on May 8, 2014
I was getting tired of Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3, (CFS3) I had already done just about everything you could do on it, and I was ready for a better flight sim. I have spent many hours on CFS3 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X. I wanted a WWII combat flight sim, so I spent a lot of time looking them up on the internet and on Amazon. Essentially, I found very little about any of the sims, except for these reviews, and finally decided that the only way to find out which one was the best was to buy all of them. I had a $25 Amazon gift card, plus some extra cash, so I began to buy all the combat flight sims I could find for a reasonable price. I have heard that Combat Flight Simulator 2 Pacific Series is great, but I could not find one within my price range. I now own: Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 1 (Europe Series) 1998, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3 (Battle For Europe) 2007, Jane’s WWII Fighters 1998, Jane’s Attack Squadron 2002, and IL-2 Sturmovik (1946) 2006 (which also includes IL-2 Forgotten Battles, Ace expansion pack, and Pacific Fighters) I own many more flight sims than this, but I have found that anything from 1997 or earlier is not even worth talking about because the graphics are so primitive. I have played all these and compared them for a long time, and I have compiled all their attributes into a Pros and Cons list below. If you take the time to read this, you will know what flight sim is right for you.
Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 1 (CFS1) (Europe Series) 1998
This sim is based on the earlier portion of the war on the western front, which includes the Battle of Britain, and early operations in France. Flyable aircraft are very limited, but include the Hawker Hurricane, not usually modeled in old flight sims. Many great Battle of Britain planes are present, like the He-111, Do-17, Me-110, Ju-87, Ju-88, and American bombers like the B-25, B-24, and B-17, but these are all non-flyable. There are some unusual missions, like escaping France in a stolen Bf-109, shooting down a traitor in your squadron, and shooting a German general’s car out from under the Eiffel Tower! The campaigns are some of the best I’ve seen, The Battle of Britain is very engaging, protecting ship convoys from Stukas and U-boats. Rockets and explosions are realistic. CFS1 has pretty bad aircraft graphics, but the ground detail is amazing, taken from an actual satellite. However, this pales since the ground is completely flat except for spiky mountains, and a few badly modeled buildings in the cities. The satellite image also slows down my laptop. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is marginal, fighters attack but know hardly any maneuvers, and enemy bombers don’t avoid you. The menu is reasonable, and pretty easy to use.
Pros: Fair Graphics, Fair selection of flyable aircraft, good AI, Fair menu.
Cons: Flat ground, bad aircraft graphics, not enough flyable aircraft, can’t fly the P-38 NO MISSION BUILDER (Deal breaker)
What sets it apart: Cool campaigns and missions.
Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3 (CFS3) (Battle For Europe) 2007
This flight sim is based on the whole war on the western front, from the Battle of Britain to the Battle of the Ardennes, and on. Very unique array of aircraft, ALL are flyable! Planes like the B-25, B-26, Ju-88, and Mosquito are fully modeled, from the controllable gunner positions to the damage modeling. Unusual planes like the P-55 Ascender, and Go-229 flying wing are also flyable, though they would never fly in real life. There are many tanks, flak guns, and ship convoys. There is even an invasion fleet on campaigns on a certain day. Missions are reasonable and challenging, the campaigns are great, with maps, separate available missions, and customization of your own personal aircraft. Campaigns are very lengthy and difficult, however. CFS3 wins the prize for labeling: Aircraft, tanks, airbases, factories, refineries, and other objects are all labeled with their distance from you in feet. This, however, makes it somewhat more of an arcade game unless you turn it off. No mission builder, unless you load one for it off the internet, (Have a nice time figuring that out, they deleted the CFS3 website!) Graphics are good, some trees, many different buildings and airbases, relatively detailed ships, and smooth aircraft. Most of Britain, France and Germany are modeled, and even part of Spain and Switzerland. AI is not that great, enemy fighters sometimes ignore you, but have pretty good aim. They also crash by themselves too easily. Tanks have to stay in their formations, and almost never fire at all. The intro video is intense and extremely realistic, with the exception of the Go-229 at the end. The menu shows your customized aircraft and armament parked next to a hanger, which is cool. User interface is good. Menu music is depressing, which is probably intentional. Relatively realistic in all.
Pros: Good graphics, Great selection of Aircraft, Great factories and ship convoys, Good menu.
Cons: Arcade-like, fake-ish prototype aircraft, ditzy aircraft and vehicle AI, NO MISSION BUILDER.
What sets it apart: Flyable medium bombers with gunner positions, and unusual aircraft.
