Somewhere in the United States, a twin-engine World War 2 bomber dubbed ‘Briefing Time’ is no doubt wowing the crowds, be it on the ground or in the air. This aircraft is owned by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, a private corporation who, through private donations and the hard work of an all-volunteer staff, brought a well worn and decidedly civilianized B-25 back to a prime wartime example of her type.
‘Briefing Time’ is in fact so faithfully restored that her appearance and functionality almost transports a guest back to the days when aircraft like her served on the frontlines of a major worldwide conflict. That is the priceless mission of planes such as ‘Briefing Time’ – to allow the public to pay homage and respect to a bygone era, as well as to those who served and those who gave their lives during those times.
Back in 2003, MAAM repeated their own history, virtually speaking, but presenting the flightsim community with a flyable rendition of ‘Briefing Time’, a package that earned its own accolades for excellence. Four years later, ‘Briefing Time’ is back on the market, all complete and ready to load onto FS2004.
Installation and Documentation
‘Briefing Time’ came to me in the downloadable installer version, but is also readily available for purchase in CD-ROM form. Cost is the same at $25.00 USD. Note that if that seems a touch steep for a originally-created-four-years-ago package, all proceeds got towards the restoration projects under MAAM.
Installation into FS2004 is a simple affair. Click the installer and just follow the prompts. Before you know it, the aircraft is added to your hangar, all ready to fly. Documentation for the package is downloaded directly from the MAAM website, as well as a veritable treasure trove of bonus material. Even if you don’t own this package, the vid clips of the actual bomber in action as well as the WW2-vintage B-25 training material is worth the visit alone (all of which are included in the CD-ROM version). Bear in mind, though, that not owning ‘Briefing Time’ denies you the opportunity to use the mind-blowing 82 repaints that are available for this package.
It must be pointed out that there is a minor problem associated with the installation of the package, in the form of the dreaded “Flight Simulator has detected potentially incompatible aircraft or software...” flag. It looks like this.
Apparently, the sound.dll file used by ‘Briefing Time’ is an older one (v188.8.131.52), and it was known at the time of release that it could trigger the alert. A beta dll was created specifically to address this problem (v1.6), but MAAM discovered that it caused compatibility issues on other third-party panels, so they went with the older version. The good news is that it is harmless, and the better news is that, should you find yourself unable to cope with having to click the “Yes, Use The File’ button every time on launch, a fix is included in documentation.
Recapping The Original
‘ Briefing Time’, when released, caused quite a stir when she came to the hard drive’s of our PC’s. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, there has been no MSFS equal to the venerable Mitchell medium bomber. Of course, it does kind of help during the development of any software package to have unlimited access to the real McCoy. With ‘Briefing Time’ at their disposal, MAAM was able to explore every square inch, every sound, and every nuance of the plane they were creating for MSFS.
To recap what has been said in the past:
- Visual Model: Bar none the best B-25 to be found anywhere on MSFS. Exterior was top-rate, with detailed modeling of just about everything that could be seen, including defensive armament, a fully loaded bombay, markings, flight crew, scheme, etc. Fans of interiors would also not be disappointed, with an explorable VC that extends from the nose compartment to the aft bulkhead, and 2-D views, both of which were created using photos from the actual bomber.
- Sounds: Arguable the hallmark of the add-on. It seemed that not enough praise could be lauded upon the soundest of the Wright R-2600 Cyclone radials, taken direct from the bomber. Non-MSFS fans no doubt learned the sound of those engines well, considering all of us were cranking up the speakers to appreciate the thunderous cacophony those powerplants put out. We’re also talking about startup and shutdown sequences. Add in some crew callouts, appropriate enough control clicks, and it was a winner.
- Flight Model: Another ‘thumbs up’ from everyone. Again, it helped that, when programming the flight characteristics of the package, MAAM had the real machine to base the figures on. ‘Briefing Time’ was meant to be flown by the numbers, and it showed.
Now that some of the pertinent quotes have been quoted, I broke out ‘Briefing Time’ to satisfy my own curiosity on how this puppy looked, sounded and handled. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
While somewhat dated by today’s standards, the visuals are still amazing in their detail and accuracy. This is especially true of the olive-drab version, against which there is no shortage of reference material to compare against. Inside and out, ‘Briefing Time’ simply takes your breath away. There’s no substitute for the real deal, but the computerized version of their B-25J isn’t a bad alternate method of checking this plane out if you can’t find a way to get to the museum.
The engine sound set is outstanding. We’re talking a virtual clone of what you’d hear from the Pennsylvania based Mitchell, from startup to shutdown. That is a strong statement to make, but I’ve had the privilege to listen to those Cyclones in person several times at various air shows – any imperfections in my memory are taken care of by the readily available video files posted at the MAAM website.
I expected a medium bomber to be somewhat heavy, but still have the ability be thrown about the sky, and it showed in ‘Briefing Time’ Of course, this is subject to the perception of the individual simmer, so I’ll leave it at this: It says a lot about the simulated flight model when you can mimic the real-life aero braking maneuver MAAM pilots uses in the real thing (again, those MAAM videos came in handy).
One might argue that patching ‘Briefing Time’ for FS2004 use should’ve been good enough, and I’d argue that they would be correct. Despite the passage of time, I couldn’t help but feel that MAAM’s computerized B-25J still has the stuff to hold its own against packages that have been around for far less. In addition, it is my understanding that revamping the flight model to remain “flyable by the numbers” accurate was no small feat. However, that is not the case. MAAM provided some additional tweaks that improve the overall quality of the product, including–
1. Radial Exhaust Animation: This was the coolest item I found. Much has been said of old radials emitting a blue flame from each of the cylinders when the engines are operating, and ‘Briefing Time’ shows it. I noted the telltale sign of combustion shooting out of each exhaust, the very first time I’ve personally seen such an effect in MSFS (or any flight sim for that matter).
2. Smoke Effects: Smoke emanating from the tires during landings and engine startup was not including in the original package. The FS2004 version of ‘Briefing Time’ addresses these shortcomings. My own opinion that the amount of smoke on the startup being a little too heavy notwithstanding, the effect really adds a unique touch of character to the Mitchell.
3. Additional Liveries: The new ‘Briefing Time’ now includes two new liveries by default. They were previously available as separate downloads, and are now integrated in the package. The first is how the named bomber appeared immediately after delivery, before she got all gussied up for war in olive drab and gray paint. The second is a solid nosed ‘strafer’ version, well known for wreaking havoc in the Pacific with it’s 12 fixed forward firing .50 caliber machine guns.
In short, ‘Briefing Time’ transitions nicely to FS2004, and shouldn’t disappoint those who haven’t yet found this beautiful gem of an add-on. Despite it’s age, ‘Briefing Time’ still posses tremendous strength in every aspect that counts. No other Mitchell package that I’m aware of can touch it in terms of visual and audio accuracy, and I’m fairly confidant (considering the source) that the same can be said about the flight model. All this said almost half a decade after it’s initial release. For something MSFS-wise to hold up that well over the passage of that amount of time says a lot.
While not reviewed, as it fell outside the scope of this review, a basic compatibility patch was created for ‘Briefing Time’ and is available for download directly from the MAAM website.
What I Like About "Briefing Time"
What I Don't Like About "Briefing Time"
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