SQD Ldr. Badger Blenkinsop pushes the starter. The four mighty engines splutter into life. The big Lancaster Bomber lurches up the runway and takes off into the night. One of the most daring exploits of the war is about to begin. Now you can join the valiant airmen of 617 Squadron in U.S. Gold's new game Dambusters...
You won't earn your wings grounded back at base - Squadron Leader Ross Holman didn't. He's flown more active missions in Dambusters than anyone else. Prepare for his pre-bomb briefing.
First, the background. In 1943 the Battle of Britain had been won but Germany was very far from being broken. What was needed was an almighty body blow to her industrial backbone - the Ruhr Valley. But how? Bombing one military base or one factory would be forgotten within a week - production made up within two. No, this had to be big - and permanent. So, a daring plan was devised to destroy the very heart of all that power - the three dams on the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe rivers. But a task like that would require a new type of bomb - one that would bounce; a new type of plane - the Lancaster was adapted; and a new type of man - the Dambusters.
Your prime objective in Dambusters is to reach the rank of Squadron Leader - and destroy the three dams. But before you get close, you'll need to go out on a fair few practice flights. Fortunately, there are two skill levels that'll take you to that stage: Practice and Flight Lieutenant.
The practice flights will help you to perfect your dam runs. It's all a question of juggling the different roles you have to play. Is the airspeed correct, are you at the right altitude, is the bomb primed, do the spotlights overlap? There's an awful lot to master - and that's without the threat of enemy action. You'll have to learn to set the speed of the aeroplane to 230 mph and the altitude to 51 ft. The height's not too tricky once you've sussed how to operate the spotlights. There's one on each end of the Lancaster and their reflections on the water overlap when the bomber is flying at the correct altitude.
You'll also have to practise the correct point at which to shout those immortal words "Bombs Away'. Only when the dam fits exactly between the front gunner's sights, can you be sure of destroying the target.
So, now you're ready for the flight from Scampton Airfield and over the English Channel. Feeling pretty confident about it then? Well, you'd better, 'cos this is where things start to hot up. The enemy is just across the water.
Each Lancaster has a crew of seven men but it's your job to direct them all. You can reach them by pressing a key from Q to U, plus there's an extra status screen to let you know how well you're doing. If something's up on one of these screens, the appropriate letter will flash at the bottom of the screen. Move quickly or you could find your mission terminates abruptly in death.
If you avoid the military and industrial centres, you should have a safe flight with only the horizon lights and a few stray spots passing under the plane. As soon as you cross into the airspace above an area of military importance, be prepared. There you'll find the barrage balloons, spotlights, flak and the deadly ME110s. You've got to be half asleep to have trouble with the balloons - they're big. they're bold and they blow up, no problem. If your front gunner misses one, then the rear gunner should pick it off. Spotlights are pretty visible too that's half the point of them. Just make sure you don't fly directly over one or the ground gunners will have you for breakfast.
And that just leaves the Messerschmitts. They're fast and fatal and worst of all they don't play fair. They're just as likely to attack from the front as from behind. That's why you've got to scuttle from screen to screen as the letters flash. They only lose points in the realism stakes because they can't shoot you down - and if you don't shoot them they just wing their way back into the clouds. Only if you miss a certain number do you lose out - one of your gunners ends up riddled with bullets. Also they don't really appear very keen to start close combat scrappin'.
There's a real sense that you're on a night mission over enemy territory and you may very well fail. Surprising then that my main criticism is that the game isn't hard enough. The flight simulation just isn't accurate - there's no runway, no take-off and no need to get back once you've dropped your bomb.
If you're ever going to make it to a true Dambuster then you'll have to destroy all the dams as a Squadron Leader. And that should keep you fully occupied. The nack is to keep monitoring each screen, jumping quickly to those that warn you of imminent danger. Your run up to the dam must be precise and controlled but with practice flying a Lancaster will become second nature.
You may be bombing the dams but this is your real target - the heart of Germany's industrial might. Here are the giant factories and steelworks that are keeping Hitler's war-machine on the road.
As soon as you hit the Dutch coastline, you're into trouble. This is one of the most heavily guarded areas you'll have to fly over.It's probably a good idea not to wing your way down the Rhine valley. Make a detour to the north and south and come on the dams that way. You have plenty of petrol to see you through.Familiarise yourself with the terrain round these three lakes, the Moehne, the Eder and Sorpe. The dams you have to destroy are at the head of each lake.
