By Shaan Khan (31/08/21)
The 90s was a breeding ground for Flight Games, experimenting with all kinds of ideas from history-based aviation to sci-fi spaceships. Modern games would rehash the ideas but throw on a new can of paint with advanced graphics and physics. Still, flight game development has been on the decline and can no longer capture the magic of the early days in gaming. Virtual Reality is a platform for change, aiming to revitalise the genre with fresh experiences—is Warplanes WW1 Fighters the silver lining set to spark a new universal interest in the genre?
Warplanes WW1 Fighters was built from the ground up to be a VR experience available on PCVR & Oculus Quest/Rift. The devs had to create a WW1 dogfighter game that stands out from all the rest, that offers something new to the genre as did the legendary games, Red Baron & Knights of the Sky, which were the first of their kind.
While game devs push for insane feats in visual fidelity with bazillion particles! Home Net Games took a step back from the norm and focused the bulk of their resources & efforts on getting creative with all the tools this fresh piece of virtual reality tech has to offer them.
It’s why you have a demonstrably fun feature set in this game unfounded elsewhere. You’re not simply manning the guns of a warplane like in Battlefield One; you are doing the following with hand controls:
- Taking a break from your stationary aerial guns as you pull out a handgun mid-flight and take pop-shots at enemies surrounding you
- Punch the switch for faster machine gun reloading
- Pull out a hand-bomb from the side of your seat and toss it out the plane at targets
- The traditional objectives menu is integrated into an in-game clipboard that is available in the plane, which you access without taking yourself out of the gameplay
- Move around the cockpit to operate the different weaponry in your arsenal, i.e. the minigun!
These features make for a satisfying combat experience. There’s the added element of multitasking that tests your skills. More creative scenarios are played out, such as successfully timing a perfectly thrown hand bomb that hits a target with low odds. You can play around with probability, challenge yourself and most importantly, create some cool montage videos if you so choose.
Standard as a Flight Game
In games with many projectiles travelling through an ample space to hit moving targets, physics must take precedence in development, making sure everything moves close to realistically. Home Net Games was able to get the physics right and uses a good net code for online play that doesn’t lessen the logic of the physics on the server; well, that’s if all parties have stable internet as with all games.
So, despite a projectile being able to hit a target hundreds of meters away, the physics of the planes are also great, especially in simulation mode known as ‘Real War’. Aerodynamics become a factor, unlocking you the cool abilities to barrel roll or hoop that gives you a slight shock to the system in virtual reality. You feel the pressure of trying to keep the plane upright at dire speeds and wind pressure or attempting to manoeuvre—steering matters with all this added authentic responsibility as a pilot. But be careful, some may find this mode a little nauseating.
All warplanes function differently, which is realised through accurate physics and felt through controlling the many aircrafts available in the game.
My favourite plane was the Junker D.I, a metal monoplane that’s a speed demon which zips through the sky with no time to manoeuvre, just all targets on the objective whilst you light up barrel bombs with the flare gun at immense speeds.
For the Aviation Nuts
Speaking of planes, there’s 28 of them—all based on real-life counterparts from that time period. Further simulating the historical event is the presence of barrage balloons throughout the map that are part of objective missions and are a literal blast to take down with the trusty flair gun holstered at your side.
Damage inflicted to your plane negatively impacts the way it flies! You can access this feature only by playing Real War mode.
This game is far from a mindless shooter where planes simply take down planes. Instead, it’s authentic to scenarios involving warplanes from WW1. There’s a ton of roles & responsibilities air forces had back then, which make for fantastic gameplay objectives in Warplanes WW1 Fighters. These include:
- Destroying naval forces
- City bombing raids
- Disrupt supply lines
- Protect bases & cities
- Switch between planes within your squadron to be better equipped for specific objectives
- Bomb strategic ground targets
- Takedown the infamous WW1 enemy bombers with your squad
- Engage in good old dogfights with enemy planes
Such gameplay is made more realistically strategical with the additions of online co-op and multiplayer modes that allow you to participate in the same missions & objectives of singleplayer, but now communication is key to coordinate.
Home Net Games also allows you to customise objectives for hosted online lobbies that friends or strangers can join. The creative restraints of players are largely unrestricted. Although mods are made inaccessible without a Steam workshop, plane customisation and upgrades are available to you the more you progress through the game.
You are rewarded for your efforts and unlocks are not hidden behind a paywall. The dev team know how to appeal to flight gamers and placing creativity in their hands have instilled an active userbase that consistently posts on the games’ community hub on Steam and user content has recently been submitted onto YouTube.
So, flight gamers might be satisfied so far, but some might be asking, how is the story?
Well, there isn’t really a story. Maps from campaign missions take you all around historically accurate Europe during the great war where nations and empires battled on multiple fronts. You’re ported into these authentically captured moments throughout the campaign, but that is it, no cutscenes, narration or dialogue—it’s barebones.
This fatal flaw creates a missed opportunity from Home Net Games to set the tone of importance to the battles you will be entering into. It offers no gravitas and an expensively produced cutscene with voiced actors isn’t even necessary. A simple journal entry will suffice that states the historical importance of the battle or personal background on the playable soldier, detailing a sad yet possibly real-life story.
Even though I say the maps are historically accurate, they are on paper, but with such a lack of environmental detail for a modern game, you visually wouldn’t be able to tell the maps apart from the random pre-sets found in any bog-standard game engine. The lack of story doesn’t help Home Net Games’ case either. It’s cheap and immersion-breaking. The only saving grace is the detailed cockpits and planes that can be damaged over time—visualised through the rusted bullet holes in the dinted metal.
While the game has struggled to keep up with modern expectations, it has its quirks no other modern games have and a team dedicated to community building and improving the game with routine updates.
The dev team just recently added HOTAS support in an update, a much-needed feature for any flight game, therefore not alienating themselves from the community who rock many third-party peripherals, especially the quintessential component to any aircraft—the flight stick.
It’s no Star Wars: Squadron in terms of visual splendour and immersive graphics, but neither is it sci-fi. Warplanes WW1 Fighters is what it says in the name, like the 90s, the world of planes feels new again thanks to VR; if classic planes are your thing, then this is the game for you and for anyone who wants to experience flight controls unfounded anywhere else—including Star Wars: Squadron. Take that, EA!
For lovers of simulated war, this game is one to add to your repertoire, suited nicely with VR ground combat games like Onward.
- Innovative combat mechanics
- Fun Physics
- Immersive flight experience
- Active development
- Outdated graphics
- Immersion-breaking environment
- Lack of storytelling