Full Review 12-10-2017
This Full Review (Edited by MarkEAW) of EAW is primarily based on v1.0, the version on
the CD. However, I have included notes and references to the only
two officially released MPS patches, v1.1 and v1.2.
Take to the skies over Europe during the most dangerous days of World War II. EAW creates a very detailed world that follows the path of WWII. Pilot 20 authentic fighter aircraft from Great Britain, Germany and the United States; simulating the Battle of Britain in 1940, and the Allied Air offensives in Western Europe (European Theater) during WWII in 1943-1945.
If you're looking for a long-term relationship, you can't go wrong with European Air War. The game is meticulously detailed and none of the other sims (in 1998) can match it for pure atmosphere and immersion. Realistic mission tasking, populated landscapes, huge bomber formations, and swarms of aircraft twisting in aerial melees (It's hard to find a sim with better plane count in the air at once) all come together to provide a level of detail you can truly get lost in.
European Air War is a Flight Combat Simulation/Arcade Game, developed by two groups of designers at separate times over a three to four year period. These groups where the EAW Team in MicroProse. During development of the game some of the first programmers left and others filled in. This left some things underdeveloped and other features added and finished. (There is a long story about this and at some point if I get the correct information I'll add it here.)
EAW had alot of early press as a game to watch for (not quite so much as WWII Fighters did), but nonetheless, many people where eagerly awaiting this game. The game was near completion when released and published by Hasbro with the MicroProse brand name, on Oct 31, 1998. Game Competition occurred around the '98 holiday season as other WWII Sim Games where released by Microsoft and Janes (about half a dozen combat flight sims are released). However, EAW put up a very strong presence as being the best in the lot to fly the unfriendly skies of 1940 to 1945.
"WWII fans who see game play is more important than eye-candy will be surprised"
Some of the competition, namely Jane's WWII Fighters and Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator, do not seem to give the best all-around feel that EAW does. Microsoft's CFS has better graphics and the ability to import and create other aircraft. WWII Fighters' graphics are also a tad better, and the game offers the most detailed damage of any flight game to date. EAW, however, gives gamers the most for their money, featuring the most playable aircraft, a number of options for playing missions, and the best overall feel.
A re-release took place by Hasbro on July 24, 2000 as a classic. Then publisher Infogrames in 2001 as a budget release, finally Atari in 2002. Always targeted at the older Windows 95, 98, and ME OS's, no new code was written, but perhaps a slightly modded installer. The Game CD came with a Manual, an Install Guide, and a Quick Reference Card. The budget re-release lacked the physical Quick Reference Guide but came with it on the CD along with the official MPS v1.2 patch.
-Put the CD in and do NOT let
the Auto Run program load up. If it does exit it. Instead copy and
specific files from the CD directly as a full installation for best
See my Manually
Install Help Document on how to do this correctly!
Machine requirements to run the game properly.
Further Requirement Note:
With that said, It has been recommend by other virtual pilots to have a higher spec machine if your running a bunch of custom add-ons. Perhaps you have a bunch of terrains and skys and hq sounds. EAW is very CPU and Motherboard / Memory Intensive rather than Graphic card intensive, especially when loaded up with extra mods and extra planes. A Better CPU and fast MB with fast memory is wiser than a better Graphic card, as long as you meet the minimum requirements. (Running the game under some sort of Emulation / Wrapper program / Compatibility Layer as it maybe run on Windows OS versions higher than WinME, can cause slowdowns and drops in frames per second.)
On mid-range machines (1998), gameplay is smooth, and runs extremely well; A Celeron 300A/128MB RAM/RIVA TNT system handles max-detail D3D duties with ease. Lower-end machines it runs respectably well too with detail settings lowered; A Pentium 166/64 MB RAM/Voodoo system required most settings to be at minimum for smooth play. It's a good thing, because there is a tremendous amount of action that took place in WWII, and most of it has been captured in this game!
This section is to provided separated details of the game.
"While not all the features of MicroProse's WWII flight Sim are
"bleeding edge," together they make one impressive package."
THE ACTUAL REVIEW
The game provides you with three game types: Quick Mission, Single Mission, or Pilot Career Mode (dynamic campaign). Your missions follow realistic plans and range from defending bomber groups to bombing small targets. They will include fighter based ground strikes and bombings on machine gun nests, pill boxes, rail yards, bridges, trains, and tanks. One mission involves the strike on a train moving along the tracks at break-neck speeds.
A nice aspect of Quick Start is you are automatically launched in the air near the bad guys into a crowded melee gunfight, with it automatically selecting armaments and enemies. Since Quick Starts use the last plane you selected in Single Player or Pilot Career, this allows you to continue to get the feel of the aircraft you’ve been flying in the more serious Single Mission and Pilot Career endeavors if you have done so.
