Chocks away chaps...

Reach for the Skies logo

VIRGIN * £30.99 * 1 meg * Joystick/mouse * Out now

Hey, it's quiz night. F-15 Strike Eagle 2, Falcon, F-16 Combat Pilot and F-19 Stealth Figther. What have all these games got in common? Have you got it yet? Come on, it's easy - they all start with the letter F!

Nah, only joking, the proper answer is that they are all flight simulators. More to the point, all the planes in these so-called flight simulators are very hi-tech and practically anyone can fly them. Shooting down the enemy is no problem - click on a button and your missiles will hit the target, even though the target is 80 miles away.

What you really need is a flight sim to test your raw ability. What could be better than a World War 2 plane simulator like, err Knights of the Sky? Wait a minute, that's far too old, what we need is brand new World War 2 sims like, er, umm...
Oh well there doesn't seem to be another one. Thank God for that I'm bobbins at plane games (crash of lighting followed by small thud). Oh dear, God does move in mysterious ways. Look what I've just received - a brand spanking new copy of Reach for the Skies. Gusp!

It's 1940, it's summer and the future of World War 2 hangs in the balance. The German Luftwaffe and the might of the RAF are about to go into battle once more. This time it's the Battle of Britain and whoever wins will have a damn good chance of winning the war.

Well, in Reach for the Skies anything could happen because you get a choice of who you want to be. Germany or Britain, the choice is entirely up to yo. So, if you're good enough you could change history.

Everyone knows that Britain won the battle because we're smart, but what would have happened if Germany had won the Battle of Britain and eventually won the war? It doesn't bear thinking about - all I can say is that there is no way you'll get me scoffing frankfurters although it has to be said that you'd always get a sunbed when on holiday.

Wahey, follow me on a journey, a journey back through time where the sights and sounds of the 1940s will shock and surprise you. A chance to become a World War 2 fighter ace beckons. So let's don our flying jackets, grab our yokes and take to the skies. Or, instead I could just boot up the ST and play Reach for the Skies.

Right the game has loaded. Hmm, it offers a choice of air forces. I could become a low-down, dirty Luftwaffe pilot or I could become a brave and heroic Brit and join the Royal Air Force. The choice is mine. Hmm, a bit of a toughie. Right, proud British fighter pilot it is. Time to jump into the old Spitfire and give those Jerries a right trashing and be back in Blighty in time for tea and cakes. Chocks away, chaps.

Almost all of the game is spent in the air in your plane - or I should say planes, because you actually control a squadron. This enables you to hop from plane to plane during battle - very handy if you're about to get blown up.

The 3D is quite impressive, especially when you fly the plane over land. There are plenty of external 3D views, all with the option to zoom in and out.

The controls in Reach for the Skies are really simple. Pull back on the stick to gain attitude, push down on the stick to lose altitude and left to go left and right to go, err right. Oh, and you push the Fire button to, umm, fire. See, simple.

There are plenty of dials and meters to confuse you and the control panel looks authentic enough. There is only one little problem with Reach for the Skies, and that is that when yout ake off it takes you ages before you finally get into battle with the enemy.

You can accelerate time, but it's not very realistic. Fortunately, there is an option to start off in the air, so you're much closer to the enemy.

The game is quite difficult and chasing the enemy over land and sea is tough. The enemy always seems to be that one step ahead of you ad it is really tough to shoot it down. It wouldn't be much of a challenge if you could shoot them down really easily, though.

Once your flight has been completed you have the great chance to watch it all again by using the video option. OK, so camcorders weren't exactly available back then, but the video option is a very nice touch. You could even send your finished comedy dogfights into Jeremy Beadle and win loads of money.

Despite the little problem, Reach for the Skies is an excellent flight simulator. The presentation in very nice and everything down to the tiniest little detail has been researched, which makes the game that little bit more interesting.

There is a good manual that goes with the game explaining all about World War 2 and other such interesting facts about the planes and so on. You almost feel like you're actually flying a World War 2 fighter plane.

There is an ideal opportunity to enhance the atmosphere in three simple, but effective ways. One: Get a fan and position it on your monitor and set it at full blast. Two: Grab a white scarf and some swimming goggles and wear them. Three: Get someone with a shotgun to shoot it over your head every couple of minutes.

