Wings Of Glory on the VFX-1

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.

Bioforge, System Shock CD & Wings Of Glory Demo Tape

I have my freshly delivered VFX-1 sat here which I’m dying to try out but unfortunately I have some work and other things to do before I can start setting it up. I should hopefully manage an hour or two tonight and might post my first impressions tomorrow. In the meanwhile and by way of filler, I thought I’d post this VHS tape of demos for 3 Origin games.


The tape has gameplay videos of Bioforge, System Shock and Wings Of Glory which loop over and over and was presumably used in either a store or show to market the games. I’ve uploaded a complete loop to Youtube but I didn’t spot anything unusual in there so it’s not the most exciting viewing. It is at least relevant for today since two of the games are supported by the VFX-1 and I hope to try them out later.

The tape includes the entire end sequence from Bioforge, which is surprising as I would have thought was something of a spoiler to people you were trying to sell the game to.

Wings Of Glory Demo

This demo comes from the April 1995 Cover CD of PC Format and I’ve uploaded it to here for anyone who wants to give it a go. Wings Of Glory was a game I didn’t have high hopes for, but I enjoyed a lot when I finally played it. Before getting sidetracked by UO, there was a spell in the mid 90’s where Origin could do no wrong with games like this, Bioforge, WC3 & 4, Crusader & Cybermage all being released in a short space of time.

The demo consists of a quick briefing (with speech) and the mission itself. It’s a simple case of going out and destroying enemy weather balloons.

It’s been a while since I played WoG and I found tracking the enemy planes extremely tricky. I have a strong tendency to over-steer but slow and steady is the key in this as much as possible. My wingman made up for my poor showing and single handedly set about clearing the skies while I was floundering around. There were 3 planes at the first nav point – I did at least manage to kill off one of them myself.

There is a natty green plane which is gunning for me at the third nav point. It takes me a couple of attempts to get my skills up to the point where I can defeat him. After this the weather balloon is an easy target. If it had been up to me, I’d probably have put a zeppelin in the demo mission as the animation for them blowing up was just awesome. That’s the end of the mission though and when I fly back to home the demo restarts.

Within the limitations of VGA graphics, Wings Of Glory is still a great looking game and extremely playable. The odds are that I completely ignored this demo back at the time with it being a flight sim but it’s a game that should have some appeal to any Wing Commander fan willing to give it a go. The demo doesn’t last long but is worth playing in its own right.

Day 147

Boxing day is ready made for gaming with not much going on and I ploughed through the rest of Wings of Glory more or less in one go. It quite definitely did get easier as the game went on and the missions start to get very familiar after a while. There are various mission types but each mission of the same type is almost identical to the last so I’ll skim through them before summing up at the end.

Todays missions start out with a bomber escort mission.

I manage to escort my bomber to the target but it misses and I have to go in and gun down this building myself.

When I get back there is a surprising twist as I’m informed by the CO that Lisette has been executed for being a spy.

I get to see her final confession where she admits to being blackmailed by the Germans into stealing plans before eventually giving herself in rather than betray any further.

I never saw this one coming and was assuming she would be the love interest for the rest of the game but there is no coming back from this. An unexpected twist is good but she was basically the focus of the only plot outside of the general war which is now a dead end.

After a routine patrol mission I get to take out submarine pens..

Next its another blow up a Zeppelin mission. I don’t get rockets in this plane so I have to use my wing gun to approach it from underneath.

Next is defending observation balloons of our own. The germans are no better at shooting them than our guys so this is no problem.

Instead of going after the Zeppelins themselves I get to attempt to take out their factories. Its not hard to spot buildings big enough to build zeppelins in.

I get the Medal of Honor for getting 60 kills after this mission.

Next is blowing up a train. The individual carriages blow up as you shoot them but its effectively just a moving building. Since the game lines me up after autopilot with the track its literally just a case of flying in a straight line with the fire button down.

This mission earns me a promotion and along with it a new plane to fly – a Sopwith Camel.

This has dual machine guns at the front. Its not a bad plane and I stick with it for all the next few missions but I’m not so sure its better than the old one. I liked the wing gun once I got used to it and it seemed to do about as much damage as the dual guns on this.

The mission itself is another one blowing up balloons.

I have to escort another observation plane. These protection missions are getting easier as my wingmen get better planes no matter what I do.

About this time my character in the game is getting severely depressed about all the killing and being ordered to murder.

I’m ordered to take out a convoy of trucks. These die in a single hit and don’t fight back.

I’m told about an ace that is in the area. In true Wing Commander style he then shows up in the next mission but is taken down by my wingmen while I’m concentrating on other planes.

Charles has talked me out of my depression by this point by pointing out how I need to set an example to the other pilots.

