B17 Flying Fortress

Title		B17 Flying Fortress
Game Type	Flight Sim
Players		1
Compatibility	All (1 MB)
Company		MicroProse UK, 1992 (Paul Hibbard, Mike Brunton)
Submission      Seppo Typpö Profiled Reviewer

The B17 Flying Fortress, alongside the legendary Avro Lancaster, was the
ultimate bomber in WWII. While Lancasters terrorised German cities during
night time, B17 fleets invaded the enemy airspace during day time. Legends
were born during those nights and those days. Thanks to MicroProse UK,
you can create some of your own with this superb flight simulation.

Did I say 'flight simulation'? In the case of B17, that's a mild
understatement. In fact it would cover a minuscule part of this
simulation. You see, if you play this game properly you'll spend about
five percent actually flying this bomber. Most of the time you will be too
busy in other activities. I'll explain this statement soon, first let's go
through a more general description of the game.

The package
B17 comes with the standard MicroProse Package and Big Manual (tm).
Alongside the 230 page manual comes the Amiga technical supplement, three
disks and key guide. The manual provides all the necessary details for
playing this sim plus lots of interesting background information and
stories gathered from real B17 missions.

The Technical supplement provides the necessary HD install info plus quite
a huge list of enchancements over the PC original. The game can be played
from floppy disk, but playing it from hard disk is highly recommended (the
game uses a sort of virtual memory system meaning it loads stuff from disk
from time to time and this can get quite irritating when playing from

If the huge manual has not made it clear that this is a very serious
simulation, the key guide will. Practically every key is assigned to some
function and the amount of controls is tripled by using the shift, alt and
even some ctrl key combinations. Luckily, because of the smart structure of
the game, not all the keys need to be learned straight away - in fact the
learning difficulty curve allows the player to slowly study more and more
of the controls after learning more about the simulation.

Gameplay: Overview
When the game starts the player is presented with a funky tune and title
screen featuring the same 'modestly dressed' female which is also
presented on the package cover (I have heard rumours this cover girl might
have been chanced to something more 'neutral' in some versions of the
game). After the intro comes the standard MicroProse manual copy
protection after which comes the bomber and crew selection screen.

The player can choose from six authentic B17 bombers/crews or create a
totally new (custom) team. The names of the crew members can be changed,
the bomber can be renamed and even the nose art of the bomber can be
changed from a limited selection of pictures.

After that it's the mission briefing. Here players can select various
missions with varying levels of difficulty, changing from training
missions to bomb runs deep behind the enemy lines. The training mission is
an excellent starting point as it allows the player to practise almost all
aspects of regular bombing missions - take off, navigating to target,
delivering the payload with Norden bombsight, navigating back to base and
landing the plane. Only one crucial aspect - gun turret practise - is
missing but that is not so fatal in the early phases of the game.

As I hinted at the beginning of this review B17 is much more than an
ordinary flight sim. The actions and duties of each crew member is
simulated accurately and played by the skillful computer AI, while the
player can take over any crew position at any time.

When controlling one crew member other positions are controlled by the
computer. The AI of computer controlled crew men gets better the more the
player controls that position, bringing some RPG elements to this (as the
manual eloqently states) 'crew simulation'. This gives the player more
motivation to learn the various tasks as teaching the computer AI makes
the game a bit easier on the later missions.

Gameplay: Missions
Normal B17 mission consists of take off, navigation, air combat, bomb runs
to primary and secondary targets, more air combat, navigation back home
and landing. Take off and landing are bit tedious stuff (and like in most
flight sims pretty difficult to execute) so these are best left to the
able computer pilot (unless one feels adventurous enough to risk the
successful bombing mission and crew to a poor landing). Luckily, a time
acceleration feature is available which can be used to 'fast forward' to
the more interesting bits. Flight sim purists will propably enjoy to learn
how to build the formation and how to land with a proper approach but for
the novice pilots this could get too demanding. Flying a bombing mission
without using time acceleration can take several hours (like real B17
mission) most of which is used to navigating and  flying  so the hardcore
simulation fans can really enjoy this simulation to the full. Using time
acceleration, the full mission can be flown in less than an hour, which is
more than enough for most flight sim players.

Navigation takes place on the map screen and on the various gun turrets.
Due to the RPG nature of the game this is the first task to 'teach' to the
computer AI. This means glancing at the map then hopping to various gun
turret positions to find suitable land marks (rivers, towns, even famous
buildings) to determine whether the plane is on course, then making
suitable corrections on the map screen. Learning to read the landscape is
vital because in the beginning of the game the computer navigator is prone
to error judgements. Navigation plays an important part in finding the
targets and plotting the course away from fighter bases.

