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With grim determination, the Allied pilot shook his fist at the victorious Hun and vowed to return for another dogfight.

The pilot was me and the Hun was a digital German in the new game “Flyboys Squadron.” I spent a lot of time nose-down in the digital ground when playing the game based on the movie “Flyboys,” which follows a band of Americans who joined the fledgling French air force before the U.S. entry into World War I.

The game was developed by iEntertainment Network, which created the WarBirds TotalSims series of simulations. The company is headed by J.W. “Wild Bill” Stealey, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. Stealey flew C-5 transports out of Dover Air Force Base, Del., before turning to digital aviation.

The game offers a campaign and an online mode in which players can join a team and vie for air superiority in a massive multiplayer setting. It launched in mid-November and quickly registered members who are deployed overseas.

When I started testing the game, I hadn’t played a serious aircraft sim in years. Not only was I rusty, but I had make the mistake of tossing my ancient joystick, leaving me with no option but to use the keyboard and mouse to control the aircraft. Tackling the game without a joystick was frustrating. I spend a lot of time watching the horizon spin before my eyes as my biplane broke into pieces.

Fortunately, for my second flight, I had a helpful wingman — “Wild Bill” himself. He offered a great tip: get a joystick. Until then, he suggested frequently right-clicking on the mouse to level off the plane, pulling back on the mouse slightly and then pushing forward to climb slowly and steadily, etc. With some practice, subsequent flights went much better, but still proved that a joystick was necessary – especially for online play.

The campaign mode follows the basic plot of “Flyboys,” which is still showing in base theaters. Players go through a few tutorial levels and then head out to face the Germans.

In addition to the World War I game, the disc includes some surprising extras. Aviation buffs will find features that allow them to fly World War II aircraft, a Predator drone or even a souped-up “paper” airplane. There’s also a version of the company’s tank sim for armor fans.

“We think for $29.95, we’re giving these people a lot of value,” Stealey said.

Each game comes with a free month of online play. In the online game, teams dogfight and try to “capture” opposing teams’ airfields by strafing their buildings. Teammates communicate via headset and the TeamSpeak program, which is available for free online.

Since some of the players are real pilots, it’s wise to spend some time practicing in the campaign mode. In fact, Stealey said teams often practice squadron techniques so they can fly and fight effectively together.

“One group puts on an air show in here,” Stealey said. “You can turn on smoke and put on an air show.”

In addition to standard online play, iEntertainment holds special events within its digital worlds. For example, 175 players recently went online to recreate World War II’s Battle of Britain, Stealey said.

Stealey said players should update often because developers are always tweaking the online game. For example, they plan to add nine new aircraft, new terrain, clouds and rain.

“Flyboys” has a big learning curve, but don’t let that keep you out of the sky.


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