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Strategy First
Strategy & War
Release Date

World War II Online
August 7, 2002 | Tim Morgan

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A Hawk bites the bullet.

Fire in the sky
While World War I may have introduced the air war, World War II brought it into its own. WWIIOL has exemplary support for aerial engagements. The aircraft in WWII Online are modeled with an emphasis on realism. The cockpits are entirely three-dimensional, and head positions are meticulously limited based on the dimensions of the canopy. Other touches of the game carry through to the aerial war; for instance, like with a soldier, pilots must watch their energy levels, which drain during high-G maneuvers, and blood levels, which drop in response to bullet wounds. Fatigue will reduce the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft.

Flying is no easy trick in WWIIOL — just like other game modes, realism is favored over simplicity. This does not steal from the joy of flying; the lack of computer-controlled air or ground vehicles creates a very involving aerial experience. Half-hour flying times when en route to a skirmish give the player time to enjoy the world around them and the community that brings it alive.

WWII Online offers players a range of aircraft to fly, from nimble Spitfires to the behemoth He-111. Many of the aircraft can be multi-crewed, from the two-person Stuka to the many gun ports on the 111, but, as of this preview, no more than two people could man these crew positions. Other perks are also modeled — the wailing siren of a diving Ju-87 or the improved view when leaning out of an open Blen cockpit, for instance.

The audiovisual experience
As I said before, the graphical complexity depends on how you play the game. As a flight simulator, the game has an unmatched detail, with tufts of grass, interiors of buildings, and cobblestone streets. As an FPS the game has sub-par modeling with paper-thin walls and slanted planes for stairways. But keep in mind that, as an FPS, the game has undoubtedly the largest environment, with terrain modeled indoors and out across Western Europe.

But more important than eye candy or weapon modeling in the game is the community experience — World War II Online is not a solo game. To best enjoy the game requires teamwork and participation, which is rewarded by the unmatched joy of a collaborative success. Playnet wants to make the community idea very clear to future subscribers: people who subscribe to the game will get an e-mail address, web space, and access to forums and events. However, the developers recognize that those subscribing to the game will have wide opinions of a good time, which is why they made the command structure entirely unrelated to the game. Players can choose to be as much or as little a part of the high command as they want.

The command structures are made up of players that sign on to work together and lead their fellow countrymen. Playnet is working to integrate these command nets into the user interface and gameplay so that players are recognized for leadership abilities and duly promoted for them, and given in-game recognition and communication and tactical tools. This is all in the effort to expand the role-playing element and to offer more benefits to the natural leaders and team players that play the game.

If you are more of a solo player, you will still be able to play outside of the command net, but you may run into logistical problems now and then when most of the resources are being deployed on official war efforts.

Summing it up
World War II Online holds great promise for those willing to sink $10 a month to the cause. That fee buys the gamer access to a continent where he and his peers can plan and execute strikes, defend against opposing forces, rise ranks, make new friends among a squad, and enjoy being a small but significant part of a war of comparatively immense proportions.

World War II Online is scheduled to go in open beta very soon, after which it will be available for $49.95 with a $9.95 monthly fee. The game attempts to give something for everyone, and does a good job of providing gamers with the tools they need to have a good time. All the technology is there to make it work: the only question is, will Mac users make it happen?

World War II Online
Developer: Cornered Rat Software
Publisher: Strategy First
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