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ups: Good selection of aircraft; great physics; nice shrubbery.
downs: It's really old hat (for the most part); you need a new machine to run it well.

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MS Combat Flight Simulator 3 Review (PC)
game: MS Combat Flight Simulator 3
four star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Microsoft
developer: Microsoft
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Dec 10th, 2002
last revision: 01:01 PM Sat Oct 29th, 2005

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By Thomas Hoff

Combat Flight Simulator 3: Battle for Europe is (let\'s get a good start here by stating the obvious) Microsoft\'s third foray into the world of WWII flight sims. With CFS 3 we see a return for the franchise to the European theater and the closing years of the Great War. Aircraft familiar to the latter days of the fracas and a few days even after that are featured in this edition. Along with the flyable goodies we get a new \"dynamic\" campaign system, a new terrain engine and . . . well, that\'s about it except for a bunch of old hat. Don\'t get disheartened here; there\'s enough to CFS 3 to go around and make it worthwhile. But don\'t go running around the house thinking that this is new-fangled stuff or something.

The most important feature for any aircraft sim, for me, is its selection of aircraft, so lets get down to the nitty-gritty here. Included in the thirty-odd flyable aircraft are examples of USAAF, RAF and Luftwaffe mainstays: Two variants each of the P-51 (including the much faster fastback), P-47, P-38, B-26, Spitfire, Bf-109, Fw-190, and Me-262 jet. There are also three variants each of the Mosquito, B-25 (all British for some reason) and Ju-88. And, on top of all that, for no extra cost, you get the Tempest and Typhoon.

Beyond the expected collection of characteristic aircraft from WWII, CFS 3 also features some lesser-known late-arriving examples, including some of the first allied jets. There\'s the: P-55 pusher, P-80 (more commonly thought of as the T-33), Vampire, Do-335 (think of a P-55 with some pull to go along with the push) and the Go-229 jet powered flying wing. The addition of these aircraft is welcome, though I believe that instead of bringing in the post-war aircraft they could have instead offered a few of the more applicable, or appropriate aircraft like the A-20, P-39 or P-61.

To go along with the selection of aircraft the flight physics are near-perfect, and are roughly true to the characteristics of the aircraft included. On my first attempt at landing a B-26 I smeared myself halfway across southern England; the second time I did the deadly-endo thing by snapping the nose gear off. And, on the third try I remembered exactly why B-26\'s had a bad reputation. The aircraft models are also among the best I have yet seen. As an added bonus, the player is able to customize paint schemes and nose art.

The newest and arguably most original feature of CFS 3 is its campaign system. Dynamic seems to be one of the military sim maker\'s favorite new words. Like other familiar dynamic systems, your performance influences the game\'s specific and general outcomes. Your actions set off events, spawn enemies and generate flak. The developers also attempted to incorporate some role-playing-like elements into the game. As a player advances through the game they pick up and develop skills that are useful to the completion of further missions. Unfortunately, while playing the game I never felt that the \"dynamic\" system was particularly worthwhile. It\'s of trivial value due to insufficient integration with the rest of the game and a negligible impact on the outcome of the missions.

On the bright side, Microsoft has turned out some of their best graphics code. This game runs smoothly and nearly flawlessly. However, like all of Microsoft\'s flight sim offerings, this one takes at least a near top-of-the-line machine to get the quality results. CFS 3\'s new terrain engine can really crank out the trees and huts, and I could swear there was some shrubbery in there too. Whether or not the new engine has improved the overall motion effect at low level is negligible. I have a feeling that twenty years down the road flight sim developers will still be working on that problem.

Multiplayer features all of the typical options save that you can do a little co-operative play here, though only on single missions and not as part of the campaign. Overall, CFS 3 provides a quality experience, but little new. Its appeal is its selection of aircraft and quality of play.


Throughout my life I have had the distinct privilege of being involved in aviation. Some of my most vivid childhood memories contain experiences involving WWII aircraft. The closest thing I have ever flown to a WWII fighter has been a Boeing Stearman, a craft that studiously and sturdily served as the introductory trainer for the vast majority of American WWII fighter pilots. I have, through the experience of my father, who has spent a little time flying P-51s, gained a vicarious sort of, though admittedly vague, understanding of what it is like to fly a Mustang -- the kind of bow-legged amazement found in thrills that normally we only get to daydream about. Through this understanding I can only gain respect for the fresh-faced 18 year-olds who, during WW II, flew these aircraft into battle.

On Veterans Day my Dad had a visitor to his office at our local airport. In this visitor\'s possession was a scrapbook that contained a personal photographic record of his experiences in WWII. One page featured a single image that seemed to sum up the horror and awe that these individuals must have felt on a daily basis. This single image showed a Me-262 in flight, as photographed from the nose of this individual\'s bomber somewhere 30,000 feet over Germany in the latter days of the war. What must he have felt as the bizarre propeller-less craft passed, guns blazing in front of him?

Thomas Hoff (12/10/2002)