area Overlord holds up quite well.

Of course I wasn't there at the time, but the game conveys what I believe to be a good sense of realism and plenty of attention to detail, with many of the proceedings recreated as they actually happened.

Overlord's problem though, is that it ends up trying to pander to the tastes of both arcade and strategy fan, and ends up not being that engaging for either. A plane-based game should either be the tree destroying manual overload of a Microprose product or an all out blast like Embryo.

It's also very similar in places to Rowan's earlier Reach for the Skies. and considering that title has just been released on budget and offers more planes to fly, I reckon you'd be better off with that.