Jane’s WWII Fighters 1998
This sim is based on the last major German offensive in WWII. The speed and maneuverability of the fighters are slightly embellished towards the Axis aircraft, the German planes are given similar maneuverability to superior aircraft like the P-51, which makes for fair battles on either side. Flyable aircraft are limited to the Spitfire, P-51, P-47, P-38, Bf-109, Fw-190, and Me-262. Many Axis and Allied bombers like the B-17 are included, but they are non-flyable. There is a big selection of tanks, ground vehicles, buildings, and other objects on the mission builder, which is very easy to use. Massive tank battles can be created in just a few seconds by placing tank divisions on the map. The V-1 Flying Bomb is also on the mission builder. There is also the ability to set an infinite combination of trigger points, which are invisible values, times, and conditions that can cause an action like making more planes appear, or anything else you can think of. The sim has pretty good graphics, though there are almost no trees and the ground is completely flat except for a few buildings and mountains. There is only a small area of land that is modeled, and no water or ships at all. AI is very good, even the best pilot can be shot down by a rookie fighter if he’s not careful. Tanks dart away when shot at by planes, but just sit there when other tanks attack. The menu is very fun and easy to use, great user interface. The menu music is catchy and true to the time period. In-flight music is somewhat annoying. You can learn a lot from the narrated documentaries on each aircraft. All in all pretty realistic, defiantly the best combat flight sim from the ’90s.
Pros: Fair graphics, Great selection of ground vehicles, Great mission builder, Great AI, Awesome menu with elevator music, Awesome user interface
Cons: Graphics inferior to newer sim’s, not enough flyable aircraft, no water or ships, no trains, ditzy tank AI, aircraft AI always wants to fight you head on! (Be careful)
What sets it apart: Great AI, Great mission builder.
Jane’s Attack Squadron 2002
This sim is based on the bombing raids and air-to-ground attacks of the western front. All aircraft are flyable, including three heavy bombers, the B-17, B-24, and Avro Lancaster with their many bombardier and gunner positions! There are only a few different kinds of tanks, trains, and ships. The physics editor and mission builder appear to be the best ones yet, with waypoint markers, 1 million square miles of detailed terrain to work with, and even terrain sculpting! The only problem is that they are very complicated, and the help and read-me files are corrupted do to a programming error. The full mission builder and physics editor are unsupported by the company, and cannot be found anywhere. So much for the mission builder. There are only 6 pre-made missions, which are pretty good but boring after 12 times. The quick mission builder is good, with multiple aircraft, enemy aircraft, target, weather, and time settings, although you cannot select location or direction and are limited to 32 aircraft. With this you create awesome bombing missions, with formations of bombers attacking massive, detailed cities, with defending fighters swarming around. Terrain graphics are relatively good, but defiantly an improvement over Jane’s WWII fighters. Buildings are very detailed, from houses and hangers with individual windows, to massive factories and even small sky scrapers. Bomber details are pretty good, but fighters are kind of boxy with less curves. Damage modeling is great, bullet and flak holes appear when hit. The fighter AI is good, though not quite as good as WWII Fighters. The bomber AI, however, is superb. Bombers fly in close formation without ever crashing, (Imagine that!) and gunnery accuracy is better than any other flight sim’s bombers. Set to aces, a formation of 6 B-17s can shoot down a Bf-109 in less than 5 seconds! Ground vehicles, tanks, and ships have no AI whatsoever, and just go through their waypoints no matter what. The menu is very easy to use, and the menu music is not too annoying. The intro and in-flight music are cool.
Pros: Good graphics, Ability to fly all bombers, Great bomber AI, Good user interface.
Cons: Graphics inferior to newer sim’s, bad aircraft graphics, bad selection of ground vehicles, unusable/way-to-hard-to-use mission builder.
What sets it apart: Ability to fly the B-17, B-24, and Lancaster and control gunner positions.
