Nothing beats a really good combat flight simulator, and if you haven't been keeping up to date with the flight sim PC industry, Microsoft have been responsible for many of the classics. With this said, I and many other gamers were expecting to see more flight sim brilliance in Battle for Europe, which is exactly what Microsoft is offering.
Battle for Europe features your usual game modes, including a quick start mode to get straight into the action, a mission mode, a campaign mode and a multiplayer mode.
Quick combat allows you to select the basics like location, aircraft and flight type, then jump straight into the action. There are no real objectives and way points, you simply fulfill the requirements of the flight type. For example, if you chose dog fight you will be placed in the heat of a full scale dog fight where only the toughest survive. This is a great way to test out new techniques and get a feel for the game.
The Missions mode of gameplay allows you to load a mission type scenario and fulfill the objectives included. Such missions include historical events, 'what if' scenarios and training scenarios. This is also a good mode to test your skills in, but with a greater emphasis on mission style gameplay to get you ready for campaigns.
Multiplayer is pretty self explanatory, where the basics of the other modes come into play however this time your pitting your skills against real human opponents and teammates. Battle for Europe comes with its own inbuilt online game manager allowing you to join and host games, including missions, dog fights and team dogfights. This is really a great mode of play with endless fun to be had, but should only be done once the basics of the game are under grasp.
The real experience in Battle for Europe can be found in the campaign mode of gameplay. You start out as a young rookie with next to no real combat experience as you climb your way into the ranks. Along the way you are given the chance to add skill points to your pilot's profile and purchase new aircraft. As the war continues on you are given access to news from the fronts, not to mention a complete map of the current battles showcasing the battle fronts, which give an indication of where success and failure is occurring.
As the squadron leader, it is your job to select the locations and missions to fight which is done so by accessing the map. Every location has a list of mission types, including dog fights, intercepts, air patrol, escorts and ship destroy missions. Each mission comes with its unique skill requirements so if your coming into campaign mode with the serious intention of victory, it is a good idea to have ample experience in the other modes beforehand.
Once your finally in game, no matter what mode you select, the extreme detail gone into the game becomes apparent. Every aspect ranging from sounds to enemy AI has been developed to great quality making Battle for Europe really a one of a kind experience. I can't say whether or not the feel of the aircraft in the game is realistic, as I have yet to try and really fly a WW2 airplane, but the realism offered is as good as any flight sim I've played.
Battle of Europe has achieved a perfect balance of challenging gameplay while maintaining a fun and fair experience, which is most apparent during dog fights where taking down enemies is a combination of offense and defense, making sure your in position while also making sure your tail is clear. Although there are a load of mission types, nothing beats a good old real time dog fight, it is by far the best test for the true combat pilot. However that is not to say other missions types are lacking. Although it is distinguishably easier to take out a slow battleship or a bridge, the threat of attack is always there so you must stay on your toes in pretty much every scenario.
Visually speaking, Battle for Europe doesn't necessarily stand out, but it does the job rather well. Planes have obviously been given the most detail with extremely lifelike models and high resolution textures. Another area of visual perfection is the explosions. A ground target will explode and bring dirt up with it, while mid air explosions leave a trail of smoke, both of which look amazing. Other than that, the ground and other objects are rendered pretty basically, but that is hardly an issue when you're a few thousand feet in the air.
To be completely honest, fully mastering a flight sim game control wise is always going to be a huge task. Since this game is such a great simulation, there are hundreds of functions in your plane that impact your performance so it will take a little time to get used to the control system. However, the basic controls which move and fire are easy to pick up, so it isn't like you learn everything before you take it to the air, rather you learn as you go. Microsoft have included a handy reference sheet which includes the entire controls setup on paper, which is extremely handy when pausing and accessing the control menu is not an option.
Combat Flight Simulator 3: Battle for Europe is nothing short of a terrific experience. Whether you're a complete flight sim newbie or a total expert, Battle for Europe will deliver to your needs with exceptional quality. If you enjoy the World War 2 era of combat aviation, then you will not have to look any further than CFS 3: Battle for Europe for your top choice.