Preview - Wings of Glory (DOS, 1995)
When Orville and Wilbur Wright finally got their airplane aloft at Kitty Hawk in 1912, they probably weren't thinking of their invention as a military weapon. However, just a few short years later, the Allies and Germans were skirmishing across the skies of Europe in World War I, and those magnificent young men in their flying machines changed the face of armed conflict forever.
That era provides the background for Wings of Glory, Origin's latest flight simulation. You're an American pilot attached to a British RAF squadron that's stationed somewhere along the Western Front in January of 1917. Since there aren't many people around these days who actually experienced this situation, Origin decided to draw on Hollywood's recollection of that particular period of time for their storyline, giving it a distinct "B" movie feel.
You're the eager, young, fresh-faced American pilot. Among your colleagues are the gruff commanding officer, who's a little upset with you when the game begins because you missed a mission. The fact that you're late because you spent the prior evening gallivanting with a fellow British pilot doesn't help your cause. The Brit who got you in trouble appears to be a refugee from a Monty Python sketch, complaining that the quality of champagne available in the area simply isn't up to snuff.
The storyline for Wings of Glory is interesting – for instance, there's a traitor in the squadron who you'll be trying to unmask, and your interaction with your fellow characters will have an effect on your path through the game – but all it does is set the stage for the stars of the show, the planes.
If you're a flight-sim devotee who's used to buzzing his enemies with a jet fighter, you're in for a definite change of pace with Wings. The design team devoted a lot of time to ensuring that the feel and look of the planes was historically accurate, which means that you're flying machinery that's straight out of the museum.
This requires a definite attitude adjustment. The first hint comes when you hear the creaking of canvas over the low drone of your engine as you pilot your plane. This should warn you that if you try some of those slick maneuvers that you perfected with flight sims set in a more modern era, you'll experience the unique sensation of trying to fly a plane after its wings have fallen off. You're going at quite a slow pace, but don't worry – the German aren't moving any faster than you are.
As an Allied pilot, you'll work your way through five planes: the Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Camel, SE5a, SPAD XIII and the Fokker Dr. I. You'll battle 13 different models of German aircraft. Wings of Glory can be as easy or as tough as you want it to be. You can make your opponents rookies or aces. The setup is so flexible, you can actually choose between turning sun glare on or off. Wings allows you to fly a regular mission, create your own mission, or run the gauntlet, which pits you against an endless stream of enemy targets.
You can choose from a number of different viewing angles, including the cockpit (which is also historically accurate, meaning it changes when you fly a different plane); an overhead view; a side view; a rear view; and a chase plane view, which allows you to watch the dogfight from behind your plane. You can lock your view onto a specific target, meaning that you keep an eye on that plane regardless of where it goes. If you're worried that an enemy is approaching from behind, you can turn up to 180 degrees in either direction and see who's beside you and who's behind you. It's not quite Linda Blair in the Exorcist, but it's close.
The game runs on an enhanced version of the Strike Commander engine. About midway through the design process, Origin decided that it might have problems with the game's speed and decided to convert to a 32-bit mode. This keeps the frame speed up above 10 frames per second.
One word of warning – in World War I, the Germans were capable warriors, but they apparently had no sense of fashion whatsoever. The German planes are also historically accurate, right down to the paint jobs, which means an unsuspecting player could be in for a severe shock. Let's just say that with the garish designs on some of these aircraft, it's a surprise that the German pilots made it safely off the runway, since they could be seen from miles around.
Wings of Glory is a flight sim that's true to its historical era. It moves at a leisurely pace, but so did the aircraft of that time. You're going to find that a World War I dogfight can be just as much of a challenge as launching missiles and dodging an attack from an unseen enemy. Wings won't overwhelm you, but it could seduce you, which is just as much fun.