Blazing Angels Squadrons of WWII ReviewCain Dornan
Somewhat of a rare sight on home consoles, the arcade flight genre has only seen a relatively small handful of quality titles over the past few years. While the impressive Ace Combat series has continued to engage high levels of enjoyment on the PlayStation 2, very little other quality titles have appeared on consoles, much unlike the PC, which enjoys a continuous flow of ever-advancing games. Attempting to break into this genre on the Xbox and Xbox 360, Ubisoft’s Romanian development studio has been hard at work for of 18 months, working on an arcade-styled World War II flight title that had high ambitions for impressing gamers abound. While the end result is, in most cases, satisfying and engaging, the overall experience gained is somewhat short of impressive, largely due to the limited variation in the single player missions and relative ease of most missions.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII flies into battle complete with an 18 mission campaign that sees you flying a large variety of different planes based around the war-torn era. After pitting you through a brief tutorial, you are flung straight into battle as an American pilot who has been tasked with aiding British forces in various offensive and defensive roles. This spans over the first initial missions, which sees you performing various tasks such as protecting British ground troops as they cross a large bridge through to defending London itself as it experiences a bevy of hard-hitting attacks from German air forces.
From here, you move into the wider world, including launching reconnaissance flights across dust-covered African sand plains, which sees you attempting to locate hidden enemy bases that are almost impossible to locate due to the blinding dust storm that is in effect. If you manage to gather the patience to pass this mission, you’ll soon find yourself battling it out in Pearl Harbour, as you attempt to thwart the Japanese attack against the unwary American naval base. Further down the line you’ll be required to fly a large, cumbersome aircraft through a tight glacial valley, battling German aircraft and attempting to avoid the looming icicle obstacles that fill your path.
There is plenty of variation in the locations in which each of the missions are set, aiding in delivering a more varied and interesting experience. Unfortunately, the rapidly changing difficulty spikes can be a cause for great frustration, as the common easy dogfights often prove to be overly repetitive and simple, while other experiences, such as the African sandstorm mission and flying through the tight glacial canyon prove to be greatly frustrating due to the annoyingly difficult situations that you are placed in. Alas, WWII pilots were required to perform similar difficult tasks, which do warrant the inclusion of such missions to some extent. Nevertheless, the inclusion of different difficulty levels, such as easy and hard options, would have certainly been a welcomed addition.
The entire experience, apart from the occasional frustrating section, is made even easier with the inclusion of an instant re-heal ability, allowing you to call-up one of your squad members who will hit you with a sequence of button presses that you must push accordingly to completely solve any damage that your aircraft has taken. Is you airplane currently ravaged with fire and black smoke? No worries, simply call up good ol’ Joe and he’ll instantly fix it good as new. A cool, arcadey inclusion in theory, but it does subtract heavily from the authenticity of the experience.
Talking of squad members, many of the missions featured in Blazing Angels has you aided by three wingmen, available to do your wishes. While you can’t give them any specific orders, you can instruct them to either attack, watch your back or fly in formation. Furthermore, each of your wingmen also have specific abilities, such as one who can fix any problems with your aircraft with a touch of a button and another that specializes in offensive maneuvers.
Outside of the campaign mode, you can also participate in a brief round of Standalone Modes. These consist of a Mini Campaign, which is essentially similar missions to the core campaign mode with the addition of tighter time limits, as well as an Arcade mode that is essentially a survivor-type mode, requiring you to battle through a continuous wave of enemy aircraft that you must pick-off before they kill you. The third and last single player mode offering is Ace Dual, which is a quick little mode that sees you going up against a surprisingly easy battle against a single ace pilot, who are flying the same airplane that you are. A great mode on paper, but disappointingly short and easy when actually playing it.
Complimenting the single playing offering is a fairly strong line-up of multiplayer options, which includes the ability to take the game online through Xbox Live, participate in a multi-console hook-up through LAN and compete in split-screen multiplayer. There are various different gameplay modes on offer, including Solo-based events that include variations such as Dogfight, which is a simple deathmatch mode where you score points for shooting down other planes, while Seek and Destroy has you shooting down only specifically marked opponents. There is also the Ace variant, which sees all players going up against a single Ace flyer who is the only player that can score points whilst holding the Ace throne. Once the Ace player is shot down, the role is changed to another player and it starts over. There is also a handful of Team battle variants, including Capture the Base which scores points for landing on your opponent’s base, as well as Bombing Run which has you bombing each other’s bases.
While not always visually impressive, Blazing Angels usually offers a pleasing graphical offering. The aircraft offer plenty of accurate detail, which sees them being successfully pulled from the real world and dropped into the video game galaxy. The attention to detail on the ground is also of a high standard, particularly the London and Paris missions, which sees high level of intricate detail that has been placed onto each of the buildings. Various lighting effects add further realism to the experience, offering a moody atmosphere that alters accordingly with each mission. The London mission, for example, is cloudy, dark and dirty looking, thanks to the wide burning of black coal for warmth, while the Pearl Harbour mission sees a more brighter appearance being produced. A great soundtrack and accurate sound effects compliment the game’s visual presentation, while the occasionally annoying voice acting can drop the level of immersion slightly.
While the game can become slightly repetitive, namely the easy dogfights, as well as the occasional difficulty spikes that can lead to frustration, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a worthwhile arcade flight combat title that is solid in both its single player and multiplayer offering. With the lack of good flight titles on home consoles, Blazing Angels will likely please most console-owning flight enthusiasts.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.