Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: June 29, 2002
When it comes to creating an air combat simulator for the computer, it's almost a no-brainer for software developers to design one with WWII in mind. The second Great War had everything exciting about aerial combat: wild dogfighting melees, dramatic bombing runs over enemy territory, torpedo runs through a gauntlet of hostile fire, as well as fast machines and the men who flew them. Many companies have come out with flight sims over the years, but Jane's simulations from Electronic Arts have traditionally stood apart, demonstrating unparalleled realism and cutting-edge graphics while filled with extensive, well-researched manuals. Recently, EA passed the Jane's license over to Xicat Interactive, who now presents Jane's Attack Squadron, their latest entry to the well-established WWII flight simulation genre.
Jane's Attack Squadron, originally called Flight Combat: Thunder Over Europe, was first developed by EA several years ago, but budget considerations forced the title's cancellation in 2000. Xicat Interactive stepped in to revitalize the project, and together with Mad Doc Software (consisting of members of the Flight Unlimited Looking Glass team), allowed the program to reach consumer shelves this year. JAS places players in the height of the air war in Europe, between 1942 and 1945. There are two campaigns in the game, one from the American and British perspective, and another for the Germans. Players participate in numerous missions along the way, such as combat air patrols, bomber interception and defense, and ground and naval attacks. There are 15 flyable aircraft, ranging from speedy fighters (like the American P-51D Mustang, Spitfire MkIX, and FW-190D-9) to heavy bombers (such as the B-17G and B-24D) and special planes like the torpedo-firing Ju-88A-4 bomber. In addition, the title ships with a multiplayer dogfighting component supporting up to 32 players through GameSpy Arcade, and an unsupported custom mission and physics editor for those inclined to tweak the program.
Xicat's latest release focuses on graphics and realism. Planes in JAS have a detailed damage model where bullet holes appear on actual hit points and affect flight characteristics, sometimes even causing pieces of wing or fuselage to break off. All cockpits are rendered in 3D, with functional dials and knobs that players can zoom into to get a closer look. It's also possible to smoothly pan in and around the cockpits with the mouse or with the hat on a joystick. Certain planes, like the B-17 bomber, have multiple control stations that players can jump to, allowing control of different machine guns or even a Norden bombsight. Augmenting the realistic planes and controls is the game's satellite-mapped terrain of WWII Europe, complete with detailed cities, factories, and harbors.