Search This Blog

BOBII review

After nearly half a decade, BOB2 is starting to show its age, but it still has plenty of life in it yet.

Graphically it has been overtaken by newer releases in the flight sim genre.

But if you are looking for the most accessible, yet in-depth flight simulation modelling the Battle of Britain, you need Battle of Britain II, Wings of Victory.

Video by MysticPuma


In 2001 a publisher called Rowan released a game called Battle of Britain. To quote a reviewer of the day, "Despite a few miscues in the graphics and collision modeling departments, I love this simulator. It’s challenging, immersive, and wickedly addictive. It’s not the easiest sim to master and will not blow up everybody’s skirt, but at present, it has no equal in the arena of hardcore prop sims. Rowan...has now delivered an epic performance with Battle of Britain. As well executed as they come, BoB should prove a worthy additon to the dogfighting sim crowds' roster of must-have titles."
BOB 1 had big issues with stability however, and while it found a home among some die hard enthusiasts, these glitches prevented it becoming a bigger hit. A group of fans called the BOB Developer's Group (BDG) kept the game alive though, releasing patches and mods.

That was then.

In 2005 Shockwave Productions, having obtained the rights to the BOB code, released BOB II, Wings of Victory.

Like a new pilot taking off without setting his prop pitch though, it stalled on take-off. Arguably, it took four patches and nearly a year before it was stable and playable for the majority of gamers, due to similar stability issues which had plagued the original release. But with patch 2.04, BOB II achieved its full potential.
Since then the Battle of Britain Developers Group (BDG) with the permission of A2A has taken the code through to patch v. 2.09 in 2008, fixing multiple bugs, and adding important new features such as a single player campaign, historically accurate skins for every bomber, Stuka, and fighter in the battle, new terrain and objects, advanced AI, and more accurate flight models.
Below: Preview video of features in patch v2.10 Sept 2009.

The gameplay (9/10)

BOBII today simulates the Battle of Britain in three distinctly different game modes:
  • Instant Action: allowing the pilot to climb into the cockpit of any of the main combatants of the Battle, and fly a quick mission. From training, to one on one dogfighting, dive bombing and intercepts, squadron v squadron dogfights or as participant in a range of beautifully scripted historical missions.
  • Single Player Campaign: allowing the pilot to take the part of a pilot in any of the Spitfire or Hurricane squadrons which fought in theBattle. The player fights the missions allocated them, but their success or failure contributes to the success or failure of the RAF as a whole.
  • Commander Level Campaign: allowing the player to take complete control of the campaign, scaleable from simple 'fly and fight' style, to complete targeting and resource management. The campaign interface allows the player to control his air forces from a 2D map and by clicking on any aircraft icon on the map, 'frag' into that squadron/aircraft and join the dogfight in typical flight simulator combat mode.
Bob2 offers extreme immersion, with nerve wracking instant missions and with a campaign that is so gripping that every single minute offers a new and random challenge or opportunity.

The game's padlocking/view system is one of the most intuitive in combat sims. Joysticks can be mapped to enable you to padlock the nearest enemy fighter, or switch between targets on the air and the ground. Reverse and external views are possible, as is the ability to quickly padlock the aircraft that is shooting at you. The game is also fully compatible with the TrackIR system.

Perhaps most importantly, BOB2 allows the player to experience battles with not dozens, but several hundred aircraft visible in the sky at one time, without slowing the PC's frame rate to a snail's pace. You haven't lived until you have put yourself in the cockpit of a Hurricane climbing up to meet a huge armada of Luftwaffe fighters and bombers in BOB2. Within minutes you are in a tangled maelstrom of contrails, tracer fire and clashing aircraft. If you live long enough, you suddenly find yourself alone again over the English countryside, nursing your wounded kite home, and wondering what the heck happened.

So why not 10/10 for gameplay? There is no online mode, which many players regard as a core element of any modern combat game. And there is virtually no way for users to create and share their own missions - a beta mission builder exists, but is not supported or widely used.

The aircraft (8/10)
Only the major players in the Battle are represented as flyable aircraft. On the RAF side, the Spitfire Mk 1 and II, and the Hurricane Mk 1 and II. On the Luftwaffe side a wider range of aircraft, from the Bf110 Zerstorer, the Me109 E4, and Stuka. It is also possible to fly any mission, or an entire campaign, as gunner in a Do17, Ju88 or He111. 
None of the lesser known RAF combatants, like the Boulton Paul Defiant or Gloster Gladiator are flyable, though the Defiant is seen in some Instant Action scenarios. Needless to say the even lesser know Italian participants in the conflict, the BR20m or CR42s don't make an appearance.
The flight modelling is often praised in the forums, reflecting all the known foibles of the combatants, from the carburettor problems of the Merlin engines, the difficulties of landing the 109e with its narrow undercart to the screaming hammerhead turns possible in a Bf110 climbing at full power.
And as with other elements of the game, the player is able to just jump in, grab the joystick and fly - or can customise the game down to the level of using a clickable instrument panel to start the engine, set trim, prop pitch, raise and lower flaps and gear etc.

Historical accuracy (10/10)
BOBII sets the bar for historical accuracy in a flight simulator.
Almost the complete order of battle for the RAF Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 2 and 3 is present in the game. Squadrons are based at the exact airfield where they could be found in June to September 1940. An optional download called Multiskin (optional because it is somewhat demanding for older PCs) ensures that every RAF aircraft, and most Luftwaffe, in every squadron has accurate squadron markings.

