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Video Game / Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe

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They Were Fast! They Were Deadly! They were VGA Graphics!

You have been credited with an aerial victory.

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (SWOTL) is one of the first and best-known Flight Simulators developed by Lawrence Holland and his Totally Games! studio at the behest of LucasArts and released in 1991.

As the name implies, the player took on the role of a fighter pilot during later stages of World War II flying against (and in) the feared "secret weapons of the Luftwaffe." Players can fly a wide range of aircraft, from the Luftwaffe mainstays, the Bf-109 and Fw-190, to the exotic Me-262 and Go-229 jet fighters and Me-163 Komet rocket-propelled fighter; the Allied campaign supplied P-47s, P-51s, and - a rarity amongst fighter-centric flight sims - the B-17 heavy bomber.

The game combines the flight simulation with a surprisingly good strategic campaign where the player designates bombing missions and targets or manages the German war machine, overseeing production and research of aerial warfare related industries.

The success of this game, and the later development of a true polygon-based 3D engine, convinced Holland and LucasArts to commission Star Wars-themed flight sims, namely X-Wing note  and TIE Fighter. Some ten years later, LucasArts released Secret Weapons Over Normandy, somewhat of a hybrid of a Spiritual Successor and True Successor (while, oddly enough, simultaneously being a Spiritual Successor to SWOTL's sister game Battlehawks 1942).

Also memorable for its intro and instrumental theme tune.

Unofficial website.

Provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: In order to truly grasp and appreciate the significance and history of the aircraft and the missions they flew, the player had to go in with at least some background knowledge in WWII already. The manual provided this.
  • Alternate History: A lot of the missions are truly historical, but a few (namely those involving the Go-229, which never saw combat service) are purely theoretical.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: As in Real Life, many Secret Weapons are a liability, a great drain on resources with very little usability. E.g; the Me-163 has a so limited range that it can only be on the air for a few minutes.
  • Chute Sabotage: Enemy parachutes can be shot after they bail out, sending the pilots plummeting helplessly to the ground. This serves no useful purpose, but it's funny. Larry Holland designed it so that players who did this would suffer the same fate if they had to bail out, but the feature wasn't implemented in the release version.
  • Cool Plane:
    • The Me-262 jetplane is an amazing fighter that outclasses most of its rivals and has a decent range.
    • In the expansion pack, the P-80, roughly the American equivalent to the Me-262.note 
  • Copy Protection: The usual LucasFilm games codewheel.
  • Doomed by Canon: No matter how well the German air superiority campaing is managed, the Anglo-Americans would still advance from Normandy and the Soviets from the east.
    • Due to the way the objectives are set, it's perfectly possible to win a German campaign, though.
  • Escort Mission: Many. The main goal of American fighters is to protect B-17 bombers against German interceptors.
  • Expansion Pack: An expansion disk added the P-38, P-80, He-162 and Do-335 planes with their respective tour of duty missions.
  • High-Altitude Battle: Bombers tend to fly at 20.000 feet.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The player remain anonymous throughout both campaigns, but the pilots used can be named.
  • It's Up to You: The AI is quite decent and bombers tend to accurately hit their targets, but the damage inflicted is very limited. The player is encouraged to strafe-bomb the target for greater success, and in the strategic campaign, the damage done by the AI to the rest of the objectives scales according to the damage inflicted to the targets of the mission flown by the player.
  • Monster Compendium: The pilot's roster keeps a detailed account of aerial victories and other statistics.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted, as the player can play out the events of WWII (and some fictional What If? missions) on either side.
  • No Swastikas: Iron Cross instead. As illustrated in the picture, where there would normally be swastikas painted on the tails, the tails are simply left blank.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Including Chasing Your Tail and Lead the Target.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Right there in the title.
  • Turn-Based Strategy: The game has a strategic component below the flight simulation: Three air superiority campaigns for each side. A bit limited for the American Marshall who just transfers planes and assigns targets to achieve the established goals, but a very thorough one for the German Marshall, who not only defends the Reich but also gets to manage logistics, production and research. The eponymous Secret Weapons can be deployed soon enough to make an impact.