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MS Combat Flight Simulator 2 Review

Installation

Installation is a breeze as long as you have the whopping 340 megs for a partial install or 900 megs for a complete install.  The cut scenes and campaign graphics are all done "comic book" style and give CFS2 a fresh look.  This is the first game I can remember in a long time that's worked "out of the box" for me with no tinkering or patches.  

 

Player Flyable Aircraft

  • Mitsubishi A6M2 (Model 21) Reisen "Zero"

  • Mitsubishi A6M2 (Model 52) Reisen "Zero"

  • Kawanishi N1K2 - J Shiden-kai 

  • Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat (USN)

  • Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat

  • Lockheed P-38F Lighting

  • Vought F4U-1A Corsair

Other (Non-Player-Flyable) aircraft

  • Bell P-39D Airacobra

  • Nakajima Ki-43-1lb Hayabusa "Oscar"

  • Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive-bomber

  • Mitsubishi G4M2 "Betty" Medium Bomber

  • Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo Bomber

  • Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo Bomber

  • North American B-25D/PBJ Mitchell medium bomber

  • Douglas C-47 Skytrain Transport

  • Consolidated PB4Y/B24-D Liberator Heavy Bomber

Plus assorted warships, tanks and trucks. In addition, you can import all your planes from the original CFS

 

Eye candy galore !

The first thing that strikes you about CFS2 is how beautiful it is.  The terrain is breathtaking, the cockpits very detailed.  Everything ran very quickly and smoothly on my P3-700 / TNT2 Ultra system.   The ships actually travel and kick up spray although I haven't noticed any heaving carrier decks (yet).

cfs2-2.jpg (51101 bytes) cfs2-4.jpg (49233 bytes)  
Fantastic looking carrier ops.
 

Terrain is wonderful.. very detail satellite maps covered in beautiful texture maps provide terrain that's striking. You can also adjust how much speed you want to trade off for terrain detail with a slider.  If you are lucky enough to have a next generation video card, there is built in support for its Texel and Lighting features.

Ok, but how are the old wingbeciles?

One thing that made me cringe about the original CFS is how absolutely terrible the computer players were.  Not any more  !   The few times I've seen the AI crash into the ground they were heavily damaged.  If they are in a fast slow turning plane it almost seems like the enemy uses teamwork on you.. one dragging you away the others lining up for a shot.

Unfortunately while the wingmen do a great job of taking off and landing from a land base, they don't do carriers.  When you start a mission your wingmen are already airborne and they will stay airborne when you return to land.

 

Carrier landings.. catch the wire !

One thing I noticed immediately is how much easier carrier landings are in CFS2 than "old school" sims.   The ships actually sail into the wind giving you that much more time to line up your approach and stop.  A window with the signalling officer will pop up when you begin your approach.  You will be directed in for your landing by his paddles (complete with subtitles for us who don't have the signals memorized).

cfs2-3.jpg (62701 bytes)  
Safe on deck

  

Cockpits.. brush up on your Japaneese

CFS 2 has both 2d and 3d cockpits.  The 2d cockpits are fully clickable with cool popup tool tips that describe each instrument and display it's current value.  There is a warning in the readme that Voodoo 5000 cards have a big slowdown when the tool tips are displayed, however.  

  cfs2-5.jpg (119818 bytes) cfs2-6.jpg (85462 bytes)
2d cockpit on the left, 3d on the right

 

View modes

All sorts of view modes are available, from panning with the hat to snap views.  Padlock works well, but has a strange glitch where the view system gets a little messed up if you use the hat while padlocked. Pressing the "5" key on your number pad will fix things up. The propeller blur in 3d mode is particularly annoying.. it's made up of huge pixels and looks very strange.  I can't find any way to disable it.

cfs2-1.jpg (68059 bytes)  
Padlock in Action

  

Flight Models

Being a bit picky about flight models I was pleasantly surprised.  On full realism the planes will drop a wing if you haul back on the stick hard,  compressibility will freeze up the controls if you are dumb enough to loop under with a p-38 at high speed,  and the ground handling is very good.  I notice in the manual they must have had the same experience with users that I had tweaking the SDOE flight models.. there are a lot of explanations about lift, angle of attack and why planes are not impervious to dropping a wing just because you are in a dive.  About the only nit I can find to pick is that the p38 in CFS2 is tippier than I have read, easily drops a a wing and can enter a stable spin.  Really a minor point though, the flight models are excellent. Engine management including fuel mixture, magnetos, etc is available if you want to enable it.  War Emergency Power and Water/Methanol Injection are present.

 

Damage Models

Bullet holes, fires that spread, wings that come off.. all the good stuff is here.   I was never able to overheat my engine no matter how hard I pushed it or how much damaged I suffered however.  When your plane hits the ground there is no sound for the explosion but as you can tell I'm looking hard for things to complain about.  The way small fires either go out or spread to other parts of the plane is really a nice touch.  As parts of your plane take damage they function worse.. bullet holes in your aileron will mean your plane will roll slower.

  cfs2-7.jpg (81923 bytes)
Did you need that Tail?