Hey, who said Gamer wasn't full of informative ideas? (me, get on with it you prat - Ed). One thing that I definitely would recommend, even though it's not essential, is that you play the game on an accelerated machine. This makes it mega fast and you will fall in love with it instantly.

If you're looking for a World War 2 flight sim that's as good as, if not better than Knights of the Sky, then Reach for the Skies could be the game that you're yearning for.

Rowan Software, the creators of such hits as Flight of the Intruder have come up with a cracker.

It's not exactly original stuff, but it's damn exciting and damn realistic. God damn, Reach out for Reach for the Skies, it's brill.

Reach for the Skies logo

Want to re-enact World War II on the Amiga? Then take to the skies with Virgin's convincing new flight simulator.

IT's MID-1940, The RAF have foiled Hitler's attempts to invade England, and the German leader looks to Russia as his next target. England's shores must still be defended - and that's where you can come in and write yourself on to the pages of history.

Reach for the Skies offers you the choice to play as an RAF pilot, one of the 'thin blue line', protecting England from the ravages of the Luftwaffe bombers or as a pilot in the German Luftwaffe, whose aim is to crush the RAF and pave the way for invasion.

Don't know much about...
The game gives a great degree of historical background. A separate manual provides details on the history of the conflict, and the two air forces involved. The instruction and flight manual give you the background on flying the planes, and although this is heavily biased towards the PC version of the game, a separate technical supplement guides you through the Amiga version. The manuals are well written, and contain plenty of screen shots making it easy for you to find your way through the game.

Starting the game presents you with a choice of three roles. You can either practice flying (where the enemy planes can't damage you), play as a pilot (where you are assigned a specific mission), or as a controller, where you are given the various incoming threats, and have to decide what response to take.

If you take the third option, you are put in the position of one of the pilots once you have decides what your responses are to be.

The cockpit graphics are simple but well-drawn and informative. There are none of the complex shading and lighting routines of other flight simulators, but this results in extremely good gameplay. Even on a 1Mb A500, the graphics are smooth and the plane responsive.

The sound is a little disappointing. The engine noise is rather weak, and doesn't change much in response to the throttle. Even touches like digitised speech samples ('Spitfire attacking') don't liven it up much.

Plus, when you're flying in a Junkers JU87 (the dive bomber which appears in every World War II film you'll ever see), the diving noise comes in whenever you point the nose downwards. IT doesn't fade in, it just switches it immediately. There is music at the start and in the in-between mission sections, but this is not overly inspiring.

Choosing the controller role adds another element to the game. As well as flying missions, you have to determine how many planes are sent to combat each of the groups of bombers, and which types of planes are sent.

It works on a day by day basis, so if any planes are damaged, they may out of service for a few days. New planes are constantly being built, but these aren't available straight away.

In the German controller role, you are given a list of possible targets, and you decide home many and which type of planes to send against each. You can also set factors like the height of the planes, and any manoeuvres on the way designed to confuse the enemy.

The plane is very responsive, and can be controlled either form the keyboard or joystick (analogue or digital). For the long periods on the way to or from a dogfight, there's an autopilot which will guide the plane in the right direction. It's also possible to switch between the various planes in flight, and the ones you're not flying will automatically engage the autopilot, which can control the plane during a dogfight. A map keeps track of the positions of the various planes during flight, and this is constantly updated.

View from the bridge
All the usual cockpit and external views are present, including a 'combat view', which comes in handy during dogfights. This external view keeps both your plane and the bandit you're attackin in view. It's a little disorientating at first, but you soon grow accustomed to the procedure.

The planes have been accurately modelled in terms of behaviour, meaning that the Spitfire and Hurricans are extremely manoeuvrable, while the German Heinkel BF110 and Junkers JU87 are hopelessly outclassed, leading to frequent loss of the latter.

Given that the planes available are allocated by the powers that be, you have to make the best of what you've got. The JU87 is the only German plane where you actually controlling the bombing, as it involves dive bombing. This is done automatically with other aircraft, and the main thrust of the game is using your fighters to defend these bombers form the British attacks while getting them close to their targets.

The Battle of Britain is divided into four stages: you can jump into any of these on either side, or run through them all in sequential order, if you live that long. If your pilot is shot down and doesn't survive, you can either continue from the next day with a new pilot, or go back to the beginning of the conflict.

