Red Baron (Second Review)

Title           Red Baron (Second Review)
Game Type       Flight Simulator
Players		1
Compatibility	All Amigas (WHDLoad patch available)
HD Installable  Yes
Company	        Dynamix
Submission      Seppo Typpö ( Profiled Reviewer

I remember buying this simulation when it appeared on Amiga back in 1992.
Hailed by the PC press as the best flight sim ever, I expected no less
from the Amiga version. To my shock and horror, it ran like a snail on my
trusty A500. So I tossed the game into a closet, cursed my lost money and
continued playing MicroProse's "Knights Of The Sky" which ran nice and
fast on the 7.14 MHz 68000. Now thanks to JFF's excellent WHDLoad patch I
am able to retrieve Red Baron from the closet and play it on my 50 MHz
68060 machine, and it feels like a whole new game.

Red Baron was one of the first games which demanded more horsepower from
the Amiga. Like Dynamix's other flight sim (A-10 Tank Killer) it really
benefits from faster processors (68030 or higher). On the 060 (with the
WHDLoad patch) you can set the high detail and 'expert' flight model and
enjoy the bigger dogfights with several aircrafts from both sides as they
should, with hardly any noticeable judder in the frame rate.

The presentation in the Red Baron is quite excellent. 32-colour graphics
are clear and detailed, the aircrafts especially look wonderful at close
range. The sound has nice stereo effects - you can for example
hear the engines and cannons of the other aircraft when they are close
enough. The sim is highly configurable - practically every aspect of the
mission can be altered and the realism menu offers some nice options like
carburetor freezes at high altitude or pilot blackouts due to lack of

There are plenty of different mission on offer - single missions vary from
historical to fictional ones, dogfights against famous aces are available
as are missions against specific targets (like hunting down the mighty
Zeppelins). The central focus of the sim is the career mode where the
player can enlist on either side (British or German) and progress through
the war, trying to survive while endeavouring to collect the decorations
and promotions on offer.

There's a multitude of fighter planes (scouts) on offer - in single
missions these are freely selectable. In career mode a fighter is assigned
to the player, but after reaching higher than the rank of captain it is
possible to choose a personal fighter from available models and even paint
it your preferred colour. Each plane has a distict characteristics - for
example the Sopwith Camel is notoriously difficult to control while the
famous Fokker Dr 1 offers tremendous climbing ability. It is up to the
player to adapt his flying style to the machine he uses and also to take
note of the behaviour of the enemy planes - in dogfights you have to know
the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent in order to defeat him. For
example, on one occasion I was challenged by Werner Voss. I met his Fokker
Dr 1 with my Spad 7, which is quite a durable machine but has a horrible
turning rate. I was unable to shake the more agile Fokker in close combat
so my only choice was trying to use speed - dive and attack Voss, and use
the high speed to break and return for another attack. I still lost the
dogfight in the end but received a valuable lesson - never challenge the
Dr 1 with the Spad 7. Now the Spad 13 I got later was a much better bet,
fast and agile, and easier to control than the Camel. A shame Voss never
challenged me again...

Playing the career mode and surviving the war is extremely difficult,
especially in the early phases of the war where the fighter models were
quite poor and they were easily destroyed. The AI of the computer pilots
did not help either - while in general they behave intelligently they
sometimes have a bad habit of crashing into the player's plane. They
also have a nasty tendency of ganging up against the human player,
especially when you get a personal aircraft and are easily recognisable in
your flight group.

There are many ways to end the missions. The best one is to successfully
complete it, but partial success is also nice. Failing the mission but
returning to your home base is acceptable, but one can also end up in the
hospital or prison camp. The worst option is to die, either from your
wounds or by crashing into the ground. The game designers thoughtfully
included an option to backup the pilot career to prevent frustration - it
is very easy to die on a mission even if you try to do everything right -
even the best aces cannot evade the kamikaze computer pilots on some
missions, the odds are so heavily against the player it takes a miracle to
survive the onslaught.

The game has some strange quirks which sometimes show up during missions.
For example, if you manage to complete the mission you will always return
safely to your home airfield. It does not matter if you are mortally
wounded, have just lost your engine, ran out of fuel or whatever - if the
mission is complete and you choose 'return to base' from the menu that
appears, all these problems are instantly erased and you are teleported
safely back home. In one particular dogfight mission I was shot down early
in the battle and was forced to make an emergency landing behind enemy
lines. All I had to do was to sit in the plane and wait for the mission to
end and hey presto - I was safely transported back to my home base and
could continue my career as if nothing had happened.

In conclusion, for those Amiga players who have invested in accelerators and
extra memory Red Baron is a highly configurable and beautifully presented
flight sim which offers addictive gameplay. Dogfight fans especially are in for
a treat since very few Amiga sims can offer equally challenging close air
combat. The wide choice of planes and opportunity to choose which side to
fight greatly enhance the sim's lastability. Some people might complain about
the missing two-player mode, but even with its faults Red Baron belongs to
the highly exclusive 'Aces of Amiga Flight Sims' club.

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