Rise of Flight beta review (guest review by Timothy Scott)

Posted by David on May 05, 2009 10:37 AM

The most important thing for me in any flight sim is "does it ‘feel’ right".  The ‘feel’ comes from a combination of how the aircraft flies, how it reacts to the controls and how the graphics portray all of this.  When a sim ‘feels’ right, you can forget for a moment that you're just sitting in front of a PC.  When a sim ‘feels’ right, you can become lost in the moment, and isn’t that why we really ‘fly’?

Rise of Flight beta screenshot
No flight sim I have ever played catches you in that moment like Rise of Flight.  Just flying along doing nothing is an experience in itself.

Flight Models

To start with, the flight models of the aircraft are awesome.  There are two flyable aircraft in the Beta, the Fokker DVII and the SPAD XIII.  Trying to use words to explain how they ‘feel’ to fly is pretty much impossible but they feel just right.  They’re both tail heavy, sensitive on the controls and hunt (yaw) a little when given a new course.  The stall on the Fokker is gentle and forgiving while the SPAD has a nasty high speed stall which will snap you on your back when you push it too far. Aerobatics result in nice natural-looking maneuvers with the aircraft doing everything from a vertical reverse to a simple spin in high realistic fashion.  When flying any of the aircraft you will be pushed around in gusts of wind. Fly in a downpour, you’ll be blown around from all sides and it can be a real struggle just to fly straight and level.  You will also need to have a look at that windsock before landing.

Rise of Flight beta screenshot
On the negative side, taxiing takes full power to even get a plane moving.  Takeoffs will take you hundreds of meters to get off the ground, yet in WW1 even two seaters (without bombs) could take off in a couple of plane lengths.

Historical Example

The British found it no trouble flying a Sopwith 1½ Strutter off the top of a battleship's gun turret (see pic) yet if you could try this in Rise of Flight, you’d have barely even rolling before you’d run out of room and be heading for the water.

Sopwith 1½ Strutter taking offSopwith 1½ Strutter taking off
Landing distances too are long with the aircraft tending to float too much and run for too long even with the tail skid down.

Graphics

The graphics of Rise of Flight are truly stunning.  It doesn’t matter if you racing along at just above the tree tops or cruising at height, the scenery is amazing.  Fly along a river and you’ll see the trees and clouds reflected in the water.  The landscape is varied and beautiful and you’ll find yourself dropping down to tree level to check out some feature on the ground all the time.  Flying low gives you a sense of speed I never found in FS2004/FSX.  

Rise of Flight beta screenshot
In no flight sim that I have ever played have I felt like I was high up above the ground.  In all games, you look down and you can see you’re a long way above the ground but you never get that lump in your throat and the feeling of ‘wow, that’s a long way down!’ like you do in a real plane.  In Rise of Flight, you really do feel high.

It’s impossible to describe so I’ll let some pics do the talking:

France from 1000m (~3300ft)France from 1000m (~3300ft)
France from 2000m (~6600ft)France from 2000m (~6600ft)
France from 3000m (~10000ft). You actually feel really high.France from 3000m (~10000ft).  You actually feel really high.
France from 4000m (~13300ft)France from 4000m (~13300ft)
All the missions available in the Beta are low altitude stuff and that’s good because I’m really not looking forward to the first time someone shoots my wing off at high altitude and I take the long ride down…

Combat

Rise of Flight beta screenshot
There’s something really satisfying about a simple one-on-one in Rise of Flight.  WW1 fighters weren’t the laser guiding killing machines of today and you do need to work pretty hard to get a kill. Both of the fighters available in the Beta feature two forward firing machine guns.  Like in IL2 Sturmovik,  the guns have a beaten zone (a cone of fire rather than a laser beam of bullets) so if you want most of your rounds to hit, you will need to get close.  The planes can be remarkably resilient if you don’t hit something important and I spent hundreds of rounds one day shooting at a Nieuport 28 without causing decisive damage.  He wasn’t looking the best at the conclusion but he was still flying.

Rise of Flight beta screenshot
On the other hand, one very short burst directly into the vitals of the aircraft is all you need to bring it down.  It’s not easy to do.  There’s no reflector gun sights and the aircraft move very sprightly all over the sky but if you’re close and aim well (or you’re just lucky) you can get that perfect shot.

On the negative side, at least one of your machine guns will have a stoppage just about every time you fire.  I understand that stoppages were more common in WW1 but the rate of stoppages in ROF seems excessive.

Historical Example

All the top Austro-Hungarian aces (such as Godwin Brumowski, Julius Arigi and Frank Linke-Crawford) gained a lot of their early victories on the Hansa-Brandenburg D1 ‘Starstrutter’.

Hansa-Brandenburg D1 'Starstrutter'The Hansa-Brandenburg D1 ‘Starstrutter’
The Starstrutter’s only armament was a Schwarzlose machine gun mounted in a closed gun pod on the top wing so a stoppage meant your mission was over.  Despite the Schwarzlose never being noted for reliability, the gun pods seemed to have been at least adequate, as Godwin Brumowski in particular scored multiple victories with it including a double kill on the 20th August 1917.

The other problem with ROF is the accuracy of the two seater’s gunners.  While your guns have a historically correct beaten zone meaning you need to get within 100 meters (or better yet 50 meters) to have a chance of doing some damage to a bobbing target while trying to keep you eye inline with the gun sight, the gunners have no problems sending out a laser beam of bullets and drilling round after round into you from beyond 300 meters.  When I discovered how hard it was to bring down a two seater, I made it my mission to bring one down.  In over a dozen attempts, I was shot down (or forced down) every time.  If I tried head-on, out of the sun and up under the elevator attacks but trying to get a good shot without exposing myself to the laser beam of death proved too much for me.

Conclusion

The Rise of Flight Beta does have some problems, but then again, it is only a beta and hopefully all should be ironed out with the full version.  The heart of the game is brilliant and if the campaign is as immersive as the rest of the game, it should be the new standard for WW1 flight sims.

When it all comes down to it though, no flight sim I’ve played so far feels as right and looks as good as Rise of Flight does.  I’ll be there in the queue with my money in hand as soon as Rise of Flight is released.

(many thanks to Timothy Scott for the guest review!  If you would like to contact Tim, please send me an email at david.b.calhoun@gmail.com and I can forward it to him)


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