There I was, at 10,000 feet,
strapped into my armchair cockpit, engaging a fine graphically rendered German fighter plane over some cookie-cutter Pacific island, the palm trees swaying in the breeze far below me and a line of bullets marking my path in front of me.....
Sound a little strange, perhaps even a bit unreal? Well, that was exactly my impression as I fired up the old (soon to be upgraded) 486 and tossed this disc into the drive. At first glance, Fighter Duel's graphics and play were impressing, as there are some very fine qualities to this game, but then I began to notice some of the game's more outspoken flaws, and this reviewer admits that his enthusiasm was dampened considerably. Again, there was some good, some bad...and the bad was definitely ugly.
First, the good. As far as the game screen itself, this is a beautiful program. The graphics are very smooth, both on land, and on the water. One exceptional detail that I noticed was that a definitive boundary existed between the ocean and the sky, a major element that too many flight simulators seem to ignore. The cockpit of the player's fighter is very nice, with all gauges and dials clear and easy to read. The other planes are also pretty, with every minor detail, including the structures and nationalities of the aircraft, extremely visible, even from a distance. Speaking of nations, you may choose between the American F4F and the P-51, the British Spitfire, the Japanese Zero, or the German ME-109. Each fighter's engine sound is also real. So real, in fact, that I got an adrenalin rush from simply opening up the throttle to 100% power. Explosions are cool, and they look how they should, with smoke and large chunks of aircraft debris.
But here is where Fighter Duel comes to a screeching halt. I have just told you the entire game. You sit, you fly, you shoot, and you exit. That's it. No campaign, no missions, and no scenery besides an endless stream of irregularly shaped islands and an occasional American carrier. Of course, your only weapon is the machine gun. There are no options there, either. The player's only choices consist of how many enemies will appear on the screen and also how he or she wants to be positioned above or below those enemies. One saving grace is that the game does have a multiplayer function which allows a second person to get involved over a modem or network and break up the monotony just a little.
Unfortunately, even that is not enough to save this game entirely. Despite the fact that this program does display some excellent gameplay, as a well as a fine interface, a lot of "eye candy" simply does not take the place of complex missions, an excellent storyline, or some sort of historical perspective. For being a World War II game, I found little that made any sort of distinction between Messerschmitt or Mitsubishi, and the ever-present Pacific scene did not help. For, in the end, if you are going to go and create a historic game, especially one dealing with World War II air combat, you just need more depth. Fighter Duel is a great dogfight simulation, but don't expect much more.