The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
I'M CHUCK, FLY ME.
But the heart of Chuck Yeager's Air Combat is in its historical missions. As in the customized missions, you can fly for either side, sometimes getting two different views of the same engagement. For example, flying an FW-190 in the Luftwaffe's last great offensive, in January 1945, you swoop in at treetop level on an Allied air base and try to destroy the Mustangs on the ground. Switch sides and you're in your P-51, getting ready to take off on a routine dawn patrol, when you sight a swarm of FW-190s coming in for the kill. Same battle, different perspective. It can go either way-it's up to you.
Or encounter the legendary Colonel Tomb, North Vietnam's greatest ace—he even wore a white silk scarf—as Randy Cunningham did on May 10,1972, during an attack on the seemingly invulnerable Paul Doumer Bridge near Hanoi. Switch sides and you're flying Tomb's MiG-21. (In the real encounter, Cunningham downed Tomb just before he himself was splashed by a SAM.)
You can pick and choose from among these historical missions (seventeen in World War II, from July '43 to February '45; sixteen in Korea, from November '50 to October '53; and seventeen in Vietnam, from June '65 to December '72— the infamous "Linebacker II" raid), or you can go for the campaign mode, which simply means you must fly these missions in chronological order, without any of the "Help" options (described below). But one mission has no effect on the next, no points are scored, no medals are awarded, and you never receive a promotion—curious omissions.
As sims go (at least in this book) Chuck Yeager's Air Combat is an antique, having first appeared in 1991 and never having been updated (although it was itself a follow-up to an earlier sim, Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer). It is included here because it pays more than lip service to historical accuracy (as do many of the World War II sims), and because it embodies some features that are still unique today. Proof that Chuck Yeager's Air Combat has enduring appeal: the DOS version has recently been ported to the Macintosh almost verbatim, losing nothing in the translation.
Air Combat is certainly the most likable sim; warm and friendly. General Yeager didn't just lend his good name to this enterprise—he's all over it. Chief programmer Brent Iverson and his elves have done a remarkable job of synthesizing Yeager's distinctive speech inflections—if you foul up, the old war hero's stern visage appears onscreen and his voice booms from the loudspeaker (if you have a sound board): "Okay, get back up there and try it again," or, "Good thing this is only a simulation." He's forever popping up to offer advice ("Check Six!") or offer encouragement ("Remember, it's the man, not the machine"). At the start of the game, he says, "It's a great day for flying." You've gotta love this guy.