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Dogfight - Battle in the skies


Stats

Windows
Freeware
Gold Star

2005

Review

This game was a real gem to discover, and possibly one of the latest 2D flight sim to be written for the PC (i.e. not a flash game). Last updated in 2007, this game started out in life as a remake of the Amiga game Dogfight - where either one or two players battle it out in WW1 biplanes, in a split screen mode. According to the authors website, he soon got bored of this, and after a re-write of the code, we have this game.

The biggest addition to the original gameplay is a massive list of aircraft to choose from. All 5 generations of planes are represented, through WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, all the way through to the modern day F22 & Eurofighter. Also represented are various helicopters, and even Star Wars vehicles!

Couple those planes (+ appropriate weapons) with large maps and reasonably modern graphics & effects, and you've got yourself a fun update to the original Dogfight genre.

A quick note this game is originally in the author's native German language, but you can change to English in the bottom right hand corner of the initial menu screen.

Realism

Given that you can pit any fighter from any time period against another from a different time period, realism isn't the main aim of this game. All planes seem to have the same flight model, although jet planes are slightly faster, and less manoeuvrable, than prop planes. All conventional planes have a single speed, but can be accelerated or slowed, and can also stall. Helicopters can increase / decrease collective, and rotate left or right to speed up / slow down. The Star Wars vehicles fly similarly to planes, but are not affected by gravity.

All aircraft have accurate weapons, so WW1 planes have puny machine guns, later WW2 planes have cannon, jets have missiles, etc. The range of weaponry is welcome, but has little bearing on the end result of each game - a WW1 plane can still beat a poorly-flown modern jet. One of the reasons this happens more often than it should, is due to the unnerving accuracy of the AI guns - they just don't miss, ever. Luckily the explosions are a joy to watch, with flaming shrapnel flying in many directions.

The AI that controls the planes is adequate - a one on one battle descends into a series of loops and Immelmann turns where each plane vies to get the other in its sights first.

Four maps are provided in this game - they range from fairly realistic mixes of sea and land, to unrealistic arrangements of land reminiscent of a map from Worms. Most maps include bases where the player can land and fix / re-arm their plane. To land the player must slow the plane and approach the runway in a shallow dive. If you've done this right, the computer takes over and lands the plane for you. This is great for novice users, but the mechanic will leave the true gamer wanting more challenge / realism.

A map set in space is also provided, presumably for the Star Wars vehicles. The author's website shows a map editor exists, but no details about this seem to be available, and it is unclear if this was ever released.

Playability

The first thing you notice when playing the game is that it is fast - possibly too fast. You cannot afford to waste any time at all when an enemy plane is about - their accuracy is deadly. As soon as you are in their sights, its game over, unless they have a weak gun, and you lots of armor. There is no time to line your shots up carefully. A lack of variation in gameplay means that I soon grew bored of the one-on-one deathmatch style battles. I'd imagine the two player split-screen game could be a lot of fun though.

Luckilly this game allows you to add up to 10 players for each side, all computer controlled apart from the initial one (or two) human players. This creates a massive, fast paced, deathmatch, with action happening all over the map. Strangely I found this mode gave me more time to think, presumably because all the other planes were busy fighting each other. A mass battle between modern fighters, with missles shooting off at all angles, is really something to behold, and I find myself having fun just watching the action unfold.

Conclusion

While this game can be amazing to watch, and occasionally take part in, I feel it is ultimately let down by the shallow game play it inherits from its 16-bit origins.

That doesnt stop me from booting it up from time to time for a taste of the action. This game gives a glimpse of what could be possible on a modern gaming computer - for instance I cant help imagining this game with non split-screen multiplayer, or missions. I'll admit that this game has probably played a part in inspiring me to write a modern 2D flight sim. I'm interested in whether the author of this game has given any thought to any more updates?

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