Seen here is RAF Ace Alan Deere's Spitfire, with 54 Squadron identifyers, and Deere's famous "Kiwi" emblem.
Click here to see more multiskin screenshots

Squadron leaders can be found in their squadrons, and you can fly as them, or alongside them - together with aces like Deere, Tuck, Bader, and Galland.

Video featuring Alan Deere's Spitfire in historically accurate skin in BoBII.
The campaign represents historical Luftwaffe tactics, going through the four phases of the campaign from Convoy, Adlerangriff, Critical, to Blitz. Or the player can opt to start at any of these four points in a campaign and the game will just flow from there. The player can also choose an optimised 'what if' strategy for the Luftwaffe campaign, so that unlike in history, it continues pounding RAF fields and production facilities, rather than turning its attentions on London and giving the RAF respite.

Graphics (7/10)
Shockwave is known for its special effects enhancements to existing sims like MS Combat Flight Simulator, and beautifully modelled add-on fighter aircraft to MS Flight Sims. They bring that experience and authenticity to BOB2.

The aircraft skins are beautiful, the weather and cloud effects among the best in any modern flight sim and the latest terrain add-ons are stunning. This was brought home to me on a recent flight over south-east England in a commercial jet, when I realised looking out the window that the play of summer light across the fields below me was completely familiar because of how well it was portrayed in BOB2.

The campaign interface is simple and information can be overlayed when needed
One corollary though, there is only so much you can do with eight year old base code. While the aircraft models, sea and clouds are up to modern standards, ground objects (trees, vehicles, coastline) are clearly not. Developers are limited by the code in their ability to add new and better models to the game, and replace the currently two dimensional tree lines. And damage modelling is rudimentary, showing only roughly where your aircraft or adversary has been hit, and with limited damage possible to the airframes, like loss of wingtips, tails and elevators.

Special effects however are nicely executed and can be set to either "Hollywood" or "Realistic" levels depending on how big a boom the player likes to make.

Scrambling to take-off through falling bombs at Manston. KA-BOOM.

Enemy AI (9.5/10) 
No computer AI can match the completely unpredictable brilliance of a human (sim) flyer but BOB2 AI is renowned among the flight sim community as some of the best available.

BDG Developer Buddye has devoted a huge portion of his working life to making sure it stays that way, and continually improves with every patch. Depending on the skill level chosen, the computer pilots have a huge range of context sensitive combat manoeuvres available to them. The effect of this is that at the higher levels, every dogfight is a nerve wracking, heart pounding affair, without the feeling that you are flying against some UberPilot who can withstand unrealistic G-levels and pull off impossible manoeuvres, then nail you with a laser like snapshot.

BOB2 AI is believable, damnably hard to beat, and a joy to fly against.

Scaleability (8/10)
As mentioned previously BOB2 is completely scaleable for both Novice or Expert. Novice pilots can fly set piece training missions, with simple and forgiving flight models, turn damage and collisions off, turn bullet strength up, dial weather and wind back, and just get in and fly. Expert pilots can dial up full realism in flying, weather and gameplay, and fly against AI which has the full range of combat manoeuvres available to it.
The game also has a hidden configuration file called BDG.txt which allows the expert user an unheard of level of control over the game. Don't like the length of the game day in the campaign? You can make the sun set later. Want to achieve historical weather conditions over Dover for a particular day, you can. Don't like the Field of View out of your cockpit, you can widen it. There are hundreds of adjustable parameters in the config file, and the BDG team seems to add more every month.

The warts
Every game has them and BOB2 is not Princess Diana.

Though eminently scaleable, many newer pilots find the learning curve steep, and there are no voice-guided tutorials to help you through the training missions.

The way the game transitions in campaign mode, from the 2D campaign map to a 3D dogfight involves much flickering and switching between windows which is vaguely antiquated and takes some getting used to. This graphic user interface seriously needs updating and simplifying.

There are still some annoying gameplay issues to be sorted out, like Luftwaffe escort fighters which don't join up with their assigned bombers, leaving the bombers to be decimated by RAF patrols. And the report and review system in the campaign, which reports aircraft destroyed and damaged on both sides, is disturbingly innacurate, often not reflecting what really happened on the day, even allowing for the fact that in real life, claims were greatly inflated.

The BDG is aware of all of these issues, and tackling them one by one.

Endgame (8/10)
BOB2 has style, soul and polish. And these days you can pick it up via online download for around $20 USD, or in the bargain bins at your gamestore for less.

Why would any Battle of Britain enthusiast be without it?

Tech notes
The BDG has continued development of BOB2 with Shockwave's permission and recently released a 2.11 patch. The various patches have added the functionality of a Single Player campaign and a range of other improvements such as new terrain, objects, an improved Multiskin mod and even a new aircraft, the Tiger Moth. Go to for the latest patch. Only one patch is needed to update the entire sim.

User created missions
As mentioned there is a beta mission editor. It is available here: Use at own risk and back up any files you are trying to modify.
Whirlybird has created a Mission MegaPack using this mission builder. Together it gives the player over 200 new missions for BOBII. You can get it HERE.

Online help
Help with technical issues and gameplay advice is readily available from BDG members at: