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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters: Interactive Cockpit

A hands-on experience with a pioneering era

For someone that is comfortable flying a fourth generation all-weather naval strike fighter, it is amusing how a simple cockpit and reliance on eyesight can complicate things. Riding a wave of encouragement from my fiancée to continue talking about these foundational combat aircraft, I return to discuss Warplanes: WW1 Fighters (2021) by Home Net Games.

In my previous article, I touched on how this virtual reality title handled the experience of flying these wooden wonders with your "own hands". It is time to delve deeper. You would assume a literal wooden crate with canvas wings would not have too much going for it. You would be surprised! Note that this article was primarily written flying the Fokker D.III and Fokker E.III in Simulation difficulty.

The Notebook

The notebook mounted above the left knee of the pilot is a rather sleek addition to the cockpit. I enjoy this method of combining multiple pieces of information into something that can be accessed without having to pause the action.

When fully collapsed to a single page, the notebook only shows the cover page. This page has the objectives of the mission or instructions for the task at hand. Below it, a diagram of the aircraft shows where the player has taken battle damage and the status of the damaged areas. Certain parts that receive too much damage, like the engine or the wings, will have noticeably decreased performance.

Flipping through the pages, players can find instructions for how to control the aircraft in various ways and using other interactive elements of the cockpit. Players flying in Simulation or Total War game modes have an added benefit of reading through the manual as needed before takeoff.

Squadron Aircraft Selection

An unusual function is above the pilot's right knee. This set of photos is a part of the squadron management system. While on the ground at the airfield, aircraft can be unlocked, upgraded, customized, assigned to squadron mates or set as the player's primary aircraft. While airborne, players can reach out and touch these photos, hotswapping from one aircraft in the flight to another. Early on in the game this function has somewhat limited use, but when a wider variety of aircraft are available it gets interesting.

Starting off in a lightweight fighter then transitioning to a heavier hitting bomber to complete a ground attack mission is possible. Seeing a wing mate in danger could be solved by taking the controls of their aircraft yourself.

Machine Gun Management

For these rudimentary aircraft, their primary weapon system is machine guns. Either attached to swiveling mounts that players pivot towards their targets, mounted over the wing to avoid damaging the aircraft propeller or firing through the propeller utilizing synchronization gear. Besides squeezing the touch controller triggers to make their machine guns fire, players can use their hands to manually reload the machine guns mid-flight.

Manually reloading them during lulls between the action is helpful in maintaining readiness. But expect to run out of ammo during a twisting and winding air battle at some point. I cannot tell you how many times the loud clack of an empty ammo belt has ruined the precious few seconds I needed to finish off a skilled foe. A reward for manually reloading is a temporarily increased rate of fire. Just for a few seconds.

I feel as though they should have included a gun jam function for the machine guns in this game, but I admit it would somewhat endanger the gameplay. So long as it would be a jam that the pilot could reliably fix, it would work fine. But more serious mechanical failures that could only be repaired by the ground crew would be unreasonable. Takeoff and landing sequences are only available at the two highest difficulty levels. These also only occur at the start and end of each sortie. With no sensible way to address a severe gun jam mid-mission, it is understandable

With takeoff and landing at airfields only done at the beginning and end of missions, it would be somewhat unreasonable for a mission to be failed because of a random equipment failure. Especially with no sensible way to address the jam mid-mission.

Bombing By Hand

An aspect of aerial warfare in World War 1 that I feel like is overlooked. Air-to-ground combat during this time has been defined by the strategic bombing campaigns by Zepplin airships and the first multi-engine heavy bombers. But what is somewhat forgotten, or hardly mentioned, is the initial tactical bombing efforts by smaller one-man or two-man aircraft. Ranging from standard infantry hand grenades to more purpose built 20 pound bombs with metal fins that attempt to stabilize these bombs as they fall through the air.

With no dedicated bomb sights or devices used to compute impact areas, much of this done just by getting a rough idea of wind direction, taking a guess at an ideal bomb altitude and physically throwing bombs over the side of an aircraft toward ground targets.

In Warplanes: WW1 Fighters, players can also deploy handheld explosive charges against ground forces. Depending on which aircraft they are flying, players reach into a bag full of explosives installed within the cockpit. Like the actual conflict, deploying these bombs is done purely by eyesight and taking a best guess. This can be made easier depending on the difficulty setting. At lower difficulties, a visual cue appears on the ground showing a general blast radius. While flying at low altitude makes this bomb delivery method easier to perform, it does expose the pilot to more danger.

Flare Gun

Flare Pistols or Flare Guns were prolific in the air, on the ground and at sea during World War 1. They were primarily used for illumination and communication between forces with specific patterns and colors. In this game, they have a more action movie approved use. The flare pistol is immensely useful against airships and barrage balloons. Able to set them ablaze with one or two direct hits. It usually takes dozens of bullets to destroy these resulting in multiple strafing passes needed to destroy them. As effective as these are, the player has very few of them available. Expect to have to still have to strafe some lighter-than-air objects to get the job done.


The level of cockpit interaction is not to the same level of complexity of VTOL VR - which has become a standard measurement for virtual reality flight arcades or sim lites - though its unique offerings do make it memorable.

About the Writer

Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.



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