Single Missions as available to hone your flying skills necessary to succeed in the coming campaign, customizable in several ways; Under the sixteen Mission Parameters you can select the year (which influences which aircraft are available), Time of Day, Weather, Mission Type, Target, Number of Aircraft, and Cruise Altitude. You also choose the friendly and enemy aircraft type, quantity and skill level along with the amount of AAA you will encounter. You are not allowed to set up a specific 1 Vs 1 or 1 Vs 2 type scenarios, but despite that one shortcoming, Single Missions allow for a countless number of variables resulting in a high level of replay-ability. The mission types include Fighter Sweeps, Escort, Intercept sorties, Bombing and Interdiction (search and destroy); Interdiction missions are particularly fun. You can come across enemy planes, ships, trains, AAA (heavy and light), Hangers, Towers, Barracks and more.
"Delivers an Immersive Campaign...."
In Pilot Career Mode, the heart of EAW, there are three dynamic unscripted campaigns with missions generated with a random mission generation routine. The dynamic aspects make you feel more like you're in a living world than in a large canned of scripted missions. (This is to give the game more replay performance keeping you busy for months. Other sims use scripted). You can select the The Battle of Britain in 1940 (the early war scenario). The European Theater: Battle for Europe campaigns set in 1943 (the Americans arrive) and 1944 (the Luftwaffe's last stand). In the Battle of Britain, you can fly for the English or Germans. In Battle for Europe, you can fly for the United States, the English (Brits), or the Germans in 20 models of 11 different aircraft. Enlist in a Pilot Career, and you'll choose a squadron, which in turn will select the plane you fly and the base you'll fly from. You also can pick a higher rank so you can control other flights right from the first mission (otherwise you must earn promotions to have commands for anything more than your wingman). Finally report to the briefing room.
The missions will change each time you play a particular career path. They will not follow the historical record of each real life squadron. In a short example; The missions will retain some historical detail, similar to a scripted mission like when you play a "career", the choices of units to fly in are actual historical units and you will attack the same targets they attacked. Your unit will even refit with new types of aircraft when they did historically. Even the same type of flight, such as a fighter sweep, during the period but will contain sufficient random elements such as different geography or goals to make the careers replay able without boredom. You can attack tanks, trains carrying guns and tanks, ships (freighters and destroyers!), halftrack/car convoys, and lots of other types of ground targets. Pretty much everything can shoot back.
Out comes for future missions are determined from previous mission success or failure; If you take out a target, it will remain destroyed when you fly over it again in a later mission. If you fail to successfully defend your airbase from a bomber attack, in the next mission, you'll find yourself flying from a new base.
The dynamic nature of the campaign keeps you from ever getting the same mission twice, for the most part, it works well. Be warned, however, that the mission tasking is fairly realistic, so missions can be repetitive as you cannot choose your targets, you must concentrate on only one aircraft to fly and the opposition is very similar in each type of mission. For instance, RAF pilots will spend most of the Battle of Britain in a Spitfire dealing with intercept missions with flights of bombers and fighters or as a German in a Messerschmitt escorting the bombers. This gets very dull after a while as each mission can feel sterile compared to possibly more exciting scripted ones. It defiantly shows how faithful the design of the game is when it shows how these sort of missions must have been like day to day within the context of defending or shooting down bombers during WWII.
There is a large list of realism/difficulty settings available that are highly customizable. You can fine-tune realism by toggling: wind, stalls/spins, the torque effect on single-engine planes, black/red out, engine overheating, structural limits, mid air collision, etc. The sheer number of variables that are configurable in EAW make this a game for everyone. Whether you're a sim nut or a beginning gamer you won't go wrong with this game. It's user friendly in terms of setup and difficulty. Enemy pilots range from rookies to aces, and their skills adjust accordingly.
The learning curve can be as shallow or as steep as you like. This is done by adjusting all the realism options to low thus making the game feel more like an arcade type style Sim. Then you can gradually add Realism settings one at a time, as you get used to the newer more difficult settings and gameplay, then you can go all out with everything set to Real-ish. Three different single player campaigns, over 20 practice missions, and multiplayer make this a game that will be tough to conquer, but well worth the effort.
The menu interface beautifully allows for any type of pilot to play and enjoy EAW. Its is well balanced, and cater not only to the sim-jockey, but the novice pilot who's looking for things to blow up more so than learning how to fly.
It allows for custom keyboard, mouse, joystick, and rudder configurations. The default configuration is quite good, and remarkably I didn't have to spend much time playing with the interface to get the sort of game I wanted. It offers plenty of challenge and reward.
