LucasArts’ Secret Weapon

After 12 years, it’s time to return to the Luftwaffe

Cindy Yans

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This article originally appeared in Computer Games Magazine #150

Larry Holland, president of Totally Games, is partnering with Peter Hirschmann, former Dreamworks writer and producer of the Medal of Honor series, to develop a new World War II aerial combat game that is loosely a sequel to Holland’s 1991 Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. “It’s definitely a game in the same WWII universe,” says Hirschmann. “Fans of Larry’s original air combat trilogy will find a lot of fun references to those titles in the new game.”
SWotL (along with Their Finest Hour and Battlehawks 1942) was maybe the last of the general-audience flight sims. It had great graphics for the time, superb atmosphere, and flight models that felt “real” to the non-expert yet were super easy to master. The new game will drop the complexity of other sims and attempt to reprise that sort of seat-of-the-pants fun. “It’s absolutely a return to the fun, accessible air combat experience of the original trilogy,” says Hirschmann. It will include some role-playing elements, such as advancing in ranks and getting medals, and working with a squadron, with definite rewards and incentives for performing above and beyond the call of duty. “Larry and his team are famous for the amount of depth they put into each mission they design,” says Hirschmann. “So there’s a lot to find if people want to go looking for it.”
The main campaign is linear, but the ways to accomplish mission goals will be very open-ended. Most of the missions are a healthy mix of both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, and the environments are designed to be quite “target rich” so you’ll often have to make decisions about what to go after first. Seasoned enough to know that multiplayer is not just a feature you slap on, Holland and Hirschmann are focusing the game on the single-player experience. The Internet is still important to the game, though, as it will have an architecture that’s open to user-created content via a full-featured Mission Builder that will ship with the game.
Over the course of the game, you’ll travel through the European Theater of Operations, the Pacific Theater, and even the good old China-Burma-India Theater, flying both Axis and Ally aircraft. “While people tend to be familiar with many of the Luftwaffe’s outlandish aircraft,” says Hirschmann, “I think casual observers of history will be surprised by the amount of advanced research the Allies did during the war.”
The game starts out at Dunkirk and comes full circle with the climatic Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944. As for the scope of air formations in terms of how many units will appear onscreen at any one time, Hirschmann says, “You will see at least one heavy bomber formation before the game is over, but you spend most of your time with fighters and medium bombers. As to the number on screen at any given time, I’ll answer that with one word: Midway.”

This article originally appeared in Computer Games Magazine #150