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PC Review - 'The FirePower'

by Thomas Leaf on April 14, 2004 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

The FirePower philosophy is to create the most realistic air combat experience possible. The veterans of the Second World War are leaving us at a rate of 1000+ a day. FirePower for Microsoft Combat Simulator 3, commemorates their skill and sacrifice by providing the player with an air combat experience like never before.

Genre : Flight Sim
Publisher: Tri Syngergy
Developer: Shockwave Prod.
Release Date: April 2, 2004


Flying the not so friendly skies…

I place myself into several unique categories. Despite being raised on a healthy regime of Hip-Hop, Johnny Cash is one of my favorite musicians. During March Madness, I’m checking Hockey scores. While kids are scrambling for the latest and greatest FPS, I’m firing up IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles. Yes, that’s right, I play flight simulators. It began way back when with Dynamix’s Aces of Europe and Aces of the Pacific and continued with Secret Weapons of Luftwaffe further inspired by European Air War and CFS 2.

Imagine my smirking countenance when I had heard that CFS 3 was coming out. Sure, I was a little bummed out that the focus would be the ETO…again. As if we haven’t flown over Europe enough. Why not North Africa or the Spanish Civil War? Alas I took one look at the screen shots which seemed like so long ago and settled for the choice of venue in hopes of something compelling to fly. Boy was I disappointed.

My initial reception to CFS 3 was one of dismay. I found the initial release to be virtually unplayable and what was playable was down right awful. Had I been spoiled by my former prop-driven Russian lover? To my mind, CFS 3 was released half-baked and run rough-shod over an already dwindling population of cyber pilots. I felt heated, uninstalled the game and returned it the next day claiming that it was too buggy to run on my box. Returning to the user driven IL-2 community, I didn’t look back…that is until Firepower landed on my doorstep.

Firepower is a professionally developed independent add-on for Combat Flight Simulator 3. What Firepower brings into the mix is a series of new planes to fly including the venerable B-17 Flying Fortress. Ever since the inception of flight simulation games people have been dreaming of this. Lucasarts’ Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe pulled it off pretty well considering it was delivered on a 386 platform. More recently the concept of co-operatively flying Forts over Europe against other players has been attempted, but never truly pulled off in a compelling fashion.

What Shockwave Productions has done with Firepower is added a great deal of depth, detail and unique flying platforms to an otherwise bland production. We’ve all heard of, seen and flown the assortment of planes in CFS3. This fact along with an awkward dynamic campaign and a focus on the not-so-glamorous life of tactical air support made CFS such a pale competitor alongside the Il2: Forgotten Battles. With Firepower you will find that you have access not only to the B-17 but also the B-29 and Lancaster bombers. Feel like flying for the Fatherland? No sweat. You guide the lead group of Do217’s or you may even take the chance to fly the much-to-late to make a difference Me-410 fighter destroyer. Feel like flying high and fast? Take to the skies in the highly modified FW-190 based Ta154 (believe you me, you want to take this one out). Rounding out the single prop department is the good ole’ P-40 Warhawks which aren’t exactly the greatest planes, but they certainly look cool with their shark mouths. In all, there are several more planes, even the jet propelled Arado Ar-234-B Blitz bomber which I can’t get the hang of, but is cool nonetheless.

Shockwave Productions doesn’t just go as far as to add new planes into the mix either. They also add a whole new set of data for the game’s physics modeling which some hardcore flight simmers have disparaged as being too soft. It makes a difference. A few rounds through the radiator sends you sailing into treetops. Making your hits count makes all the difference as you always find you’re never carrying enough bullets and that you’re always one burst shy of chopping that bandit in half. I remember the first time I fired up Il2 and having to work so hard to line up my shots and being so satisfied when I downed an enemy fighter because all my hard work paid off. Firepower resurrected that same feeling for me.

To round things out, Firepower also brings into the game a set of highly defined and detailed textures for CFS 3’s well implemented 3D cockpit. The gun stations for the various bomber emplacements are unique and obscured the appropriate spars and blind spots. Now you’ll get a feel for what it was like flying in the Mighty 8th and why downing a fighter from one of these stations was such an accomplishment. You’ll also feel pangs of fear and sadness when you see the eventual demise of one of your fellow Forts. The sick twisting they fall into as a handful of ‘chutes deploy is indeed a sorrowful image and one that will soon befall you if you don’t snap out of it.

All in all Microsoft owes a hearty thanks to Shockwave Productions for producing such a fine add-on. If you felt let down as I was or if you feel that you’ve tired out CFS3, you’ll find this add-on pack to be exactly what you need. What’s more is that GMX will be distributing yet another new add-on pack for CFS3 based around "June 6th, 1944". If Firepower is any indication tothe quality they aim for, this should make for another fine addition to the stable. In the meantime, snag a copy of this add-on disk and keep your head on a swivel. You’ll need to.

Score : 9.0/10

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