There are still some things that can be improved, but overall, EAW has a decent menu system.
You can fly for the Americans (USAAF), the British (RAF), or the Germans (Luftwaffe) with the markings on the planes historically accurate. This not only allows you play both sides of the war, but it gives you the opportunity to fly quite a few different planes, 20 in all(20 differing models of 11 aircraft), flying includes 6 American, 6 for the British and 8 from Germany. As well as see 10 non-flyable aircraft (10 models of 9 aircraft) such as flights of B-17s that you will be fighter escort for. You also get to fly the German Me-262 (the first jet fighter aircraft), over most of Britain, France, and Germany in either a quick mission, single mission, or one of three campaigns; 1940: Battle of Britain, 1943: European Theater, or 1944: European Theater.
Further more you can fly with a wing of 12 planes into a sortie that at times include two waves of bombers (about 24) and a similar number of fighters. This gives the game one of its greatest appeals, flying in a battle that is actually reminiscent of the great air battles of historical realism of WWII, supporting up to 256 planes in the air at once (limited to 20 plane types at once). It's quite spectacular to see huge formations of airplanes. Creates a powerful sight with twelve plane fighter squadrons and huge bomber wings.
50 plus planes is tough enough, combined with the total number of planes in the air and how the horizon seems to go on forever, flying through a pack of wounded bombers with flak and smoke with fighters is enough to feel just how small you are and how big the sky really is. The best way to defend your bombers is to chase away an enemy Focke-Wulf for a while. Watch out though, after he does a Split-S and minutes later you'll realize you're all alone and those bombers are now very far away.
The flight models are adequate but not noteworthy. The flight model in realistic mode is easy to fly but offer enough physics to make flying feel believable with speed and dive limitations to all of the aircraft; you really need to take care not to exceed the limits of what your plane was designed for, or what a human pilot can take himself. For instance, G-forces will have realistic effects on your craft, possibly sending you into the not so famous 'spin/stall' that will require some standard recovery techniques to get you back in level flight. Also during air combat G-force can cause the human pilot (you) to experience black-outs and red-outs. These are attained very easy. In the v1.1 patch version, it should be noted that black-out and red-out effects where reduced, and are better balanced for game play than they where previously.
The one factor that scares anyone to try to fly better in EAW, are the dreaded 'stall/spins' as they are called. This is one unfortunate downfall of the FMs of the game as Spins aren't modeled totally accurately. The stalls and spins come hand and hand in EAW, but they shouldn't always be a combo (They are not in Real Life). They do take you briefly "out of the fight," when they do occur. As a result, pilots will need to keep their speed up at all times and try to avoid any fancy maneuvers in the hopes of not stalling one of the wings. Audio and visual cues give plenty of warning but If you experience this combo (and you will), make sure you have enough altitude to recover. In the v1.1 patch, arcade-ish automatic Leading-edge Slats are added to the Bf.109, Bf.110, and Me.262, making them slightly less prone to enter an accelerated stall. The problem of the stall/spin still exists for all planes controlled by a human pilot.
While the flight model isn't "cutting-edge real," it does the job of modeling the characteristics necessary to immerse you in combat. The model works well in play. Engine overheat (keeps you from just leaving the throttle wide open), structural damage (limits your dive capability), wind, turbulence and engine torque (full throttle gives a gentle drift and it doesn't change in magnitude as the throttle moves), and midair collisions have been included and can be turned off for those of you just learning to fly. Your guns can jam if used in a high-speed turn, so you have to be careful not to move the stick too much while shooting. Also you'll find that the Me262 Jet guns jam a bit too easy.
All the characteristics of FM's indicate a preference for playability rather than realism. Flaps deploy at any speed and the energy bleed in the turns is often almost non existent. Dropping flaps generates minor changes in pitch and slowly affects airspeed. In a patched v1.1 game, all aircraft with regular flaps where improved; Flaps can no longer be deployed at high speed and make sure you retract your flaps above 250mph, or they may be damaged. Also in v1.1 Combat Flaps where added to the P-51 and P-38. They can be deployed at speeds up to 350-425mph, using the same key as the regular flaps (F key).
A few shortcomings in flight modeling are Takeoffs and landings. Takeoff's you can do while drinking coffee. Landing is very difficult to gauge because you don't hear the sound of your tires hitting the ground. However in the v.1 patch, it fixed the Landing sound so it will now play correctly when the gears touch the ground. Autopilot landings aren't very successful. The ground overall acts as a single tarmac with no change in friction makes this a bit easy. You might as well land anywhere you want if you have wheels, you can't belly-land. Break down the flight model piece-by-piece and you'll see a lot of cracks, but the result overall is a very effective one.
