The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
REAL DEFICIT REDUCTION
In Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe's "Campaign" mode, not only does the success or failure of every mission impinge on every mission that comes after, but the mission builder also gives unprecedented control over strategic elements that could change the course of the war itself. (But not the outcome … although—just once—I'd like to give the other side an even-up chance at snatching victory from the jaws of history).
Es ist selbtsverstandlich that the game's mission builder gives you control over the size and strength of the attacking forces (the Allies), and the same for the German defenders. But while you may simply select your difficulty level (easy or hard landings, for example), you must "train" your pilots; they get better and better, as the old adage has it, until they get killed. A Catch-22 conundrum: the ones who survive have the most experience, but it takes experience to survive.
Beyond that, you can also move your squadron to another air base in a more favorable location, direct German industry to speed up research on new jetaircraft (or expend the effort, as production honcho Erhard Milch demanded, on making more and more tried-and-true fighters like the Bf-109), disperse aircraft factories to make them less vulnerable (down side: less efficiency), ramp up jet fuel production in anticipation of your new fighters, and train and equip new squadrons.
(Hint: use DOS to clone your best pilots to create instant, all-ace squadrons—shades of The Boys from Brazil.)
You can even launch "V" weapons (like the V-1 "buzz bomb" or the V-2 rocket) to demoralize the opposition's home front at the cost of drawing down your own stocks of exotic metals like titanium. Is this deep or am I dreaming?
The object of Secret Weapons' historical missions, however, is simply to survive your tour of duty, which varies from twenty-five to thirty-five missions, depending on the difficulty level you've selected and the date you date you start—later in the war your mission count had to be higher, for American pilots, before you were rotated Stateside. In what many experts reckon was one of Germany's greatest blunders, Luftwaffe aces didn't train younger pilots—they kept on flying combat missions, often racking up thousands of sorties and hundreds of victories. By contrast, our top ace, Richard Bong, scored "only" forty kills (in the Pacific).
To survive, you use the interactive connections in the game to stack the odds in your favor. If you're flying for the "Mighty Eighth," for example, and you successfully protect a formation of B-17s intent upon bombing the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg—and if the facility is crippled by the raid—then, on your next mission, there will be far fewer Messerschmitts. Or, if you're flying for the Luftwaffe and you hammer the fighter escorts, the factory still gets hit, but the next time you scramble there will be fewer P-51 escorts to deal with.
Undocumented random elements give Secret Weapons a realistic lack of utter predictability. As an Allied pilot, for example, if you get shot down over enemy territory, you might be able to make good your escape and return to your own lines, but don't count on it. On the other hand, if your missions are successful, you win promotions and medals based on an undocumented points system.("Help" books like DeMaria and Fontaine's Air Combat Strategies reveal the secrets of scoring points.)