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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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Ups:Covers undeservedly ignored campaigns.
Downs: Doesn't do it well; rushed release, dated graphics, abominable AI.
System Reqs:
Pentium-166, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, SVGA w/ 2MB, 3D card 4MB.
lc1.jpg (10234 bytes)This one won’t take long—all you really need to know about Luftwaffe Commander is not to buy it. Don’t even buy it if its shiny SSI cover beckons to you from the cut-rate bargain bin--whence, for sure, its destiny lies. Hell, don’t even borrow it. Luftwaffe Commander is a damn shame, an example of what happens when a game in beta testing is pushed out the door because the mother company freaks out, which is clearly what happened here. The way I (and everyone else—this ain’t rocket science) figure it, someone way up the food chain saw competing flight sims like EAW and World War II Fighters hit the racks about Christmas time. Then, through some weird sort of marketing calculus that defies human understanding and has no sort of truck with human dignity either, they decided that the best thing to do was throw this half-completed sim out there just in time for the holidays. Merry Christmas, baby.

lc2.jpg (9442 bytes)This is made all the more painful by the fact that this game could have been a winner. LC covers Luftwaffe operations from 1937 to 1945—and allows you to fly everything from Heinkel biplanes over Andalusia in the Spanish Civil War to the first operational jet, the ME-262, over the Reich during its last days. In between, it covers the battles of France and Britain, as well as the undeservedly-ignored Eastern Front. Except for the lack of some Mediterranean and North African operations, that’s pretty complete coverage. And sometimes, peeping from underneath all the game’s dross, some gold glimmers—there are some accurate flight models and some interesting missions and some good graphics—but overall, Luftwaffe Commander is a huge disappointment.

lc3.jpg (9581 bytes)Why? Well, let’s get this over in one extended and vicious paragraph. Flight models are very inconsistent—some, like the 109’s, seem pretty solid, but others, like the He-51’s, seem way, way, too forgiving. Damage models are peculiar—while getting hit does sometimes affect turning and climbing, there’s seemingly no logic to this damage, since about the only graphic representation of damage is copious smoke issuing from your plane. And the game’s AI needs a brain transplant. While you can issue wingman commands, this seems to be some sort of cruel joke. Wingmen pretty much do as they damn please most of the time, blithely ignoring your repeated calls to cover your six or attack enemy planes--which I don’t think was Luftwaffe SOP, though I may be wrong. And enemy AI is just as demented. It’s very, very, tough to shake anyone on your six—they hold on like glue, maintaining their position no matter what you try. On the other hand, if you can lure enemy planes on to the deck, they augur in like moles. That’s right, the most effective maneuver in the game is to get a bogey on your tail, descend to about 400 feet, and start juking around until they pancake. You won’t get a kill, but the sense of selfless sacrifice is worth it, right? The game’s interface and view system are clunky and combat-unfriendly, the campaigns are difficult without being much fun, and whoever they got to do the voice-overs has an absolutely awful German accent; I mean, Hogan’s Heroes has more convincing Kraut accents. Hell, Hogan’s Heroes is a more convincing representation of World War II.

lc4.jpg (9266 bytes)Graphics are a mixed but mostly dismal bag; planes don’t look too bad, but the terrain is dated and often glitchy, and effects—like tracers and clouds—are laughable. The game only runs on 640x480, so even Voodoo 2’s in SLI aren’t going to give you very smooth graphics, and there are a lot of messy little clipping problems and seams.

lc5.jpg (9846 bytes)I really wanted to like this game; I like almost all of the stuff SSI does, and I admired their decision to cover arenas of the war like the Spanish Civil War and the Russian Front in LC. And frankly, I’m not as thrilled with CFS and EAW and WWII Fighters as everyone else is—I thought this might be the sim for me. But it’s not. It’s sad to say, but there’s no reason for anyone to play this game.

--Rick Fehrenbacher