In v1.1 Realistic Ditching was added (Gear-up Landing): You can now more easily survive a gear-up landing. You will still take damage as you slide on the ground, though, so try to be as slow and level as possible when you hit.
EAW also does not model the throttles on the Me262 Jet correctly---they were supposed to be extremely tricky to operate in real life. If you moved them too fast, an engine would flame out. The German aces said the best thing to do was find a setting that you liked (!) and leave the throttles there! In EAW's Me262 you can advance from minimum to maximum power (or vice versa) instantly with no problems.
Unfortunately WEP, Nitro Boost or Methanol-Water Injection is not fully modeled into the game. There also is no special key to enable the boost, instead it's simulated by pushing the throttle to full power. In EAW this is considered 100% power. Your engines will gradually overheat when using WEP(100% , to get the extra power).
Gun Convergence isn't really modeled in EAW - your rounds will
never pass each other at any point, it just kinda looks as though
they do. At very close ranges, you'll get some of that effect, as
one wing of your guns will be hitting and the other missing. But
that's at ranges of, say, point blank.
The damage model is one of EAW’s strongest areas. Damaged Bombers will slowly drop out of formation, falling victim to enemy fighters. Trailing behind a bomber and pounding it gives the effect I would expect in real life, not too hard and not too easy. Felt good.
Possible damage areas to your aircraft are not listed in the manual, but after several hours of play I can report the following. Engine(s), hydraulics, right or left ailerons, tail section (elevators & rudder), oil loss, holes in your windshield (2D cockpits only) and loss of one or both wings are all included in the damage model. If you keep your engine at 100% for an extended period of time you’ll overheat your engine(s) and you’ll start losing pistons (and the power they generate) which eventually leads to your whole engine blowing. It is also possible to be killed in flight, which will send you to an outside view of your plane going down with a blood-splattered windshield.
As good as the damage model is, the bailing out sequence is modeled some what poorly. When you do finally hit the silk you are instantaneously taken out of your aircraft and floating down to safety. This means it is possible to bail out and survive at any altitude as well as at very high speeds and in violent spins.
In v1.1 bailouts are realistic: You will now free-fall for a period of time before your chute deploys, though it will still deploy automatically. Depending on the plane's orientation and speed and G-forces (level and slow is best) when you bail out, there is also a chance you may hit the tail of the plain during egress, injuring yourself and delaying the opening of the chute or even destroying it (or your capability to auto-pull the ripcord). Ideally you should be as slow (under 200-250 mph) and as level as possible, and in any case at least a couple thousand feet above ground before you attempt to bail out.
Realistic Ditching (Gear-up landing): You can now more easily survive a gear-up landing. You will still take damage as you slide on the ground, though, so try to be as slow and level as possible when you hit.
A Drawback is your able to collapse a building complex by strafing it.
"In a multiplayer game it is often difficult to tell the difference between a real person and an AI pilot."
Al pilots are typical set or are randomly provided into three skill groups: Green, Seasoned, and Expert. You'll routinely encounter each type. Green pilots are cannon fodder. Seasoned pilots are more aggressive, but not much better defensively. Experts try historically correct evasive moves, along with aggressive offensive attitudes in the opening phases. However, even they can be drawn into turning fights, This Al weakness is most noticeable in a one-on-one fight; less apparent during the massive melees of the campaign missions.
Does the AI play by the same rules as you do? MicroProse have said they don't cheat; so it is possible to sneak up on them, getting right behind a fighter and occasionally they wouldn't do anything to shake you. They will use what tactics they have, effectively. One other thing is they will loose sight of you when you are real far away, allowing you to "escape". This is of course in v1.0 of the EAW where the AI planes tend to be subdued in comparison to V1.1 where the AI was enhanced, General dog fighting AI is adjusted to take more advantages of individual aircraft's capabilities. Bombers defensive logic is improved. Tail-gunners have improved bogey-tracking ability, and dive-bombers use proper evasive maneuvers when attacked. Bomber Escort and Bomber attack AI is improved. Escorts will try to stay in more strategic positions during combat, and attackers will be more aware of the escorts.
In v1.2 Some players say that where the AI was enhanced with improved Combat Tactics, you'll see super moves by them that defy the laws of physics. They don't seem to make any mistakes while maneuvering; they may at times appear to push their planes beyond the limits of design. You won't witness an AI suffer any consequences, for an example; You won't see an AI plane visibly spin or stall out. You can be on their six following the same flight path as they are using, only to sometimes find yourself spinning or perhaps black/red out.
