Flying the Fortress

Just recently I loaded-up Microprose B17II – The Mighty 8th PC simulation on my computer again and almost forgot how enjoyable this World War 2 bomber sim was.

Buckle into your seat while I give you the brief on how this is all going so far…

Pre-flight check

From the moment you step into this “game”, you’ll realise that it’s not one for the light-hearted casual gamers who are after instant gratification. That being said, it can be played that way to a degree, but to really get to the core of this title, you need to be willing to learn the intricacies of starting, taking off, and flying a WW2 heavy bomber. You’ll need to endure long periods of nothingness as your four engines roar and propel you and your crew through the skies and your formation flies ever forwards towards an enemy target several hundred miles away; you will encounter enemy flak concentrations so thick and terrifying you’ll wonder if your plane will hold up to the abuse and then there’s the enemy fighter planes attacking you mercilessly…

And that’s only the start of it all…you still have to get you, your crew, and ultimately your formation back home and dry and once (if?) you do manage to land back in friendly territory, you better hope your bombs hit the mark, otherwise tomorrow is another day and you can bet that your squadron commander will be sending you right back into the fray again.

Yes, this is definitely not your run-of-the-mill simulation, and I remember spending hours flying missions, experiencing the excitement and high of returning back to base after a successful mission, and also experiencing the despair felt as you just realise that now two of your four engines have been turned into nothing more than flaming hulks of steel and the outlook is grim. Other times, an (un)lucky enemy shell might just puncture one of your fuel tanks and make things all the more challenging for you as you try to keep flying economically enough to make it home.

Preparing for a go-around…

So after all this time (11 years since release!), I’ve dug this game up from my collection and I intend to give it a good run over the coming months. I haven’t yet started any of the bombing campaigns, but I have setup the game to my liking (custom skins, joystick and keyboard configurations, etc) so I should be ready to go. I intend on starting a Squadron Commander campaign, and so that way I will be able to choose my targets for missions and perform other in-depth planning and recon operations in-between missions.

Joy flight

Having installed the game again and set it up to my liking, I’ve recorded a few gameplay videos for your pleasure and I’ve included these at the end of this post. You will notice that the sim is quite detailed in nature, and aside from the technical aspect of operating a heavy bomber, you are also in-charge of maintaining the health and relative happiness of your crew as you complete missions. In the heat of battle, you could be literally putting out fires one minute, then assisting a wounded crew member the next. Come bombing-run time, you can take yourself to the nose of the bomber and perform the bombing run yourself using the accurately-modelled Norden bombsight and do what you can to put your squadron’s payload on the target square and true. Coming back to base and on the landing run, you might find your landing gear hydraulics have quite literally been shot-up into pieces so you’d better be quick on that crank handle when you start manually winding down the landing gear ready for the plane to land.

Now that I have suitably pumped myself up for this title, time to finish with a few of the videos which I’ve recorded recently. Once I start flying missions, I hope record footage from these and compile them into “episodes” of my exploits as I fly towards the enemy and bomb them (hopefully) to smithereens. The following are some quick screenshots from the game, with the game-play videos below that. You will also find a link to a Wikipedia article.

B17II – The Mighty 8th – Startup Procedure

B17 II – The Mighty 8th – Takeoff

B17 II – The Mighty 8th – Feather and Restart Engine

Wikipedia article

Stay tuned to this frequency

I hope to post more on this game as I fly more campaigns and get a few missions under my belt. Hopefully my bombing career won’t be fraught with failure!