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Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theater is the successor to the highly successful Combat Flight Simulator WWII Europe Series and Fighter Ace Series. CFS1 Was the first combat conversion of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. The gameplay takes place in the Pacific Theater of Operations, and includes campaigns moderately based on historical air battles, from both the American and Japanese perspectives.
Because of the open-ended architecture of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, the platform for this simulator, many enthusiasts have created massive amounts of extra scenery, aircraft, missions and campaigns.
Strategy and air combat software
Combat flight simulators, although derived from standard aircraft flight simulators, are not simply aimed at leisure flying in a nicely simulated environment. They deal mainly with aircraft performance, maneuvering, strategy and tactics, opponent behavior, extra visual effects (like weapons, explosions, target damage) and are often inspired from historical air combat data. As such, not all related software on the market, should be called 'combat flight simulators,' as many focus only on graphics, while others rely on ‘shoot’em up’ features with no importance placed on strategy or mission variety.
In the early 90s, the first ever such combat simulator with rich strategy features and its own mission building possibilities was the ’trilogy’ package by LucasArts, known as the "Air Combat Classics." It consisted of "Battle Hawks 1942," "Their Finest Hour," and "SWOTL". In this software, the opponent developed strategies on attack and defense that you had to compete and there were facilities for building your own missions and/or campaigns and even recording and filming some duration of your own fighting scene and then rewinding to look around in free view to assess the results. Additionally you could fly all the types included, that contained fighters and bombers. In bombers one could play all the roles in them, like pilot, gunner, bombardier etc. Due to their exteme popularity, there are still websites hosting guidelines, free mission files and other add-ons open for free downloads compatible to the games.
Designed, however, in the days of poorer PC performance it was limited to VGA 16 color graphics and was suitable rather for the slower CPUs below some 150 MHz. For unknown reasons, LucasArts decided not to update this product on PCs, despite the demand, but eventually promoted another similar version for the PS2 and Xbox platforms, titled Secret Weapons Over Normandy, that came rather closer to a shoot’em up version. A number of others was passed fairly unnoticed by the strategy enthusiasts who appreciated the mental factor more than the graphics.
The Combat Flight Simulator 2 (CFS2) as a Strategy simulator
Ever since, the main product that appeared on the market combining sound flight simulator characteristics with a ‘strategy philosophy’ in air combat was the Microsoft (MS)-CFS2. Actually most of LucasArts ‘tactics’ re-appeared with it. One cannot comment about any possible ‘co-ordination’ between the two software but for those ‘veterans’ who used to design missions with both programs some obvious relations can be detected. However, since Microsoft has maintained all its good characteristics from its previous ‘know-how’ with flight simulators and its modern graphics, the CFS2 program stays always well above the typical shoot’em-up mentality and has been praised a lot by the users who also like its creativity and add-on features. This makes the CFS2 a very important program that is used as a kind of ‘platform’ for the many air combat enthusiasts. An additional factor to it is that a number of users were able to create historically extremely correct missions and fly them in CFS2 so that, in a sense, the program becomes a history 'animator' or 'viewer'.
Although there has been previously a CFS1 and then a CFS3 version by MS, there have been serious changes between these versions where continuity was not always a given fact. On this ground many blogging site fans expressed the feeling that CFS2 is still unsurpassed and will so stay for at least a decade more.
CFS2 has 7 different types of player flyable aircraft, all of which are fighters:
United States aircraft:
Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat
Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat
Chance-Vought F4U-1A Corsair
Lockheed P-38F Lightning
Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero
Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero
Kawanishi N1K2-J George
Combat Flight Simulator 2 also comes with 11 non-player flyable aircraft, although third party add-ons can make these aircraft flyable by the player:
United States aircraft:
Consolidated B-24D Liberator
North American B-25D Mitchell
Douglas C-47 Dakota
Bell P-39D Airacobra
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Douglas TBD-1 Devestator
Grumman TBF Avenger
Nakajima B5N2 Kate
Aichi D3A1 Val
Mitsubishi G4M2 Betty
Nakajima Ki-43-IIb Oscar
CFS2 Main features
The program is offered in a set of 2 CDs, one of which must be kept in the PC drive while running. Keeping the disk in the drive minimized memory usage on older computers.