The AI is highly flexible, with several difficulty settings that can be altered by the user to ensure the game remains challenging for a long period of time. Bomber gunner skill levels seem to vary like those of fighter pilots, so watchout for the expert tail gunners. Patience will bring you victory; It's fairly easy to pull AI pilots into a turning Dogfight that are not difficult to win, in a one-on-one situation, but those are rare. With more than 30 planes twisting and turning throughout the same airspace (Enormous formations of Bombers with escorting fighter squadrons), the sheer number of bad guys will keep you from getting complacent.
The Wingman/Squadron Radio; AI pilots within the player's squadron can be controlled by the user in Quick Start and Single Mission options, and gradually become available as the player receives promotions within their squadron in a Pilot Career you can also give orders to your flight, other individual flights in your squadron or your squadron as a whole. Your wingmen speak German if you fly for the Luftwaffe, and speak with an English or American accent if you fly for the RAF or US. The degree of combat difficulty is also partially determined by adjusting your Wingmen, rather than setting the enemy AI difficulty in the pre game setup.
Wingmen and radio communications allow for greater cooperation between players and artificial intelligence based wingmen. The Radio Commands also give more sophisticated control to perform simultaneous and cooperative attack formations. In v1.0 the AI doesn't respond to Commands as well as they do in v1.1 where the AI has been enhanced. AI pilots will now properly perform ground attacks when ordered. Ground control and AI squad leader use better logic for ordering retreats. Retreating enemy AI will no longer attempt to land if under attack. AI rocket aim point adjusted for better accuracy. The commands include Engage Bandits, Cover Me, Attack Ground Targets, Attack my Target, Disengage, Loosen formation, Drop tanks, Loiter here and more. You can give your wingman (or wingmen) an order anytime.
You can request info from ground control to help find the enemy or to just help keep up with navigation. In v1.1 Ground control uses better vectoring and bogey-spotting logic. AI and autopilot landing logic was also improved, though don't trust your life on it if your aircraft is damaged.
See my 1.1 AND 1.2
Help Document for more information on the A.I.'s abilities and
faults, including how other factors effect them.
All the sound effects are pretty well done, however some may seem a bit weak, just not enough decibels for sounds that should require more. The game's sounds for gun fire, explosions, strafing, and radio communication are good, but not loud enough to stand out. The engine sounds however, are perfect.
One of the biggest complaint is that if you don't have your game sounds balanced, often times you simply can not hear your plane being hit. It all based on taste as to how you balance the three sound sliders in the game's configuration screen, (there really should be more sliders thought to improve separation). You can get it so the combination of wind, engine, and radio chatter all work well together. You can set 8-bit or the higher quality 16-bit sounds (with 16 voices max) depending on if your computer system can handle them. (Miles Sound System v4.0?)
The Sound Engine has a small degree of 3D positional sound, its very helpful, but can be improved. (Dolby Surround?) You get the Doppler effect when passing by many planes. There are excellent audio indications of impending stalls and overheating engines. However no structural, near stressing sounds. The engine noise is a little bit lacking, but damaged Engines sound like they are throwing a rod when you've run them too hard. Weapon sounds are a bit puny for the most part. The bomber formation "drone" sound is superb.
Radio chatter is included to help you become immersed, it also has a functional use too, I really like it. It is great.
While there is music in the main menu, and in mid-missions and such,
there is no music during the gameplay.
"The entire game looks like it could be footage from a World War II movie during full action."
3D Accelerator support is provided through both D3D (Direct3D 6.0 or later) and 3DFX modes (Glide API 2.43 or later). Operating with a limited 8-bit palette; 256 colors at a strict 640x480 resolution. From a pure visual standpoint EAW doesn't fair very well when compared against the current (1998) competition. MS Combat Flight Simulator and Jane's WWII Fighters are both substantially better looking in every aspect of the game. The largest strike against EAW is the resolution limit of 640x480. The game options, readme file, manual, and official website list no way to play the game in a higher resolution, until they released the official MPS EAW v1.1 patch which allows higher resolutions in a limited and unsupported fashion.
This is somewhat low tech given that the 1998 market of available second generation 3D accelerator cards, (In the official v1.1 patch, it added unsupported higher resolution settings in the eaw.in file, specifically the Width= and Height= settings. Some settings you may wish to try are 800x600 (many video accelerator cards should support this resolution. Try D3D mode if you can't get it to work in Glide). More common useful resolutions are 1024x768, or 1280x1024. Note: That the viewing area will not be the same as it is in 640x480, depending on the resolution setting you set it at. 800x600 mode will have slightly more viewing area, while 1024x768 mode will show slightly less. (In any resolution above the default, 640x480, the highly detailed 2D Static cockpits will not be available anymore. You are automatically switched to use the lower quality 3D virtual cockpit.)