PREPARE FOR TAKE OFF. OK, THIS IS THE BIG ONE, CHAPS. LET'S TAKE HER UP. ROGER AND OUT... OK CHAPS, KEEP YOUR HEADS DOWN! WE'VE JUST ENTERED ENEMY AIRSPACE AND WE'RE GOING IN LOW, VERY LOW. LOOKS LIKE THE FIREWORKS HAVE STARTED ALREADY.
You'll have no trouble with take-off. Your Lancaster behaves just like a jump jet - straight up and you're off. It seems rather a shame that there's no runway and you can only tell you're on the ground from your instruments.It your front gunner fails to shoot a searchlight, at least make sure you take avoiding action. If you do fly straight over one, you can expect a fair bit of flak - from your crew as well as from Gerry! So. put that light out.
GOOD SHOW, SKIPPER. SHE'S FLYING LIKE A DREAM. IT'S ALL ENGINES GO!.. WE'VE GOT THE GAS SO GIVE IT SOME WELLY, SKIP. JERRY WON'T KNOW WHAT'S HIT HIM.
The first engineer really comes into his own on the bomb run. Using the slider controls, you'll have to set the boost to max and the revs on each engine to 9600. That should give you an airspeed of 230. But be warned, if you take the revs about 10000 you're in grave danger of going up in flames.The second engineer's in charge of the fuel consumption - make sure the flaps are up in flight or you'll use more gas. It's a real drag. If you do lose an engine, you'll have to adjust the rudder trim - move it up and you'll veer to the right.
WE'RE BANG ON COURSE, SKIPPER. WHEN WE GET TO THE DAM CAN WE GO FOR A QUICK RECCY ROUND THE REGION. THAT WAY WE CAN PLAY HIDE 'N' SEEK WITH JERRY'S GUNS.
Wave goodbye to dear old Blighty - you may never return. You take off from Scampton Airfield twelve miles from the east coast and fly straight for the Dutch coast.Set your course with the cursor by placing it over your destination. The pilot will then find the correct direction marked on his compass.Travelling as the crow flies is just for the birds. You'll run into big trouble if you head straight for the dam without plotting a course round the heavily armed areas.
UNIDENTIFIED ENEMY AIRCRAFT... PULL US UP SKIPPER...WE'VE TAKEN A PRANG... SORRY LEADER, MADE A HASH OF THAT ONE! AAAGH! I THINK I'VE BOUGHT IT SKIP...
The lights have come on all over Europe. A quick squirt to the base of the searchlight should soon put them out again. As the rear gunner, you've got four 303 calibre machine guns tiring twenty rounds a second, but you'll only see the tracer bullets - one in four.Ack ack ack. Take it out or take 'er up. It you fly into the barrage balloon you'll have really blown it. Fortunately, they're not hard to shoot from a way off Prepare to meet them as soon as you hit Holland.Flying Hun at two o'clock and he's coming in at quite a lick. You'll have to be quick to take him out. If you miss fifteen ME110s, one of your gunners'll be a gonner. So, the moral is make sure you make a mess of the Messerschmidts - or it's Goering, Goering, gone!
OPS ROOM BRIEFING
9.45 AM. 16TH MAY 1943Areas of high population.These are mostly situated along the Rhine valley. Take avoiding action.Military installations.Gerry's not going to welcome you over here, so keep a low profile.Industrial sites.Here lies the power and Krupption of the Third Reich. Let's turn their wheels of industry into water wheels!AirfieldsYou can be sure of finding ME-110s around here. The Luftwaffe may not be the RAF but it's not trounced yet.
WIZZARD SHOW... BANKING EAST... SLAM US ON FULL THROTTLE... BOMB ON... DOWN, DOWN, DOWN... UP A BIT... KEEP 'ER STEADY... BOMB AWAY... PULL 'ER BACK... IT'S BLOWN... DAMMIT, NO... BACK TO BLIGHTY, CHAPS...
It's the navigator's job to position the cursor directly over the dam to give the pilot an accurate compass bearing. One degree out and you ain't gonna see that dam for dust and dark!Gently does it. Ease The beast round until the compass lines up with the direction mark, then level her out to The coRrect height: 51ft. From the right hand dial you can tell whether the first engineer's doing his job - it should read 230 for the run.Meet the seventh crew member, the Bomb Aimer. He's had his feet up for the duration but now his time has come. First, switch the bomb motor on, follow by the searchlights. Only when the two lights totally overlap is the Lanc at the right height.Here it is - the dam! And it's all lined up between the front gunner's distancing sights. As soon as the two turrets sit snugly between the sights, it's time to let rip with the megabomb.Damn! We missed it. The dam's still intact and the Reich can breathe again till the next run. When you do get it right and the dam blows, the piccy still stays the same. Bit wet that!