Engage in multiplayer combat or opt for a free flight over Hawaii.
The Battlefield series of games is back with its latest iteration ($60, requires Microsoft Windows Vista/7, 2.5Ghz dual-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 20 GB hard drive space, 512 MB 3-D video card, Electronic Arts, battle field.com). This multiplayer game features fast-paced combat between real players online in a modern setting, but offers less historical context than its predecessors.
Followers of combat sims have been treated to some big-budget games as major publishing houses Electronic Arts and Activision face off with their leading franchises of Battlefield and Modern Warfare, respectively. Battlefield 3 is a beautiful game to look at, with impressive detail, lighting and smoke effects. The multiplayer experience is familiar to veteran players, with modes like “team death match,” and it continues to improve, with integrated communications and social networking features and a number of play modes.
Players can pilot both helicopters and jets, with simplified controls for a popular audience. Yet it can be difficult to master the art of flying with a mouse and keyboard instead of a joystick. There’s little history to be found in the multiplayer scenarios or single-player campaign, though the unnamed craft appear to be based on the Bell AH-1 Cobra and Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet and a couple varieties of MiGs.
One scenario in the single-player campaign casts the player as a Super Hornet’s weapons officer—summing up how Battlefield 3 may be a bit of a guilty pleasure, like watching Top Gun. Even though it features ridiculous action and worse dialogue, it’s a technical marvel and fun to watch.
Also new is the return of Microsoft to the flight games market, this time with an offering simply titled Flight (requires Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7, 2Ghz dual-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 10 GB hard drive space, 256 MB 3-D video card, Microsoft, micro soft.com/games/flight). The game’s principles aren’t far from those of the venerable Flight Simulation franchise, and Flight continues to serve up civilian flying but with several twists.
Flight is free to download and play. It has a clean, simple interface, and chooses lovely and accessible aircraft, the Icon A5 sport seaplane and the Boeing-Stearman Model 75 biplane, as the player’s starting vehicles. Voice-narrated tutorials teach the basics of flying. Based in Hawaii, the game features a lush environment, and the engine has been geared to perform well on modest hardware, at the expense of less detailed terrain.
Flight engages an approach called “gamification,” using achievements and awards as incentives to learning a flight procedure or trying a new plane. It all combines to make Flight an entertaining sim with a nice balance between playability and realism.
But if Flight is free, the question is, “What’s the catch?” There are two. First, to research some achievements, such as a goal to explore a beach, Flight promotes use of Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Second, additional content must be purchased. The Hawaiian Adventure Pack, for example, is $19.99, and the P-51 Mustang is $7.99. But those prices aren’t unreasonable compared to add-on content for other games. I would not have expected a free game to have a very advanced flight model, but Flight’s is pretty good. At this price, it’s easy to recommend a test drive.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.