The terrain is very well done(256x256 tiles), with a horizon that gives you the impression that it goes on for miles and miles. It is topographically correct and is mostly flat level with not many hills, which is believable for the most part, as France and Britain are fairly flat in the areas of concern. However, even though the terrain delivers a great sense of altitude when down low, it does not offer a good sense of speed, even as trees and objects come into view. At max detail, the game draws excellent cities and fields, although textures seem over magnified and a bit blurry when you're down real low. The sometimes cloudy skies add atmosphere and have tactical applications, but they'll mask the enemy as well as they will hide you from real players.
Aircraft exterior graphics look great up close, but are disappointing when range increases: They rapidly lose detail and transition to tiny crosses and then to dots. This makes it difficulty in identifying distant targets without using the arcade-ish view zooming or the Target ID text (plane type and range). Because of the default resolution of 640x480 limiting far off details and the way the planes are scaled, you have to get very close, more so than in real life to identify them. For an example, a real B17's wingspan is 104 feet and the length is 75 feet. In the game at about three miles, a B17's profile view shows as a dark horizontal line. This line should be at ten miles away, not the unrealistic of three miles. You should see the vertical stabilizer at half that distance of five miles; two miles away you should be able to see the gear if its down or up. Another game limitation is the paint skin should have details like cockpit windows at 5,000 feet away but the planes in the game are scaled too small to have large details. At about 1,500 feet a Hurricane on high detail setting is still a small cross. The insignia shows up at about 400 feet (25% of real life distance). Using low detail settings, planes skin details quickly become much harder to see. You have to use the arcade-ish features of the game to substitute for the unrealistic size of plane art, such as; Target Boxes with ID tags, cockpit views off or on, zoom views and other methods that are not available to a real world WWII pilot. (owners of Voodoo2 cards won't see any benefits in having a better video card either, as the game can only use a maximum of 2MB of texture memory.)
The v1.1 patched game with the higher resolutions give the main benefit of course, of sharper images and textures with the better ability to see targets (there shape) at further distances. (This is something which many people prefer and had requested from MicroProse to add into the game). The Voodoo2 memory limitation was removed once patched. Even with the MPS EAW Team adding this addition in, It is an unsupported enhancement because not all video cards support it, and EAW really wasn't designed for those higher modes. It is however, an interesting enhancement nevertheless.
One thing you may notice also is the blandness of the color palette. Now I'm all for accuracy, but through the entire game I kept wishing for the grass to be greener, the sky to be bluer, and the cold steel of my P-51 to be, well, colder.
This is not to say that European Air War is an ugly game, it is not. Even though the low resolution is obviously a major problem with EAW's original development and release, all things considered, this is a great looking 640x480 flight-sim. Once you get into the middle of the game, you might begin to appreciate the simplistic approach to graphics found in European Air War. The game uses 8-bit textures/sprites in a 16-bit flight rendered engine. Plane exteriors are around 200 polygons (generally fighters use about 220-230 with a max of 256 nodes/points) a piece. Surprisingly, there are no moving control surfaces on the exterior of the planes, other than gear. The benefit of this 'simple' graphical design is that the game runs very fast, even on older machines. This alone results in better performance to have the large scale aerial battles that EAW provides.
What MicroProse gives up in visual acuity they make up for in accuracy and style. Every inch of this game is accurate, down to the decals of the planes and the patches on the uniforms. Special effects, such as flak bursts and sun-blindness, are good, and night operations are an unexpected extra. The game contains a very detailed particle system. One of the best visual elements are the smoke trails and explosions. Planes damaged where bits of the planes break away or hits in the engines will spew fancy black smoke trails. Shrapnel from an exploding plane not only looks really nice but is something to be wary of, and is just another element that adds to the realism. You can even see the empty gun shells roll away when shooting your guns.
Each plane has individual and historically accurate cockpits for each flyable airplane. Interior cockpit graphics are a bit disappointing though. While they feature working gauges, the blurry artwork makes the gauges hard to read. However you will see Turning prop blades and enough details to immerse a player. (Note: The cockpits do not actually fit in the plane models themselves, therefore separate wing views are used, these pieces of the cockpit are all combined during the game, seamless to the player).
The 2D standard (the so called static) cockpits are not as nice as those found in other Sims (from around 1998); The dials on the gauges are not as sharp as you'd expect. They work accurately but most are unreadable with faint and blurry needles, you just get a general sense of what the dials are displaying, such as level of heat to the engine. There is an arcade-ish HUD of small text in the corners of the screen, with speed and altitude listed to help do a quick assessment on your planes performance. The 2D cockpits also have features like bullet holes and oil on the windshield.
