PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


The Last Days of the Third Reich

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe is an historical simulation of the apocalyptic last days of the Third Reich, with the fanciful addition of several aircraft that were not operational by the end of World War II. The Luftwaffe actually had three jets in service late in the war: the shark-nosed Messerschmitt Me-262 Sturmvogel twin-jet, the single-jet (carried piggyback) Heinkel He-162 Salamander, and the Arado Ar-234 Blitz (the world's first jet bomber), plus several more "wonder weapons" in the sky, on the drawing boards or in the prototype stages. The most intriguing of these might-have-beens was unquestionably the Stealth-like Gotha Go-229 "flying wing."

As with Chuck Yeager's Air Combat (see Chapter Eight), you can fly for either side. If you join the U.S. Eighth Air Force, you have your choice of early (P-51B) or late (P-51D) Mustangs, the almost unbelievably robust Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, or the equally indestructible Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. From the pilot's seat in the B-17, you can switch on the autopilot and swap positions with other crew members such as the bombardier or the gunners.

For the Luftwaffe, you can fly the Gotha flying wing; the Messerschmitt Me-262 jet or Bf-109 prop (which was produced in greater numbers—35,000—than any other aircraft in the war); its intended replacement, the Focke-Wulf FW-190 (which was considered on a par with the Mustang); or the comical Me-163 rocket-powered interceptor, which looks like nothing so much as a tabletop model from an old Flash Gordon serial.

Several "Tour of Duty" add-on disks offer other aircraft: the twin-engined—one in front, one in back—Dornier Do-335 Pfeil (the largest, fastest, piston-engined fighter of World War II); the aforementioned Salamander; and the often-maligned Lockheed P-38 Lightning and P-80 Shooting Star (a jet that wasn't actually operational until 1946 and didn't see combat until Korea).

Although the name Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe suggests the focus of this game is on the hardware that might have saved Hitler's Wiener schnitzel, the most outstanding feature of this sim is the complex interaction between the missions and the game play. Is it a strategy game masquerading as a flight simulation? Or arcade action disguised as a board game?

Larry Holland, an historian, programmer, and obvious genius, is the author of Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe as well as Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain (see Chapter Thirteen), and Battlehawks 1942, among others, and has gone far beyond the "what-if" scenarios of games like Aces of the Pacific (see Chapter Ten), with its provocative "World World II: 1946!" scenario (that is, what if we hadn't dropped The Bomb and had been forced to invade the Japanese mainland?). Holland viewed Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe as an "historical laboratory," where you could mix different ingredients, follow divergent recipes, and explore alternative realities.

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