Mission control
You can control various options such as the armament and difficulty level during play form menus stored under the [F10] key. You can also alter the level of graphic detail used while playing, although it's very smooth, even on a 1Mb A500 at maximum detail.

It's also possible to record your combats on video tape (during the Second World War?), which you can save to disk to watch later. This records all of the information on the positions of the planes meaning that you can watch the battle form the enemy's viewpoint.

Reach for the skies is much more playable on a low-end Amiga than close contemporaries such as Their Finest Hour. It also concentrates more on the strategic side, and offers more control over the view that you take of your plane. Reach for the Skies seems to have the edge in speed and lasting playability.

This is an excellent flight simulator, and the option of playing the controller adds an extra lasting appeal to the game. Instead of throwing all of your planes at the threat, you're forced to consider the long term implications, as the enemy will keep coming back.

Der Flugsaurier

Reach for the Skies logo

Seit drei Jahren wird dieser Flugi auf allen möglichen Messen vorgeführt, in den Software-Shops ist er aber nie aufgetaucht. Jetzt hat ihn Virgin aus der Konkursmasse von Mirrorsoft geholt...

Das Problem liegt auf der Hand: In den letzten 36 Monaten hat sich so viel getan am Bildschirmhimmel, daß diese Simulation praktisch vom Start weg veraltet ist. Nicht genug damit, daß die Konkurrenz wesentlich mehr Features bieten kann, das Tempo der detailarmen Vektorgrafik verführt zum Einschlafen, die Steuerung ist nur per Keyboard erträglich, Maus und Joystick sollte man schleunigst vergessen.

Das Ergebnis steht also schon fest, aber wir erzählen Euch natürlich trotzdem noch, was hier so auf dem Flugplan steht.

Als Hintergrundszenario dient der Zweite Weltkrieg, der Spieler darf sich wahlweise auf die englische oder die deutsche Seite schlagen. Nach den üblichen Formalitäten, wie dem Eintrag ins Logbuch etc., muß er sich für einen der drei Spielmodi "Practice", "Controller" und "Pilot" entscheiden.

Erklärungsbedürftig ist dabei nur der Controller-Modus; in der Praxis unterscheidet er sich vom normalen Pilotendasein aber lediglich durch die zusätzliche strategische Komponente. Das bedeutet, daß man hier z.B. selbst darüber bestimmen kann, wieviele Stahlvögel bei der ausgewählten Mission mitmischen sollen oder in welcher Formation geflogen wird.

Apropos Missionen: davon gibt's bloß vier Stück, deren Schwierigkeitsgrad vom simplen Begleitschutz bis zur nervenzerfetzenden Schlacht über London reicht.

Da bis auf die reichlich vorhandenen Grafikperspektiven auch sonst alles recht sparsam ausgefallen ist, kann man sich den "Griff nach dem Himmel" also eigentlich sparen. (C. Borgmeier)

Reach for the Skies logo

Ja, was denn - wurde dieser Flugi nicht bereits vor einem halben Jahr im Joker besprochen?! Schon, aber inzwischen ist einiges passiert. Genug jedenfalls, daß wir uns nicht um einen zweiten Test drücken konnten!

Für diejenigen, die sich erst jetzt zugeschaltet haben, hier eine kurze Zusammenfassung der bisherigen Ereignisse: Seit 1989 wurde diese Simulation von Mirrorsoft auf allen möglichen Messen vorgeführt; dann ging der englische Hersteller pleite. Also kaufte Virgin das Game aus der Konkursmasse, ließ es fertigstellen und schickte uns ein erstes Testmuster.

Der darauf folgende 56-Prozent-Verriß versetzte die britischen Jungfrauen so sehr in Panik, daß sie den Veröffentlichungstermin kurzerhand verschoben und die Programmierer zum Nachbessern verdonnerten. Jetzt ist das Spiel endgültig fertig, und die nochmalige Überarbeitung hat auch tatsächlich was gebracht - alles in allem heiße vier Prozent....

Nach wie vor muß die Luftschlacht über England während des Zweiten Weltkriegs als Hintergrundszenario behalten, wobei man in den vier zeitlich aufeinander aufbauenden Missionen wahlweise für die englische oder die deutsche Seite das Cockpit der acht vorhandenen Bomber und Jäger entern kann.