The 3D Virtual cockpits look unfinished with far less detail than the 2D counterparts (In v1.1 when you use a higher resolution than the default for the game, these are the only cockpits able to be displayed). There called 3D cockpits because of the ability to pan around in a 3D cockpit environment giving you as close to reality as monitor can (The game can't actually simulate the total experience you would have in real life, with panning of the head and eye, and the eye focusing on the distance. This is true for all Sims), but its the best at the time.
Tracking planes is fairly easy; Nearly every type of viewing
option is supplied with a "zoom". The function keys provide
The following information below, following this paragraph, explains the arcade like features of the cockpits and there usable functions. This makes gameplay faster compared to what a real WWII pilot in the real world would be use too. Thus this can ruin the immersion factor of the game for some players. Others will find it, that since it speeds up gameplay, it improves their fun factor.
The Virtual cockpit has an arcade (or contemporary) padlock view, where the pilots head follows a locked target. The padlock feature isn't the best. Padlock features are supposed to simulate eye and head movement, allowing the pilot to look out his canopy and get a visual on his opponent. The padlock view in EAW maybe too slow for your tastes, and while I understand that things such as speed and G-force play a factor in this I still think a pilot would be able to see more than you can in this view.
The target tracking mode, for those that use it is very simplistic. There is a little red "x" along the edge of the screen telling you the direction of the enemy target. You often will lose sight of this and may prefer the 3D box used in the Jane's product, or even the 3D cone in Microsoft's game.
The locked target can then be used with a Target ID Box, another modern plane feature. With a descriptive text tag that assists you in sorting friends from enemies. This is necessary to use this built in "cheat" since the scaling of distant aircraft when using the default resolution is poor, they appear as dots or tiny crosses due to the lower resolution that v1.0 is limited at. Without the targeting option your forced to get very, very close to an aircraft to do a visual identification. V1.1 introduces higher resolutions, and improves distant aircraft shapes a bit better.
The forward looking cockpit view has a zoom or magnifying option to take a peek closer, but the field of view is too narrow, it's difficult to use unless the object being viewed isn't moving around a lot. Other times it can be very helpful. This is another contemporary feature that can reduce the realism of a WWII game, Zoom magnifies too many steps in. Unfortunately there is no realism setting to turn this zoom option off. If the designers of the game used just one step zoom, that would have been enough for the realism to stay intact.
Gun tracers are rather over used, but look and work great. You are able to make (probably not too realistic) long distance kills, far farther than in real life WWII combats.
An in-flight Pilot Map is also available, it shows basically where most of the enemy planes are at and your way points. However you can't zoom in to get a decent look at the positions of yourself or others making it cumbersome at best. The plane sprite markers at the higher resolutions are too close to determine distant and direction in most cases. As a side note: The map takes into account the curvature of the earth for more accurate measurements.
Plane operation is very simple in comparison to other WWII Sims. This is the one area of EAW that is unchangeable and has more of an semi-arcade to full automation type of management. There are no settings to add realism to Plane Management.
The most obvious and totally manual management is where you primarily have to watch your Engine Temperature and not let it overheat in critical circumstances with Throttle control. This appears to be judged by the game with Oil Temp or Coolant Temp or Cylinder Head Temp. This is dependant on the plane type. You also can turn the Engine(s) on or off independently.
The rest of Plane Management is the typical, with Gear and Flaps; Up and Down. Stick Axis for climb, descend, turn (rudder) and bank (ailerons). There's also some Weapons/Armament management where you select what you want and when you want to use it. The Gunsight has several sorta arcade-ish, zoom steps to it for 'sniping'.
The fully automated (or Arcade style operations) that are usually un-noticeable unless your watching the performance of your plane intensely, are wing slats extending/retracting (on planes that have them), superchargers opening/closing (on planes that have them). Engine cowls open/close (on planes that have them), Prop Pitch, Trim, Fuel Mixture... Note: There's no graphic representation of these operations.
Multiplayer is well done. Required is Windows 95/98 compatible 28.8 kps modem or faster, Local Area Network with IPX or TCP/IP protocol, Internet play requires a true TCP/IP connection. EAW allows dual match, called total-mayhem and co-op, against computer or human opponents, or a mixture of the two. The netcode seems solid, with little evidence of lag even when hosted on a 56k modem. Note: One of the programmers (Chris Coon) said EAW was optimized or adjusted for 33k(player) and 56k(host) modems (However, requirement over the Internet is steeper. It seems impossible to get a stable connection using Dial-Up modems with the maximum of 8 players. DSL speeds are truly required for more than 4 to 6, Just something to keep In mind.)