CFS2 Wingmen capabilities
Although in the original Combat Flight Simulator users were accompanied in the air by AI Wingmen, they suffered from being poor shots, lack of commands e.g. Attack my Target, Engage the Enemy, and in some cases were not able to survive a lot of Battle Damage and collided with the player. In Combat Flight Simulator 2 however the whole Wingmen capability was expanded including: Ability to change positions of Wingmen in the player's section e.g. Ability to click and drag wingman from Second Flight Leader Position to Number Two position of Second Flight, Wingmen gained skill as the player progressed through the Campaign, however the AI Wingmen did not actively seek to engage the enemy and in most cases the player would have to direct them to engage the enemy. However Microsoft addressed this as being purposefully set, so that the player would have to carry out the bulk of the mission objectives. Wingmen also have full names e.g. Jason Fomichev, Frank Sutherland. In the original Combat Flight Simulator wingmen had one word names e.g. Old, Garth, Sutherland. Overall the wingmen capability in Combat Flight Simulator 2 is greatly improved from the previous version. However they still suffer from some very serious flaws the most notable being - following out-of control damaged enemy aircraft (such as those that lost a whole wing) and crashing with them (while attempting to deliver an unnecessary coup de grace) and totally disregarding the terrain when ordered to strafe ground targets (i.e. flying into mountains while approaching their strafing target). They still occasionally collide with each other (notably while circling above the carrier while waiting for the player to take-off) or when chasing enemy aircraft in pairs. All of this happens regardless of whether they are damaged or being under any kind of attack at all. Since the campaign fails if you lose more than ten wingmen and fail in a mission, this can lead to some serious frustrations, or the need to start some missions over and over again, even though you survived and carried out your mission, each time hoping that the wingmen won't ruin the game with their poor performance.
Themes and Scenery
The themes come from the Pacific War air fighting between 1941-44 but MS did very well to stick to the real stories of aces who fought on those days so that all scenarios for exercising and competing were designed after some real historic events and you are asked to take part in scenarios really flown by US Navy and Marine Aces. (Check the : http://www.microsoft.com/games/combatfs2/)
The scenery around which you may put your fighting experiences is coming from the same one that fit to the Pacific Islands in those days. You may add extra weather conditions selecting between clear sky, light or heavy cloud coverage and day or night conditions
The term scenery CFS2 also describes any special graphics that refer to additional components, weapons, special visual effects - like explosions and smoke -, or even particular instrument effects
A vast library of scenery features exist in CFS2 to create the battle environment. They can be static or animated. Most of the static ones are buildings, trees, bridges, aerodromes, harbors, barrage balloons, tents, barracks etc. The ones that may become moving objects are vehicles, tanks, destroyers, carriers, submarines and planes. All of them can become targets and most of them have a damage animation as well, e.g. : a ship is hit, you see explosions and flames and you will eventually see it sinking and disappearing below the waves. Tents, buildings and barracks are exploding, collapsing and then become rubbles and dust leaving holes on the ground.
Although not part of the scenery as such, the enemy planes appear in the sky with tags, containing their unit identity (if assigned one) and distance, in red characters. This is a very basic feature of CFS2 and has become a kind of part of the standard scenery. In the previous installment of the Combat Flight Simulator Series only the enemy aircraft's aircraft type and distance from the player were listed. However the Player's wingmen had tags with their 'name' and distance from the player. This does not differ much in Combat Flight Simulator 2 except that the Wingmen have 'proper' names.
Another new addition to Combat Flight Simulator 2 is that individual bullet holes appear where bullets have hit the plane, rather than pieces flying off the plane and random puffs of smoke and preset damage textures for specific parts of an object.
An F4F (set to be the Joe Foss plane) taking-off from Guadalcanal Henderson’s field, is trying to intercept the Japanese attackers coming from the north. The names of the Japanese units appear on the sky in red followed by their distance ( example : Aoshima 5719)
Types of aircraft performance
There are two category of planes you may select from : the flyable and the non-flyable ones. The first category comprises types you may pilot yourself in combat, the other types you may only use as escorts or enemies in a fighting scenario. The main flyable fighting types for the CFS2 are the F4F Wildcat, the Japanese Zero and the F6F Hellcat. These are by far the best performing types with an extreme resemblance to the real battle performance. They can act as fighters, bombers or rocket launching ground attack fighters and can be used in all Pacific War scenarios in the program. If missions are designed with accurate historical data they do produce almost the same results as with the actual air battles themselves! There are a number of historical dogfights in the Pacific that one may faithfully reproduce with CFS2.