Außer dem obligaten Training gibt es dabei zwei verschiedene Spielmodi: Als "Pilot" darf man in erster Linie fliegen, daneben ist man aber auch für die Bordkanone bzw. den Bombenschacht zuständig.

Wer sich für eine Karriere als "Leitoffizier" entscheidet, tut genau dasselbe - aber erst nachdem er zuvor seine strategischen Fähigkeiten unter Beweis gestellt hat, indem er den Einsatz auf der Karte geplant, Größe und Formation der einzelnen Staffeln festgelegt und dergleichen Sandkastenspiele mehr getrieben hat.

So weit, so nett, doch technisch sieht die Geschichte leider ziemlich alt aus, und das ihm wahrsten Sinne des Wortes: Die Flugzeuge sind zwar recht farbenfroh gestaltet und auch leidlich animiert, aber vom Gesamteindruck her erinnert die nicht übermäßig detailreiche Vektorgrafik halt an den optischen Standard längst vergangener Tage. Immerhin gibt es eine Replay-Funktion mit Save-Option, haufenweise zoom- und drehbare Außenansichten sowie allerlei nostalgisch gemachte Zwischenbildchen - diese leiden allerdings an Grobkörnigkeit im fortgeschrittenen Stadium.

Die Steuerung via Stick, Maus oder Tasten ist akzeptabel; dasselbe gilt für Titelmelodie und Soundeffekte, die Sprachausgabe ist jedoch absolut unverständlich. Last but not least liegt der Packung neben der eigentlichen Anleitung diverses Begleitmaterial zum historischen Hintergrund bei, das recht liebevoll gemacht und komplett in Deutsch ist.

Doch trotz aller Mühe, die sich Virgin in den letzten sechs Monaten zweifelsohne gegeben hat: Reach for the Skies mag dem Simulations-Himmel ein Stückchen näher gekommen sein, erreicht hat es ihn aber noch lange nicht! (rf)

Reach for the Skies logo

Reach for your wallets, more like - it's pricey but it's fun.

Where's Douglas Bader, that's what I'd like to know? We've been waiting 37 years for the licence of this classic war film and now that it's finally come out there isn't a legless flying ace in sight - although the way I fly it might look like I've been 'hitting the bottle' a bit. (This pun appears courtesy of Carry On Wing Commander, Ealing Studios, 1964. - Ed)

Reach For The Skies - the game - is a Second World War flight sim that's got a strategy element thrown in for good measure - okay, I know that, for the unconverted, that sounds like a combination even more hideous to contemplate than Hale and Pace.

But hold on there, 'cos Reach For the Skies is one of those rarities - a flight sim that just might appeal to non-flight-sim fans (the ones who can put their prejudices aside and their brains into gear for a second).

So here's your mission briefing: it's 1940 and the Germans are bombing England while the RAF defends the country form attack. You can choose to play as either the stiff-upper-lipped English mob or the stiff-lower-limbed (well, what else explains that march?) Hunnish bunch in the prequel of the 1966 World Cup.

The FAF get to fly around in Hurricanes and Spitfires while the Luftwaffe have Ju87s, Ju88s, Do17s, He111s, Bf109s and Bf110s.

The flight simulation sequences are top-notch

Your next decision: do you want to be a Flight Controller or just a lowly pilot? Choose to be a controller and you have to deal with all the strategy-type bits, though you do still get to fly missions. It's best to practise as a pilot first, otherwise, no matter how great a strategist you are, if you fly like a dodo then you'll let the side down, old chap.

The flight sequences are top-notch stuff. They're fast, exciting and, best of all, easy to get the hang of. Yeah, sure, the manual's full of diagrams that look like a physics project, but for once it all seems to make sense and you can be up and loop-the-looping and dog-fighting in no time.

The autopilot helps, sure, but you'll realise that as soon as you engage in combat you have to switch that off and rely on your own skills.

The authors, Rowan, also haven't gone overboard in the realism stakes. The accelerated mode means you don't spend ages hanging about in the air before anything good happens, there's a handy info panel in the cockpit which summarises what all the dials are saying (which can be switched off) and even a choice of flight realism levels. Basically, the more confident you become, the more difficult you can make the game for yourself, F1GP-style.

