This is the final Origin game with VFX-1 support, although there is still Looking Glass’ Flight Unlimited which I’ll have to try at some point. Forte also implemented support for a handful of Wing Commander games with their vrmouse driver which literally just sends mouse/keyboard commands depending on head tracking. I expect this to be terrible but I’ll be trying it out sooner or later also.
Wings Of Glory was released in 1995 with built-in VFX-1 support although I did have to manually edit the config file to get this working in-game. It doesn’t have stereo-3D but does support head tracking in the cockpit.
Right from the start this game came across as better suited to the hardware than the previous 2 which I’ve tried. The colours on the VFX-1 screens aren’t bad but similar shades do have a tendency to merge together. Wings Of Glory uses a bright, almost cartoon like palette which comes through really well on the twin LCD’s. The game also has a big chunky interface with nice large text and no dials or HUD to read meaning you can play the whole game without ever flipping the visor up. I definitely couldn’t say this for either System Shock or Terra Nova.
I’ve never been convinced by the usefulness of virtual cockpits in games. It’s all very well-being able to look around but it makes it nearly impossible to steer and it always struck me as more of a gimmick. Add a VR helmet however and Wings Of Glory’s virtual cockpit comes into its own. Looking around while steering the plane is second nature and I didn’t have any problems keeping my orientation. It makes it possible to look around the skies to keep track of your opponents and it’s about as close to being there as you are going to get outside of a simulator. In fact, if you play the game like this you will soon find yourself always looking at your opponent when possible and never straight ahead. Even when pulling a turn to try to locate an opponent it meant I could focus either above or below the plane depending on where I expected him to be. This is without a doubt the only way to play Wings Of Glory and the only game of the 3 where the VR substantially added to the gameplay. I don’t expect there are many people who will get the chance to try it out these days but Loaf is going to enjoy himself if he ever gets the hardware set up.
It’s not all perfect of course. The virtual cockpit doesn’t allow you to look down very far and stops moving at a certain point. This isn’t major but it does pull you out of the action when it happens. Also, the lack of clarity on the screens comes into play when you are firing bullets into the white cloud haze on the horizon as the white tracer fire merges with it to become invisible. It’s much easier to hit targets above or below this horizon because of this.
Finding targets isn’t as easy as it would be were I playing the game conventionally. I would previously use the eyes locked on target toggle to locate my enemy, then turn that off again and steer towards him. Here I have to find him the hard way. This is more realistic of course and more along the lines of how things should be. I did occasionally have issues deciding which side a plane was on due to the resolution but with the garish colours of most German planes this was rarely a problem, and cycling through the targets was enough to confirm.
The final issue is that it’s not easy to find the keys on the keyboard when you are effectively blindfolded. With no feedback, I was never quite sure if I’d hit the ALT-B to break and attack for instance and controlling my throttle could end up being a little random as to which number key I’d pressed. If you are going to use the VR helmet in this game you ideally need a throttle, rudder & joystick setup with all the appropriate keys mapped to avoid any of this.
As for the game itself, this still goes down as the most fun I’ve had on any flight sim with the close up dogfights being quite tactical and far more action packed than your modern warfare equivalents. The Sopwith Pup at the start of the game is truly horrible to fly though and I could hardly score a kill with it. As soon as the next planes become available things pick right up, but it’s like the designers were trying to put you off getting started.
Similarly the visibility out of the Pup is terrible and this is really brought home by the VR helmet making it quite clear just how much the wings get in the way of your line of sight. This was true to some extent with all the planes in the game with only the last 2 missions in the Fokker offering a really good view. I’d love to have been able to try VR out with the more conventional cockpits of the WW2 planes in Pacific Strike but it never got the VFX-1 treatment I’m sorry to say.
The bottom line with Wings Of Glory is that you never played it at it’s best if you haven’t tried it on a VFX-1. I can hardly say it’s worth the hefty price tag to your average gamer, but compared to certain other gaming collectibles I’ve bought I’m starting to think the VFX-1 is actually something of a bargain given how much use I’m clearly going to get out of it. Someone really needs to make a modern equivalent that actually works.
I’ll leave the VFX-1 again for the moment and will be returning to the FM-Towns Ultima Trilogy next.