Wings. (computer game) (Reviews) (evaluation)
by Russ Ceccola
Part simulator, part role-playing game, and part arcade game, Wings is a truly impressive program. It takes you back in time to the latter half of the Great War, World War I. You join the 56th Squadron in the Allied forces as a fresh combat pilot. Earn your wings by successfully completing one of three training missions. They're easy to beat, so you should be in the air quickly. After passing this skill test and entering a word from the manual, you're ready to begin the game proper. What impressed me most about Wings is that all of the events in the game fit into a story line that ties in with what was actually going on at that point in the war. You'll eventually fly over 200 missions that take place between. March 1916 and November 1918.
As you progress through the story. the missions become more difficult. The planes and equipment that you encounter accurately reflect the weaponry in use in each stage of the war. For example, you'll only encounter monoplanes, not biplanes, until around September 1916. this approach draws you into the game and compels you to keep playing. At the beginning of each mission day, you read an entry in the squadron's journal that outlines what will happen that day. You then go to a briefing screen, perform one of the three mission types, and are shown a postflight log that details the success or failure of the mission.
Wings can be played with the joy-stick, keyboard, or mouse. Most commands are entered by selecting choices from menu screens. The first screen allows you to add and delete pilots, view their statistics, earn your wings, and join the squadron. On every game day, you're notified of any deaths or departures of members and any new pilots that have joined your group. The command screen lets you review pilots' characteristics, start a new game, send a pilot to flight school, and save your game.
Four characteristics affect the performance of each pilot: flying ability, shooting ability, mechanical aptitude, and stamina. As you play the game, these statistics and others, like number of confirmed kills, number of missions, and number of bomb hits, are tallied on the pilot data screen.
There are three sequences in Wings: aerial combat (3-D view from behind the pilot), bombing (2-D view from above your plane), and strafing (in three-quarters perspective, like the old Zaxxon arcade game). All three are easy to learn, But Wings throws a lot of variety into each mission. The animation in the 3-D fighting sequences is flawless. A great feature of the 3-D combat is the ability to switch views by pressing one of the four compass directions on the keypad. You can use this ability to take a quick look around when you don't know where the enemy planes are hiding. You have to hit the enemy planes a number of times to destroy them,and it takes more than a bullet or two to down your biplane. Bullet holes and other structural damage in the cockpit appear as your plane takes hits.
The graphics in Wings are superb. All of the images are colorful and detailed in the Cinemaware tradition. I was extremely impressed with the animated graphics in the combat sequences. From the pages of the journal, which turn as if the book were right in front of you, to the funeral scene, in which a tombstone pops up with your name on it after you've been killed in action, the images are the best that they can possibly be without being digitized. As you get farther along in the game, the action gets faster, and the graphics don't slow down things at all.
The music in Wings is inspiring and lively. Familiar military marches play during the mission summaries journal entries, and other interim sequences. The sound effects are excellent, as you would expect in a game of Wings' caliber. Overall, Wings gets my vote of confidence. It takes a theme that has been beaten to death and creates something entirely new with it. The included Aviator's Briefing Manual gives a very well-written summary of aerial combat in World War I, as well as combat techniques, famous pilot biographies, plane data and interesting stories. It's well worth the time it takes to read this booklet. I didn't think that Cinemaware could surpass It Came from the Desert until I played Wings. It's certainly the most unique combat simulator involving aerial combat-and a must-have for all aviation buffs.