As for the strategy bits - well, you know the way that some sports sims have training sections that are really tedious and just get in the way of the action? Reach For The Skies is almost the exact opposite. Planning attacks (if you're in the Luftwaffe) or your defence strategy (if you're in the RAF) actually gets you more involved with the game.

The only shame is that the presentation of these sequences is so uninspired, especially considering how classy the flight sections look.

Blimey, a whole WW2 flight sim review and not a single mention of chocks... (Snip! Ed).

Reach for the Skies logo

Have Virgin Games really managed to capture the comradeship of World War 2? Tony 'Goggles' Dillon cries chocks away.

My first thoughts whenever loading a combat simulation of this type, are always cynical. With the exception of Microprose's Knights Of The Sky, I cannot think of any flight simulators that have successfully created the feelings of playing as part of a team in the middle of combat. This is no exception.

In Reach you are posted on the south-east coast of England at the start of the Battle of Britain, and have to work your way through the entire campaign. Starting off with defending supply ships against enemy attacks, it works to a frenzied battle as we enter the blitz. At the start of the game, you choose who you want to fight for, either the RAF or the Luftwaffe.

As part of the jolly old Royal Air Force, you will spend most of your time taking out German aircraft, whereas should you join the Hun, you will do all sorts of strikes, both air and ground based. Once the side is selected you have to choose between being a pilot or a controller.

The only real difference between these two is that a controller gets to do things between missions and a pilot will hop from mission to mission, joining in whenever needed, and generally soak up a lot of short term glory. A controller is the person who makes all the big battle decisions, such as what sort of defensive moves should be made, and by how many pilots, in which sort of planes and from where. In this game, you have the option of planning the strategy first as a controller and then actually switching to become a pilot to fly in the battle.

As a pilot, once you have selected the first mission you are given a list of which strikes are happening that day, and can select the one that most appeals. Reach's programmers have provided the player with two control options - simple or easy. In simple mode, the four joystick directions bank and tilt your plane in the usual way, and the fire button or substitute fires your only weapon, a short range machine gun.

Plus and minus keys control throttle and the number keys allow external views. A basic control panel gives equally basic information, and a text bar at the top f the screen displays radio information. Regular digital flyers will feel right at home although the lack of any radar is a bit disconcerting.

If you want to make things a little easier, there are tow automatic systems which can be switched on. Firstly, there is the autogun. Once activated, should an enemy plane stray across your gunsights, the computer will open fire. The other system is an autopilot, which is used to get you to pre-designated points without all the fuss and bother of navigation. There is another use for these two systems, but I cannot understand why it is included.

Pressing return brings up 'combat view' which is an external view of your plane with the nearest enemy craft centred on screen. Pressing 'L' locks that plane as the main target. By switching on both automatic tools now, the computer will follow the selected plane and open fire on it - dogfighting on your behalf. As dogfighting is the main point of the game, this does seem to destroy the point of playing at all.

Things improve when you play as a controller. Between missions, you are shown a map containing all your airbases, and all the enemy activity. This allows you to choose how to fight back. By using a very simple point'n'click system, Virgin have managed to move away from the tabletop game it is, to a more enjoyable break between flying. Not exactly taxing, but it is nice to see the differences between decisions, and how they shape the outcome of the battle.

The polygon graphics are quite astounding. The planes look realistic and by using bit-mapped graphic s for explosions, it is very satisfying to blow an enemy plane out of the sky. But when things start moving, the graphics lose credibility. For a start, the distance between yourself and other craft is impossible to judge, as a Spitfire changes in size from being a single pixel in the centre of your view window to fill it in a matter of a second or two.

The biggest problem with the graphics, however, has to be the judder. Either I am mistaken and aircraft in WWII could travel at speed exceeding Mach 2, or there is some serious miscalculation somewhere. The most irritating things about the game is the way that enemy planes can disappear as you watch them!

Reach For The Skies could have been amazing. There are so many good ideas in the design that it seems such a shame to waste them by making the game unplayable.

PLAYING BY EAR When it comes to drumming up excitement in a game like this, nothing is more effective than lots of well thought out sound effects. Reach For The Skies, while for the most part sounds like any other airplane sim, does have its moments. For example, sampled speech is used when radio messages come in. Although there are only a few messages, they do add to the atmosphere slightly. For example, when Blue Two yells 'Some trade for you', you know that trouble's coming!