Ever since I was a small child living in Australia I was fascinated by the Second World War. This was mainly due to my father who as a little kid lived in Amsterdam during the war. His stories inspired me into reading everything I could about the war. But what got me really started was my dad’s hobby of building World War Two plane models. There was one plane that caught my eye and I feel deeply in love with it, the Spitfire!
Years later, when I came to Holland, my fate was sealed when I saw a Spitfire flying in an air show at Scheveningen in the Netherlands. The song of the Merlin engine as the Spit flew treetop level over the field I was standing in just sent shivers down my spine and now the love affair was official. The only thing I wanted after that moment was to fly one myself.
I started reading everything about the Spitfire, collecting models and being drawn into its most famous fight: The Battle of Britain. Now the chances of flying a real Spitfire are quite slim so I had to wait for years before I got the chance to fight the battle of Britain in one for the first time.
I started early on flying flight sims for the computer and one of the earliest was “Mig Ally Ace” for the Atari 800. The first sim I played in first person view and a split screen. The graphics…well the graphics, a white cross was the plane you had to shoot down and the ground was green and the air blue. Nice, but still no Spitfires and the Battle of Britain.
Then I got the Atari ST and yes out came Lucasfilm with ‘Their Finest Hour” in 1990. I remember yelling at people that you could actually recognize the planes. I could also look left and right out of the cockpit and even in the mirror. It was fantastic. You could even record the dogfight and re-watch it, next to that you could build your own missions. Hours and hours were spent with this sim but then I went over to the PC.
What now, well I filled the time with the sim “Aces over Europe” until in 1998 Microprose came with their “European Airwar” with several modes including the Battle of Britain. The joy!
European Air War was acclaimed one of the most realistic and immersive combat flight sims ever made, according to the reviews then and I couldn’t agree more. The times I flew nursing my heavily damaged Spitfire to my home base whilst the sweet poured down om my keyboard and joystick were countless.
Maybe the best thing about this sim was that it started a mod community with the likes of Meatwaters sound pack with a whopping 17MB new in-flight sound and my god they were good. The textures changed, the flight physics, too much to recall. After a couple of years, the game looked so different it might as well been a new game (a bit like my Skyrim nowadays).
This would be my ultimate sim for years to come and how I loved flying my Spitfire in it. But all good things come to an end and there I was waiting for a new Battle of Britain sim. It would come but in the meantime, I played the “Sturmovik” series and with great passion and it is probably the best sim ever: “Rise of Flight”. Still even though RoF was good, so very very good it still wasn’t the Battle of Britain.
Then it came, the announcement for “Wings of Prey” and “Cliffs of Dover”. Could it be?
Well “Wings of Prey” had a very short lifespan on my PC, in fact, 2 flights to be honest in which I shot down 23 He 111’s, 4 Me109’s and 5 Stuka’s. Hmm, not really realistic if you ask me or had I became that good during all my years of practice. Nope, it was just a shitty game. “Cliffs of Dover” then?
When it didn’t crash, freeze, stutter, make strange noises it seemed alright, but after flying for a couple of hours I left it alone because of the thousands of bugs. Back to “Rise of Flight” then, the immaculate flight sim.
I would go back to “Cliffs of Dover” though and haven’t look back since, thanks to all the patches especially the team Fusion pack 4.0.
Cliffs so far had turned out to be one of the most challenging and realistic combat flight sims I have played, except for “Rise of Flight” then. It feels like the real thing, long flights keeping your eyes peeled just to be jumped by a Me-109 scaring the willies out of you. It is not a game for people who like to take a plane out start fighting immediately, bag 4 kills and get shot down to start the next match straight away. No like all the above-mentioned combat flight sims it takes a lot of time and effort to master the planes and strategies. Even then after hours of flight your chances of surviving are slim, but the feeling when everything does come together and you get a kill is nothing I have experienced in other games.
Taking into account the huge amount of hours I have spent flying Spitfire’s, even in “FSX”, and still not surviving a campaign without being killed I came to realise how bloody scaring and exhilarating it must have been for those young pilots during the Battle of Britain. Some of those pilots had only 8 hours on Spits and still they went up.
I am so glad that I never will have to follow those brave pilots in their footsteps and can fight my battles in my desk chair with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It’s a shame, not all wars can be fought like this.
MajorMadMike signing off