  

Mission Editor

This has to be the best mission editor I've seen since WW2 fighters.. it's all there.. you can set ground vehicles, give them waypoints, speeds, set triggers on almost anything that can possibly happen in the game.   I've only started to scratch the surface here I can't wait to see what some of the mission building wizards in the sim community are able to build using all these features!

editor.gif (217950 bytes)
Triggers let you make complex missions 

  

Online Play

Online play is very good, stable and reasonably lag free as long as your opponents have decent internet connections.  Microsoft has added a special gaming zone lobby for high speed internet users which is great news for those lucky enough to be able to dump our modem connections !

Unfortunately, online play is limited to basic dogfights. The host can specify teams, gun lethality, starting altitude, and terrain.   Additional players can not enter while the game is in progress, they have to wait for the next game to start.   There doesn't seem to be any way to set-up online campaigns, bombing or strike missions.   All the online cheats from CFS1 are supposed to be patched in CFS2.

There is a strange quirk since each user can have different terrain detail settings. Since not everyone is seeing exactly the same terrain you can sometimes see strange things happen online like plane apparently flying through the ground or buildings. 

 

Campaigns

I'm partway through campaigns for both the American and Japanese sides.  The missions are interspersed with comic book style animations and voiceovers that make for a great story line.  The recon photos and medals, mission summary make for even more immersion. The campaign is not dynamic, your performance in one mission doesn't seem to affect the next one.

 

Microsoft - the New Disneyland?

In the interest of "Political Correctness" some rather novel decisions were made in the design of this game.  The attack on Pearl Harbour is not included in the Japanese campaign.   Kamikaze attacks are not simulated.   Pilot wounds do not appear to be simulated and when your pilot bails and is hit by the aircraft the game immediately ends and goes back to the mission summary.

 

Conclusion

Being an "online junkie" I was disappointed there wasn't more support for online campaigns or creating and using missions online (this feature still keeps me coming back to Fighter Squadron: Screaming Demons Over Europe).  For most people I'm sure the team dogfight mode present is adequate if a little boring after repeated play.

While the inclusion of only 7 user flyable planes is disappointing (I would really have loved to fly a torpedo run against a ship or a bombing mission),  the planes that are present are simulated very well.  Considering most jet simulations only attempt to model one user flyable plane I think this many well done planes is quite acceptable.  I hope we'll be seeing some high quality add-on planes in the future.

Graphics are stunning, they set a new standard far exceeding anything we've seen so far.  The mission editor, flight, and damage models are all excellent. Fires, bullet holes, compressibility, WEP, and all the good stuff is present and accounted for.  

I had to hold my nose buying this sim after the fiasco that was the original CFS but after having a chance to play with it I can gladly say CFS 2 is a keeper.  The most complete and polished sim I've seen since European Air War, bravo Microsoft!

 

Update: there are already some patches out to fly the non-flyable planes in CFS 2, check out the links below. Here are some pics from Crankshaft to whet your appetite.

Chuckstang.jpg (283758 bytes) FlockOf4u.jpg (136135 bytes) Lulabelle.jpg (318452 bytes) Ruptduck.jpg (269773 bytes) Winnie.jpg (303204 bytes) dauntless1.jpg (91441 bytes) dauntless2.jpg (74744 bytes)

 

 
News/Links

Canucks Overseas ~ Mission 1 Cool Based on the historical events which resulted in the first aerial victory for the Royal Air Force in North Africa.
Canucks Overseas ~ Mission 2 Cool for CFS2. 318 Kb Requires other aircraft and scenery downloads; links are provided. Rick Rutherford (rc.rutherford@shaw.ca)
CFS 2 Review My impressions of Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 2
CFS Dump/Refuel Guages Some people are using these to dump fuel in online games to make their planes more manouverable.
CFS2 Frame Rate Tweaks Here's a tweaking guide for CFS2. It's comprehensive, well-written, and it works!
CFS2: "Pearl Harbor" addon (25mb) is released. Only, it costs $19.95. Anyway, I suggest you read about it, then decide if it's worth it.
Combat Flight Center Lots of MS Combat Flight Simulator information and downloads. (plane add-ons, missions)
Dawgfewd's CFS2 Fuel Barn Cool Neat site with tricks and tips, missions and planes for CFS 2, including config file settings.
DXTBmp Utility to decompress CFS2 skins for painting
Eurofighter Typhoon for FS2002 The most accurate visual model of the Eurofighter Typhoon for any version of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Free Scenery for CFS / CFS2. Lots of scenery downloads.
More Free Scenery for CFS2. Eastern front, ground objects.
Multiswap for CFS2 Allows you more control over multiplayer online missions!
Nibbio's CFS2 Site Cool Great addons.. Roll damage fix, torpedo wakes, fuel ships that leak oil!
No CD Patch for CFS2 put an end to the old "cd-shuffle". click on the link under 16-10-2000
Preview of CFS3 Cool Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 3.. late WW2 sim with even better terrain clouds and 3d cockpits!
Screenshots - CFS 2 Exclusive Screen Shots from Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2
simTech Readers should be able to find some interesting CFS addons there, many of which are free for download.
Well's FM V1.7 Latest FM updates for CFS2. Haven't had a chance to test them

 

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