Air Combat is also different to 'dogfight simulations'. As the B17 is a
bomber, fancy dogfight manoeuvres are impossible. Instead of that, eight
machine gun positions must be skillfully used for destroying the attacking
fighters. Learning to use the gun turrets should be the top priority as
properly taught computer gunners makes surviving the mission much more
likely. Due to the nature of the 3D engine used in B17, aiming at the
fighters is very difficult at first. Practise makes perfect and one of the
most rewarding moments in the game is seeing the smoke erupt from the
Focke Wulf FW190 when it starts to spiral towards the ground, or ripping
the wing off a Messerschmitt Me110 just a few second before it downs your
wing man.

Bombing runs are the main feast on B17. Learning to efficiently operate
the legendary Norden bombsight results in payload delivery with pinpoint
accuracy. Struggling to keep the bombsight long enough on the target to be
able to drop the bombs, while being under heavy flak is an experience not
easily forgotten. After the payload has been released from the bomb bay
the player can switch to target view and (if the targetting has been
successful) watch how the bombs hit the target.

Gameplay: Crew management
In a true 'TV shop' fashion, it does not end here. Various things can
happen during mission. Air combat and flak sometimes results in crew
injuries, technical faults and emergencies like engine fires. Wounded crew
members must be treated, jammed landing gears must manually lowered and
fires must be put out. Sometimes a vital crew member (like bomber) is
wounded so that other crew member must take his place. Your wounded
veteran crew member can get so badly injured he must be hospitalised after
the mission and for few next missions he is temporarily replaced by a
"greenhorn", novice which must be suitably integrated to the rest of the

Even the game's reward system is geared towards the crew's management.
Successful missions mean medals and promotions, but it is up to you to
decide which of your crew members deserves them. Rewarded crew members
better their performance which means they need less control on the next

All this management is done by the player which adds another dimension to
the game. The player must learn how to cope swiftly in various situations
by using the correct crew members in the correct places and the correct
situations. This takes a large part of the mission and really breaks this
sim out from the ordinary flight sim mould.

Getting critical
B17 is a classic game but not without faults. Due to technical
restrictions (this game was aimed to run at 1 Mb Amigas with 68000 cpu)
only three B17s are visible at any time. No matter what machine you use to
play the game this number does not change. So if you want to experience
the massive bomber fleets presented in films and books this is not the
game to find them.

The 3D graphics are not the fastest ones but move adequately even on a
68000 Amiga (I'd recommend at least 68020). OCS graphics allow the pre-AGA
Amigas to run this game allthough this means game graphics lack colour and
look quite crude by todays standards. I recommend topping the detail level
even on lower spec Amigas as without proper landmarks navigation can get
really frustrating.

Playing from floppy is quite slow and as the floppies are used as virtual
memory they tend to wear out quickly - always play from backup unless you
have a chance to install the game to HD.

The signs of a classic
The game structure of B17 allows the player to control every aspect of the
mission but thanks to sophisticated AI one can start from easy tasks and
take more responsibility as one's skills get better. This combined with
the ability of easy tailoring of the difficulty level makes this game much
easier to learn than it otherwise would be.

In serious flight sims attention to detail can make or break the game. B17
is full of features and allows some of the real life stunts to be
executed. Those who have seen the excellent "Memphis Belle" film (which I
highly recommend :)  might remember the scene where an engine fire was put
out by doing a power dive where airspeed exceeded 350 mph. You can do the
same in B17. What if the motor of landing gear is damaged? Just order a
crewman to use the manual winch like they did in the real life situations.
Wanna fly back to base with one engine and half a dozen wounded crew
members, evading that last fighter base which could send fighters to nail
down your crippled bird? Do your mission poorly and you might get lucky

B17 takes a tired flight sim formula and bolts RPG and strategic elements
to it. The result is one of best and most original flight sims on the
Amiga. This is a true sim in a way that the player needs to put in time
and effort to learn properly the various aspects of the game to enjoy it
fully. Therefore I cannot recommend this game to a casual player who wants
to get straight into action (they should buy something like Wings or F-15
Strike Eagle II).But those with little more patience (and time) will be
rewarded with detailed and an intriguing view into the life of B17 crew -
life that was sometimes short, sometimes brutal - but never quite boring.

Graphics : quite detailed 16 colour 3D graphics running at satisfactory speed
           in 68020+ Amigas
Sound    : lively music accompanied by standard level flight sim SFX
Gameplay : Excellent serious flight simulation which demands serious studying
           and patience but also rewards the hard work. Definitely aimed to
           flight sim buffs but might also satisfy also other adventureous
           gamers looking for challenge. Check out the 'Memphis Belle' film
           and then relive it on your Amiga.

Tested on     A500 1 Mb RAM no hard disk,
              A1200 with hard disk
              A1200 with hd plus GVP 1230-II 030 accelerator
              A1200 with hd plus BPPC (25 MHz 68040)

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