Mac OS X: 10.4.6 | CPU: Universal Binary - G4 or Intel Mac | HD Space: 1.5 GB | Graphics: 512 MB (1024 MB Recommended), Video Card that supports Hardware T&L and Shader 3 Graphics | Input: Joystick, mouse and keyboard (Throttle and Rudder pedals are recommended for Aviation Play) | Internet connection required for online play
Mac users who are also fans of flight sims have had a tough time of it for, oh, since before OS X came out. With the exception of Falcon 4.0 and X Plane and a few open source/independent titles, Mac users are out of luck. Or at least they have been until recently. This year, iEntertainment, the makers of the venerable Warbirds WWII MMORPG, have released some updated versions of standalone titles as part of their Total Simulation Series. For flight sim fans, these include Warbirds, Red Baron 2012, and the title reviewed here, Dogfights 2012.
If you can remember way back to playing flight sims on the Mac in the past, or if you had the good fortune to fly on another platform, there won’t be anything stunningly different about Dogfights. As you probably already know, a joystick, rudder and pedals are highly recommended, although you can play with mouse and keyboard. Dogfights comes with a number of tutorials that walk you through all aspects of the game, from the cockpit through takeoffs and landings, flying tricks and combat help. Again, if you’re familiar with flight sims you can probably skip most of that and jump right into combat.
The game menus and interface are pretty clear so you should be up and flying in no time. There aren’t many frills or confusing choices here; set your resolution, graphics, sound, make sure your peripherals are working and you’ll be good to go. When you fly, you can choose from three levels, Rookie, Veteran and Ace and choose whether or not you have to takeoff. As the name implies, Dogfights is about air-to-air combat and that’s what all your missions will involve. Every time you select a mission you have a choice of up to five planes based on the time and location of the mission. Choose your plane, read your mission briefing, and jump right in.
While missions are set in actual combat areas, they are not strictly historical, so each time you select the same mission, you might have a different starting situation such as time of day, direction, enemy planes, etc. Most of the time you’ll be flying with others but take heart, there will be plenty of enemies for you to go after. As you shoot down planes and accomplish other mission objectives you earn points towards becoming the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot, which is as close as the game gets to having an ultimate goal. You are not required to go through the missions in order, you can skip around, pick what you want, go back to previous missions, try the same mission with different planes, and generally play the game how you want.
And one thing I found odd was the way the mission objectives work, which is essentially shoot down a certain number of planes to accomplish your goal, receive points and advance towards promotion. Even in scenarios where the enemy is coming to attack ground targets or you’re serving as a bomber escort all you have to do is shoot down some planes to succeed; defense is not relevant (kind of like the NBA, but I digress). But again, this is a dogfighting game, so I guess that makes a certain amount of sense. I did find that this setup gave each mission a certain sameness regardless of differences in planes and locations.
And the planes are the game’s strength. One reason you want good peripherals is that the flight dynamics are pretty realistic. If you’re used to playing flight sims which are forgiving, and all the planes fly pretty much the same, stay level, turn easily, and so on, you’ll be in for an adventure here. Each plane definitely flies differently and each have their strengths and weaknesses in terms of survivability, maneuverability, load outs, etc. This helps keep the scenarios fresh even with the similarity of missions discussed above. If you try and fly a P-38 the same as a P-51, you will be in for a rude awakening. You’ll have a chance to fly the major fighter planes of WWII, and again that is really the point of the game.