As far as options, You've got plenty for multiplaying that lets you select between various types of missions (such as escort, interdiction, and intercept) and the types and numbers of friendly and enemy planes. Includes some cooperative for single missions, the usual assortment of head to head and some team play scenarios. The options interface is similar to the single player menus. The menu options let you fly real missions with and against other human players; dogfights and cooperative missions are supported with up to 8 players on a local area network or the internet. Again it should be noted, over the internet/online connections, its recommended to use a Dial-up modem of at least a speed of 28800 and port speed 38400 with 4 to 6 players max, 4 being optimal and never the full 8. DSL speeds are truly required for more than 6.
One draw back is the human players do not receive Radio Commands from the leader, nor can a player wingman reply with the Radio menu. The leader must issue commands to human players with the Chat Function and vise versa. This becomes time consuming and very distracting to do during the game. Another limiting drawback of multiplayer games is it has no 'join game in progress' function.
The control options where pretty well done as EAW supports a wide variety of Joystick brands, but only partial support for additional controls, like Rudder Pedals. Only one Joystick can be detected, but you can have another type of controller connected, more so when all controls are physically or virtually linked.
The common setup of a analog or digital Flight Joystick (with twist handle and throttle), Keyboard and Mouse (used primarily for views and camera). You have full button assignment to the primarily Joystick, as all keyboard commands can be added. The game in most cases assigns basic default functions to a properly detect flight stick automatically.
The force feedback is excellent, switchable between three settings; Disabled, Realistic or a strong Arcade setting with a built in FF sensitivity slider. These FF "actions" appear to be directly tied to sounds in the game. Such as bullets hitting your plane and engine torque when taking off etc...
If you don't already have a force-feedback joystick, several brands where available on the market back in 1998, today there are a few new ones made. I highly recommend adding one to your computer. The EAW WWII flight combat experience is a lesser game without it.
See my Joystick And Remappable Help Document for much in-depth support information on the controls.
EAW is an atmospheric, and involving flight/arcade type simulator with its dynamic campaigns and a multitude of mission options, EUROPEAN AIR WAR provides plenty of entertainment onto a single CD. There's an epic quality to the depiction of the air war here with its large battles, and while some aspects could have been better, EAW has an unmatched immersion from the first loading screen and other menu screens, it gives you the 1940's retro feel. With screens of Hangers and the Armament Board etc...it truly makes you feel like you're defending the skies of Europe, If you're a WWII air combat junkie, you're in for some fun filled nights.
At the time of release, EAW had used a lot of the newer technology available but didn't push the barrier. While this game certainly isn't the prettiest of the lot, nor is it the most sophisticated or innovative, it sure is fun to play. Nothing within EAW seems out of place and nothing's been added that wasn't supposed to be. Much of the game's beauty is in its commitment to historical accuracy. If you've always wanted to fly combat missions during World War II, you may be-able to find out what it must have been like by playing this game, and you'll have tons of fun in the process.
Stability and smooth running are among the things that make it popular, including a lot of action, like huge swarms of aerial battles with bombers and fighters zooming around without having to have a monster computer to run them. v1.2 even includes a option to have more control over even larger flights.
After EAW aged 6 years from its release it still was going strong (2004). Today (2015) with all the add-ons and mods made by numerous artists where you can cherry pick them to make single packages (most made in 1999-2002, some made beyond), EAW certainly is a whole lot more today than it was when released. You're in for a treat. See my Community Addons and Files Help Document page for more information regarding background and community add-ons that improve the game beyond this review.
These are the community or independent made versions based on the v1.2 exe and game data:
See my HexEdited Patches Help Document for information regarding custom tweaked exe's that where made to replace just the eaw.exe.
See my FXEXE Patches Help Document for information regarding a v1.2 special effects version of EAW, that improves the game beyond this review.
Also see my CodeGroup Patches Help Document for information regarding source code changes, added game data, new gameplay and modding features, in community made versions, 1.28 and higher.
European Air War's Credits;
MicroProse EAW Team:
v1.1 Patch Credit - Special Thanks: The EAW Team would like to thank the following for their help and support in regards to the patch: Microprose U.K. QA team, Mike Dubose, Chrispy Bowling, Andrew Luckett, Gabe Turk, David Vandervoot, Mike Dunn, Rrevved, Andy Hess, Ravi "Raaavi!" Mehta, Karen Ffinch & Matt Ployhar.
v1.2 Patch Credit - Special Thanks: to Chris (Coon), Brandon (Gamblin), Martin (?De Riso?), QA (?Quality Assurance?) and the Beta Testers for making 1.2 happen…
I have included, where notable in the above review, some, if not all of the changes provided by these two official MPS EAW Team patches. See my MicroProse Patches Help Document for these changes listed on there own.