This is not, however, the case with other types. Notably, the famous for their speed and power F4U-1 Corsair and P-38 Lighting are by far less performing than the others, whom they were supposed to exceed both in speed and power. Most of the other non-flyable types are behaving almost well. However, their effectiveness is greatly affected by position and altitude settings on a mission design ; for example most of the torpedo planes fail to hit ships if not set to attack at a very low level. Bombers are usually more effective but even so you have to assign ace skill for their pilots if you need to heavily damage the enemy. Some of the additional types available from amateur designers appear to have a number of additional problems. Occasionally upon creating huge wings of enemy planes in the skies, they may affect the screen-refresh rate, causing some update delay due to the many graphics details (‘frame-rate killers’)
Aircraft liveries - Textures or ‘skins’
For every model of CFS2 there are liveries or ‘skins’ associated with. They are typical 2D pictures of the bitmap (*. Bmp) type that cover the entire 3D model. The original ones are, however, very typical and standard, for example both F4F and F6F bear the standard navy blue-intermediate blue and below surface white color scheme, even when flown by US Marine Aces whose real color scheme was a simple grey-blue (above plane area) and light-grey (under wing area). No other particular characteristics exist for individual aircraft with different numbers or private badges. This ‘weakness’ however, has been totally overcome by the hundreds of amateur users who can redesign these liveries and offer an almost infinite variety of skins via the internet. A freeware program named DXTbmp.exe is able to convert these bitmaps into workable pictures that are edited with any popular image editor software and they are then converted back and saved to the original CFS2 place and format. The new liveries appear on the CFS2 models immediately upon running the program next time.
A skin modification with DXTbmp.exe where the number 86 and the victories as well as the name ‘Lulubelle’ have been added onto the original CFS2 skin , corresponding to the liveries of Major Greg Boyington, in 1943
Many tools for helping people to create add-ons can be found on the special Microsoft site for CFS2. Amateur fans may also advise the :http://www.mnwright.btinternet.co.uk/cfsutils.htm
Views and sounds
- A set of standard views are available exactly as with any other MS Flight Simulator and usually activated by the same action buttons . The enemy indicator from the original Combat Flight Simulator is carried on into Combat Flight Simulator 2, this allows Enemy planes to be traced in the sky with an ‘enemy indicator’ that shows where to look for them while next to all plane positions their name and distance in feet is displayed in red small characters to estimate their proximity and/or relative speed. A particular view can be selected for sea or ground targets alone, to navigate towards them.
The green-cone in front of the pilot is the ‘enemy-indicator’. This F4F just off Henderson’s field is warned that enemy planes arrive from left and above
The cockpit view becomes a major visual feature for any flight machine especially where instruments have to be looked at and read. The various instrument indicators, named ‘gauges’, are collected in a special folder and when used with various models you may get the proper impression of the animated cockpit of a particular aircraft type. A special file is associated with every type that contains all the information of where a gauge will be put, how it will appear and how it will be animated
There are very satisfactory visual effects that follow the destruction of enemy planes or shipping, wave turbulence produced on the trail of ships, smoke and explosions combing visual and audio senses at the same time
Here you may observe the result from rocket attacks against a Japanese convoy . Watch the explosion on the bridge of this cargo ship ("Aki Maru') ahead and the rest of the convoy ship simulated , in a user's designed mission.
External views, top-down views and cockpit views can be selected at any moment, as with a typical Microsoft Flight Simulator. What seems to be missing, though, is the filming . Recordings of your flying is not available and you can not assess your tactics, especially on ground attacks.
- Normal engine sounds, bomb explosions and machine-gun rattling are very well simulated. There are as well pilot voice exclamations and expressions that suit the development of the battle, simulating radiotelephony messages during fighting. If the American nationality is selected for the pilot then these voice sounds are automatically activated. Their text is also displayed as a text message on the upper area of the screen for a while
Combat Scenarios from the original package
Once in CFS2 you may select your nationality and accordingly you may select from existing missions. In the original CFS2 disks you have US and Japanese missions for some real historic aces (like Foss, O’Hare, Boyington etc.) . You may fly a mission whose complexity is pre-organized and described in the briefing text. As a beginner you may fly a simple training mission to perfect your shooting, bombing and rocket-launching techniques or select a simple one-to-one fight where you select the place, your plane and the opponent. You may select from campaigns, starting as an Ensign and there, according to the required tasks, if you succeed and survive, you may climb up the promotion ladder followed by citations. Campaigns are not easy to complete but for the dedicated player there is quite a hope at the end of the tunnel. Most experienced ones may end at least Captains with some 3-4 Congressional Medals. If you fail a mission you may simply ignore its results and retry or if favorable you then save them and continue on the next hoping to improve your career.
