Battle of Britain 2

By Matthew Flanigan 31 Dec 2013 0

I was flying a Hawker Hurricane on an intercept mission. There was a report of 30+ Stuka dive bombers attacking a British Convoy in the channel. Before I could get my crate into the bomber formation, our squadron was jumped by more than 50 Messerschmitt fighters. A fierce dogfight erupted,  swirling back and forth over the convoy. Trying to get behind the enemy was a challenge and a rush.

It wasn't long before I got sloppy and leveled off for just a bit, and my plane took a hit. Immediately realizing I was in trouble, I attempted to dive away from the action and pointed my nose toward the Dover Cliffs. My foe was persistent, however, and my plane continued to shake as bullets tore through my fuselage. Eventually, I lost an aileron and began an uncontrolled roll. I decided it was time to bail out. I jumped calmly from my plane and pulled on the ripcord to deploy my parachute. Nothing . . . I tried again . . . again nothing. Panicking, arms flailing uncontrollably, I fell thousands of feet toward a hard British beach. As I attempted to recover from a grisly end, my jaw dropped as I saw dozens of explosions along the beach where a radar station was being bombed by German bombers just up the coast from where I met my ending.

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The brilliant masterpiece capable of creating such an amazing experience is the PC classic Battle of Britain 2. The game I was playing not only modeled the large raid I was trying to intercept over the channel, but also everything else that was occurring over England. Battle of Britain 2 is a game that?s been out for over eight years now and, despite its age, it?s still very well regarded as a flight simulator. In fact, Battle of Britain 2 was recently named the 99th greatest game of all time in PC Gamer magazine?s September issue. The inclusion of Battle of Britain 2 in PC Gamer's list seems odd to me, as it seems today the major gaming magazines only exist to push AAA titles which have limited depth or staying power.

I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, because it seems most of today's major gaming magazines glorify the present games and ignore the true greats of the past. Flipping through its lists, you'll see PC Gamer is for the most part just as guilty as everyone else, and why shouldn't they be when they publish a new list of the greatest games annually? Can a list such as that really change all that much year-to-year? Now maybe if I followed PC Gamer, I wouldn't have been as surprised, since Battle of Britain 2 has hit the list numerous times before. But it is rare that a game like this gets mainstream coverage, even if it barely made their list with its 99th position. So what makes Battle of Britain 2 so special?

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I believe its staying power can be simplified into really one main issue, scale. As I?ve already discussed, the game gives the player a tremendous living environment to play within. Battle of Britain 2 is the only game which has fully recreated the entire 59 days of the Battle of Britain, from the attacks on channel convoys and radar stations, to Germany's attacks on British airfields. And, even though the final stages of the blitz on London, the entire conflict is here. The game does this not in a mission list, like most flight sims, but rather in a fully real time-dynamic environment where every plane, every target, bomb, and ship are individually modeled and represented on a map of Southern England which can be played out in its entirety. The game gives you an incredible amount of control over this vast arena. You can take on the role of fighter command and plan a strategy for defending Britain from the German hordes, directing intercepting squadrons, patrols and overall strategy. Similarly, the game allows you to take on the role of the Luftwaffe and gives you the same type of control over the attacks on England. There are other games which give you similar or even deeper levels of control over the operations of the Battle of Britain, such as Gary Grisby's ?Eagle Day,? but what Battle of Britain 2 has that's unique is the ability to jump into the cockpit and determine the results of the battles from behind the stick. If that seems like a bit too much for you, you can also take on the role of just a single pilot, where you don?t control the operational flow of the battle but rather just the role of a pilot within a vast and complex battle. See if you have what it takes to survive the entire battle. Regardless of the role you take, the battle plays out on an operational map of Southern England and at certain points, you can join a flight. Instantly, you become immersed into a living and breathing world in which you take over just one of hundreds of pilots battling over the skies of England.

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The scale is clearly the standout feature here. No other game lets you play the entire battle of Britain in real time from start to finish, either in command of the entire British or German side, or from the side of a measly pilot. The game also supports aerial engagement of multiple hundreds of aircraft simultaneously fighting out battles in 3D, while other battles occur elsewhere in the game simultaneously. It?s also worth mentioning that the game, which on more advanced metrics plays as an authentic flight simulator, on easier settings is very easy to pick up and play without too much difficulty. The game is still supported more than eight years from release with a patch being released as early as the first half of 2013. The game also includes some other basic features such as sandbox engagements, and even has had a crude multiplayer added to the game since release, but the real feature of the game which makes it unique is the previously mentioned campaign and the sheer scale of it.

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I?m not sure I?ve ever seen a game that allows the creation of hundreds of aircraft fighting out giant raids in multiple locations at once. As a firm fan of Microprose?s B-17 the Mighty Eighth, I can only imagine the developers of Battle of Britain 2 taking their hand at the bomber offensive against Germany. Games that cover WWII are common, but for the most part they only include limited sized flights. Even the IL franchise cannot compete with BOB2 in terms of scale. Falcon 4.0 is probably the only other game with such a true dynamic campaign and massive scale. I didn?t really intend to write a review here, but until a few months ago I didn?t even know of this game. I?ve always found the Falcon series fascinating, but stumbling into this game almost by accident is the only way I found out about it. Despite some publicity in a major gaming magazine, it seems games such as this sometimes do not get the publicity they richly deserve, especially being one of only two games which allows for a fully dynamic campaign to be fought out where hundreds of aircraft can all engage in battle at once--the only game that creates the battle of Britain in its entirety and in real time. A game such as this still being supported after eight years deserves recognition. For this reason, I urge you, if you?re at all interested in flight simulations or the Battle of Britain, check this one out.

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