Over Flanders Fields Between Heaven and Hell
I have had the privilege of reviewing a final beta version of this sim, for which I am indeed grateful. I am and always have been a supporter, sometimes quite vocal, of the creators and developers of Over Flanders Fields Between Heaven and Hell. I have watched and waited like so many of you for the ultimate version of this project to arrive. That moment is upon us and I am delighted to share this brief review with you.
I am not proposing to reveal all of what I have experienced in the short time I have had it available to me .I learn and see more each time I come to it and I expect to continue to do so. For me this advance opportunity to see what has been achieved has been a pure delight.
I want you to come with me on a journey back across the decades to a time when Europe was gripped by the pestilence of a Great War on a scale never before seen.
As is the way of mankind, it spared not a moment in seizing upon the latest of its most wonderful inventions and bending it to a sole purpose- the destruction of men.
And so it was that just over a decade after the Wright brothers first took to the skies at Kittyhawk, for the first time aircraft, made of little more than wood, canvas and wire, began to take to the skies above northern France. Thereby, at a single stroke was added a further dimension to the traditional theatres of war which led man against man to pit themselves against each other in the new war in the air.
Over Flanders Fields Between Heaven and Hell
As a result of the prodigious efforts of a small but highly dedicated team of enthusiasts from right across the world, you now have the means to gently detach yourself from this modern world and to travel back nearly a century in time and to experience for yourselves the fully immersive experience of becoming a pilot in the Great War.
This beautifully packaged simulation delivers fully on its commitment to provide a total, authentic and immersive Great War pilot experience.
As the opening credits appear on your screen for the first time you will immediately appreciate the thought and effort that has so evidently been put in this sim’s creation.
As the spectacular graphics begin you will hear the opening chords of the epic “Over Flanders Fields” theme so sympathetically written by Matt Milne which is both uplifting and poignant.
I urge you to allow this combination of music and the stunning graphics to do its work .If you allow it do so, I believe you will find, as I did, that it sucks you in, as it is no doubt intended to do , and fully prepares you to suspend your disbelief and to enter a long lost and exhilarating world, filled with the sound of the wind in the wires, creaking canvas, the low boom of the field artillery and the unwelcome staccato rattle of angry machine gun fire.
As the opening theme fades and the mood becomes more sombre, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” (so familiar to those of us who have followed this sim from its earlier freeware versions) is deployed to brilliant effect. More amazing graphics follow, teasing at what lies ahead for you.
Now, in the right frame of mind to enter this unfamiliar world, you are brought into the main gateway screen, the OFF Manager.
From this screen you may enlist pilots and elect to enter Quick Combat, Campaign, Missions or Multiplay mode. You may also select Workshop which permits you to make changes to the way your sim may be altered to suit your personal taste in game play. Everything is intuitive.
Campaign mode is at the heart of this sim. It is a dynamic not a static campaign. This is where you will experience the very best this sim has to offer you giving you a real understanding of how it was for those brave young men who fought the aerial war in the skies. Missions in campaign may be eventful or quiet .You may be alone or with a wingman or in full majestic squadron. The object is to survive.
For those of you who prefer more immediate action, Quick Combat mode is available and Mission mode also. If time is at a premium for you, these modes can provide immense satisfaction. For those of you who wish to fly online, by private IP to private IP, there is also a Multiplay mode.
If you have the time and the inclination Campaign mode is, without a doubt, the most fulfilling of the modes and the mode which I would recommend. This is because Campaign mode provides you with the time to fully appreciate the virtual world around you and the stunning detail of the aircraft which has been so beautifully crafted.
This sim is literally alive! .As you fly along, you can witness great battles taking place in the trenches below you .You can see the awesome effect that this total warfare had upon the countryside all over the Western Front in the great scars and gouges in the landscape All the time you are looking around you, scanning the horizon and looking high and low or for puffs of archie possibly betraying the presence of your enemy .Specks appear low to the horizon. Let battle commence!
So much care has gone into setting the scene appropriately for you .There are hundreds of different squadrons in which you may fly .You may fly for the Entente or the Central Powers side, in fighters or in bombers and in different months and years. There are literally thousands of accurate skins available to you for your aircraft .Hundreds of man hours have gone into creation of these. Do spend the time to try them out. They are spectacular, particularly those from the Central Powers!
There is a large amount of information available to you in the form of a continual stream of front pages of newspapers weather reports, squadron and aircraft statistics. These all play their individual part in deepening the immersion in which this sim excels.
The first time you climb into the cockpit of these aircraft, start your engine, push your throttle forward, gently pick up speed, let the nose rise under control and sweep gently into the sky, you will immediately feel that you are really there. If you are fortunate enough to have TrackIR, this is when you can first truly experience the immersion the Team has striven so hard (and in my personal view succeeded) to create. They have achieved, at least for me, a greater feeling of immersion in the cockpit than any other flight related sim I have flown including FSX and IL Sturmovik 1946
After take off, first, look around your cockpit and appreciate the intricate craftsmanship of the rudimentary cockpit instruments. Then lift your eyes and look along your wings See the crisp lines and aerodynamic simplicity of these vintage aircraft. Get the feel of how the aircraft performs and, when you are more comfortable, push her towards the limits to see how she handles under stress. These old aircraft were not all easy to fly. Each different aircraft had its idiosyncrasies. Better to learn them now rather than later in the throes of combat. This is flying as it was .This is flying as it began, long before technological advances would sanitise the experience. This was an age far removed from the “fly by wire” of modern day aviation. Here you flew by the seat of your pants!
The flying experience alone is exhilarating and then comes ………combat.
The first three times that I flew in campaign I never even saw the aircraft that sent me crashing to the ground, dead before I hit it. The Team has worked miracles in pumping up the calibre of the AI in this sim to utterly lethal levels. The fourth time I flew, I did get to see the enemy before he did for me. He passed right and forwards of my right wing letting me have a few bursts before he zipped by. I turned my head, anxiously tracking his path as he pulled up and then executed a perfect slipping turn and positioned himself behind me for another burst of his machine guns. As I bobbed and weaved I turned back to see him all but dancing on my tail. Another few bursts and I was done for again. I was sweating.
That is what this sim does to you .It quite simply puts you there. I believe that, as a unique total immersive experience of its genre, this sim may never be bettered.
When you end your mission and return to the OFF Manager there is one other thing you should do. Click the Credits button as I did.
There you will see listed the names of the exceptionally talented small group of men who have together made this World War 1 flying experience possible. I would personally like to thank them for their Herculean collective effort which has resulted in this sublime flight simulation. I believe a tacit appreciation of the technical skill and dedication of this group of individuals is worthy of a few minutes of each of our time.
When you have done that, finally I beg you to take time also to listen to recordings reached in this interface of the elderly voices of the real men who flew these aircraft and in whose footsteps you virtually follow ……………
Over Flanders Fields
Where the Poppies Grow