Ubisoft IL-2 Sturmovik (1946) 2006
This sim includes all of the previous IL-2s made by Ubisoft before 2006, so any other ones like IL-2 Forgotten Battles and Pacific Fighters are not necessary. IL-2 1946 includes most of WWII on the Western front, the Pacific front, but focuses on the Eastern Russian front. The 1946 portion focuses on an alternate timeline in which all the major leaders like Roosevelt, Stalin, and Hitler have died and the new leaders send their countries into vastly different paths than those of reality. The war continues into 1946 where both Allies and Axis have advanced rocket and jet aircraft. Some U.S.S.R. aircraft are even as advanced as the MiG-15, some even more. German late-war prototype aircraft like the Go-229 have materialized and are used in combat. Even guided missile technology is available. I have to admit, that at first, I was a bit skeptical since IL-2 1946 was designed in Russia. It turns out that as I suspected, IL-2 is significantly embellished towards the U.S.S.R., (I wonder why?) with more Russian aircraft than U.S., British, and French aircraft combined. But when I realized what else IL-2 had to offer, I knew this was the best combat flight sim of all time. IL-2 includes over 400 different aircraft from the USSR, US, Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Finland, Romania, Slovakia, Australia, Japan, Singapore, China, and more! At least 250 of these are flyable, including: The A-20, B-25, P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, P-63, YP-80, F2A Buffalo, SBD Dauntless, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F4F Corsair, Hurricane, Spitfire, Tempest, Beoufighter, Mosquito, I-153, I-16, Mig-3, Yak-3, Pe-2, and so many more that it would take a whole page to fit them. Many non-flyable never-before-modeled aircraft are present also, like the massive Me-323 6-engined transport, Ju-88 Mistel flying bomb, Fw-200 Condor, and many more. There are hundreds of different meticulously detailed tanks, vehicles, and warships. One of my favorite things about IL-2 is that the Pacific front of the war is included, along with US Navy and Japanese carrier borne aircraft, a great selection of Japanese land-based planes, the B-29, (non-flyable. Boo hoo.) submarines, torpedo boats, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and many aircraft carriers. The mission builder is great, with 3D maps, condition settings, and infinite waypoint combinations. Tanks and other vehicles stick to roads when possible, but will go almost anywhere you program them to. The world is divided into separate smaller maps, which you can select. Many fronts are present, like Normandy, The Ardennes, Berlin, Gulf of Finland, Manchuria, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Midway, Hawaii, Moscow, and many more Russian maps. You can program waypoints for aircraft, tanks, and ships, and set the speed, altitude, direction, skill, paint job, gun accuracy, firing rate, and more. The missions are good, but you will find that you will enjoy making your own missions much more. The aircraft, vehicle, ship, building, sky, ocean, and terrain graphics are all unparalleled by any other sim, with outstanding detail from huge forests of 3D trees and rocky mountains, to super detailed buildings and tanks with words even visible on the sides! You can even see personnel at their positions on ships! The AI for everything is incredible, enemy aircraft know advanced maneuvers, tanks aim their turrets and fire at enemies, and ship turrets and flak guns fire accurately at targets. However, IL-2’s user interface is lousy. The menu is boring and has tiny buttons for everything, but this is nothing compared to the quick and full mission builders. For over 350 aircraft, and a few thousand other vehicles, buildings, and objects, there are tiny drop down lists which you must scroll through to select anything. The scroll bar is 3/16ths of an inch wide, (I kid you not!) and is so short that it takes about 30 seconds to get your curser centered over it. When zoomed in to a map, it switches to 3D mode for the entire terrain, so this will slow down your computer and curser significantly unless you have a high-end graphics card. Between this and the scroll bars of death, it is almost impossible to do anything on the mission builder without a good mouse. My cousin owns IL-2, and he can hardly move his curser at all on the mission builder. The frame rate in flight is about ½ to 2 frames per second, (F.P.S.) which is horrible. Target F.P.S. is usually about 20 F.P.S.. This is probably because his graphics card is outdated. However, I have a very old IBM ThinkPad laptop with Windows XP, and IL-2 works just fine on it. If possible though, you want a high-end graphics card, and a large screen. The intro music is pretty cool, but when you hear the main menu music, you will burst out laughing. It sounds like circus music, or something from a corny cartoon. But, amazingly, IL-2 gives you the ability to change system files, unlike most other sims, so you can switch the circus music with something less annoying. There is also the issue of swearing. The box says it includes mild swearing, but I would debate that. At some points, it seems like all the pilots ever say is the same swearword over and over, which is not realistic anyways since Japanese, German, Russian, and French pilots wouldn’t speak English. But, luckily, again you can change this in a notepad system file called conf.ini, by changing the noswearing: value from 0 to 1, and save. I really appreciate the ability to change system files on this sim, you can fix many of the annoying problems once and for all. All in all, this is the BEST combat flight sim my friends or I have ever seen, defiantly a must-have for WWII airplane buffs. Since IL-2 1946, Ubisoft has come out with more combat flight sims, I have not bought any of these yet, though.
Pros: Incredible graphics, Ability to fly many medium bombers, Amazing selection of flyable and non-flyable aircraft, Great AI, Many war fronts available, Awesome ships. Ability to change system files.
Cons: Can’t fly heavy bombers like the B-17, B-24, B-29, etc, Russian embellishment, Bad user interface, Runs slowly on older graphics cards.
What sets it apart: Unmatched graphics and realism, Huge selection of aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and ships.
Thank you for reading this, now I don’t feel like I wrote all this for nothing.