CFS2 Mission Builder
One of the most important components of CFS2 is the Mission Builder program included only when users signed up to Microsoft.com/GameStudios/CFS2 (Newer users, 2001+ Could not get the builder unless they when to an external download site or used the disk on the Re-packaged version). by which users can create their own missions. The functions and tools are large in variety and there are many possibilities to enhance the action.
On the Mission Builder’s screen one may select any geographic area on earth as a center of air battle, not only the Pacific. Scenery objects may be added anywhere to create bases, airfields or target areas. Objects may be static, like buildings, bridges etc., however, aircraft, ships and vehicles can be created also on the move over assigned tracks
For each mission the following data are inserted :
- a user file name, and optionally :
- time and date of air combat
- a briefing text and/or a background historical information
- a weather setup and other controlling parameters
These data are compiled automatically upon saving under a script given the file name + the .mis extension (filename.mis) and is saved in the \MISSIONS folder of CFS2
- For combat objects (aircraft, planes, vehicles, guns…) the selection involves :
- nationality (which defines the attitude of the other objects. For example if an object is a plane of Japanese nationality it will fire at you if you are a USN pilot)
- name of group/unit and number of planes in it (8 planes is the limit for one unit/group but many other groups can be created. Pilot names in the same unit appear with numbers after the same unit name, i.e. : in the Aoshima group pilots appear as Aoshima (leader), Aoshima-1, Aoshima-2 etc.)
- position or tracks and waypoints to follow
- speed and altitude at waypoints
- operational task (strike, anti-ship, defend, intercept…) at waypoints
- ability of the pilot or ship captain (rookie, average, veteran, ace)
- payload ( arms carried . This option is variable according to the type )
- unit aggressiveness during battle
- group activation time and/or when to reappear
- Triggering Events
On the purpose of creating some Events in the mission first the Triggering conditions have to be established. There is a variety of triggers that refer to number of kills, status of aircraft, object health (damage etc.), position ( in – out of an area ), time elapsed in mission and so on.
Once the triggers have been defined then the Events are created to be activated after the predefined triggering conditions occur. For example you may congratulate a pilot for having scored 5 kills or announce to a pilot that his target was annihilated or that new enemy planes are approaching from a direction.
On editing these events one may combine a number of triggers that finally create a response as a result of this event. For example you may create a text to be displayed in front of a pilot to announce his 5 kills, and/or create a report that will appear at the end of the mission during the debriefing and/or a voice message. These voice messages must be voice files that are either existing in the program under the folder \SOUNDS or you created them by recording your own voice telling anything you want and saving this as a voice file in the folder \SOUNDS . An event can be also a restriction on a flight or maybe the mission termination itself. Many events can be created in one event and may also be sequenced in time. You may also assign an event as a task to be achieved which contributes to your final score and/or create a repetitive warning while it is still valid. Imagination only can be a limit, as everything depends on the user her/himself. The only point to pay attention to is that some events need special triggers and will not occur unless the triggers are successfully defined.
These data are compiled automatically upon saving under a scrip given the file name + the .dyn extension (filename.dyn) and is saved in the \MISSIONS folder of CFS2.
- extra mission builder highlights
The experienced user may also edit the text of the *.mis and *.dyn files in order to achieve some other features not immediately controllable from the Mission Builder. One may assign:
- individual names to pilots in the same unit
- different aircraft types in the same group
- individual names to ship units other than the simple code numbers offered for, say, destroyers. Ie : one may rename the DD-245 as, say, USS Mahan
By editing some other files of the original CFS2 version one may :
- add more names for pilots and units to choose from in the mission builder
- more nationalities and allocation to sides as Allies or Axis
You may add planes that you can't fly in the game, but you can put them in mission builder.
Douglas TBD-1 Devastator
Grumman TBF-1 Avenger
Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless
Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat
Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat
Lockheed P-38F Lightning
Vought F4U-1A Corsair
Aichi D3A1 ”Val”
Mitsubishi G4M2 ”Betty”
Nakajima B5N2 ”Kate”