I’m given free reign to go and take out another aerodrome. Again, I don’t have to worry about runways in this game. I just take out the hangars.

The CO has bad news for me. Charles was ambushed by an ace (Ulrich) + 3 wingmen. He took out the wingmen but was shot down and killed by Ulrich.

The funeral is interrupted by a message dropped out of his plane by Ulrich.

I go out on a revenge mission (without mentioning it to the CO) to try to get Ulrich. He’s in the fancy red plane here but no matter how much I shoot it he doesn’t die. I hate this sort of contrivance where reality is suspended to keep to plot intact. I kill off the wingmen and head back to base. This is a tough fight. I have 4 of them + Ulrich and no wingmen.

Rather than blaming me, the CO tells me that he has found out where Ulrich is based and that an American squadron is in the area. I request a transfer and am shipped out to join my countrymen at a new airfield.

The new airfield is a much more temporary affair being made up from tents rather than brick buildings.

Theres a completely new set of locations to walk round but it all works in the same way as before. There is also a new group of pilots to get to know.

The CO wants me to use his first name which is a bit of a change. The situation here is a bit different as everyone else is new to the war and I’m the veteran.

A new airfield brings a new airplane along with it.

The SPAD is the fastest plane in the game. It’s got a seriously limited cockpit view but since I’m going to turn the cockpit off it doesn’t make a difference.

My first mission over here is another one blowing up balloons.

Next its another train. Again I’m lined up after autopiloting in.

I have to blow up an enemy bridge. This is another easy mission – a single unguarded ground target.

It still earns me another medal.

I have another bomber to escort – it misses the target again so I fly in and gun down a building to complete the mission.

My copilots are a disparate group of characters. This guy has been stringing along a whole bunch of women and is attempting to narrow down the selection for which he will marry – he’s down to 5.

Yet another blow up balloons mission….

A bomber intercept mission this time – I’ve had surprisingly few of these. The bombers are huge targets but quite tough and the turret guns are a pain without my wing gun. I have to try to approach from above or below which is not all that easy and getting in more than a few hits at a time is more or less impossible.

One of the better strategies is waiting for a wingman to be taking its attention and then nipping in on its tail. This only works if I get the kill otherwise I’m turretted to death.

Another truck convoy….

And another convoy straight after – this is nearly the same mission twice in a row.

Another aerodrome….

The next mission is a defend the base mission. This is routine but afterwards we have captured a more or less intact German plane + its ace Gerhardt.

Gerhardt is surprisingly pleasant and doesn’t think much of Ulrich. He’s just another guy doing the same job I am.

I have to bomb some more ground targets which gets me another medal.

Another bomber intercept…

During the last few missions the bases mechanic has been fixing up the Fokker. We now get to use it in a daring plan to blow up a munitions factory well inside enemy territory. By using the Fokker I get to fly well inside enemy territory without being attacked.

The mission is no trouble. The Fokker is very manoeuverable and dogfighting in it is a piece of cake. I just have to blow up the big red building + four planes.

This nets me my final medal – the Victoria Cross.

I’m told that Ulrich has dropped me an invitation to a dogfight – the CO tried to stop me finding out but one of the pilots let me in on it.

I of course fly out to the fight. I get to choose from the same 2 planes. I go back to the American plane to start. The problem with this mission is that after I autopilot in he is directly on my tail and I die in seconds. This is just ridiculous and I die in seconds.

I try flying the Fokker instead. I contrive a maneouver of diving then pulling sharply up and dipping down again which gets me on Ulrichs tail. Its not an easy fight – if I give him a chance to shoot I’m dead after the hits I have to take at the start but I get him in the end.

My revenge complete and the war over I leave my Victoria Cross on Charles grave. This brings up the final cutscene.

I have enjoyed this game but it didn’t develop as well as I’d hoped from the start. It honestly didn’t give me any real storyline to write up here at all. The missions were all quite similar – I think Pacific Strike has it beat for variety. I wouldn’t say it got boring as it was easy and introduced new planes very slowly.

There appear to be some quirks in the 3D engine. When I turn left I notice the objects (planes, etc..) move in stages rather than smoothly. This doesn’t make life easier and spoils the realism a bit. It also makes it much harder to hit anything – without this quirk the game which is already quite easy would have become an absolute walkover on this difficulty level.

The scenery in the entire game was flat which seems a big step backwards from the mountainous islands I saw in Pacific Strike. Its probably the most fun of the 3 games to play but ultimately falls a bit short of what it could have been. The possibility was there early on but its definitely not a classic as it never built upon this. Pacific Strike was probably a better game overall with its branching missions and stronger plot. Wings Of Glory is, however, the most fun I’ve had playing a flight simulator.

I’m away for a week from Sunday and I’m not starting a new game before then so my next post will be either 5th or 6th January.

Next: System Shock