The original Blazing Angels was released some time ago now, and although lacking in many areas, it did offer a fairly interesting action romp where you fight from the skies as a pilot fighting in World War II. An inevitable sequel has followed in the form of Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII. Taking place in 1940, the story here is slightly different from the first, with different objectives and different enemies to shoot down from the clouds. But despite what looks like a fresh coat of paint, is the second Blazing Angels that much better than the first? Well, sort of. It looks better and there are certainly more options, but overall it still feels like a fairly two dimensional experience. That's not to say it's all bad, though, and Blazing Angels 2 does offer a game worth playing for fans of the genre.
You take the role of Captain Robinson, who is the head of a secret team of Americans with the goal to take out the Nazi threat from above, by any means necessary. The story mode is set up with some still images accompanied by voice over work for each of the characters. Given how far we've come in the world of gaming, it's still disappointing to see cut-scenes played out with only still images and sound. Sure, it may have been effective back when games didn't always look that great, but nowadays it is frustrating to see. On a different level, you could argue that it fits in with the style of the game, but it makes it far more difficult to care about the characters in the game and what their mission is. That being said, it's all about the air crafts anyway, and Blazing Angels 2 has them in spades.
There are 18 missions to complete, each one requiring you to dish it out to those Nazi's in different ways. The missions seem varied in their design, offering things like flying through stunt markers and dropping an agent safely onto a train, but pretty much all of them degrade into a fire-fight with the opposition. It's pretty standard fare here - fly the plane, shoot at the enemies, keep on doing it until you've taken down enough of them that the game deems your mission as complete. There are often moments where you have to take out so many opposing air crafts that it can get a little overwhelming; so it's a good thing that you have some backup in the form of wing men.
These wing men have a variety of different skills and you do have some measure of control over when you can use them, but for the most part they basically think for themselves, and this isn't always a good thing. They can attack, defend, taunt your enemies or even repair your plane during specific moments, so they certainly can be useful; but sometimes they just aren't as effective as they could be. Many times you will be ridiculously outnumbered by the enemy, and even though you do have your wing men, most of the hard work will have to be done by you. It does make the game a bit more challenging, which is a good thing in some ways, but at the same time, if you're going to have wing men, it would be nice if they backed you up a bit more often than they do.
As Blazing Angels 2 goes on, you'll be able to upgrade your craft with better weaponry and other things like targeting systems and armour, and unlock better air crafts as well which you can also upgrade similarly. The enemy air crafts however don't get upgraded - because you'll be battling so many of them, they're of course going to be a bit weaker, but in the later missions of the game, they really have no chance against your extremely tanked up plane. You rarely run out of ammunition during a mission, and if you do, you get stocked up during checkpoints and also can gain ammo from taking out specific highlighted enemies. It becomes quite clear that your plane is the far superior to any other, and it takes a lot of the challenge out of missions, relying on player clumsiness to make things difficult.
When it comes to controlling the planes, the whole thing is fairly simple and is actually intuitive. You can use the standard arcade style which is very pick-up-and-play or go for the simulation style of playing for those that are familiar with it or would like something a little more challenging. The Sixaxis can also be used to control the plane, of course, and that too actually works quite well. Gamers are likely to stick to the arcade controls as they are without a doubt the easiest, but switching to the Sixaxis is a nice distraction to make the game feel different. The air crafts are however quite slow - or at least, they feel slow. Turning around to go back the way you came can be quite a chore, and trying to get sight of your targeted enemy as it flies around you can be frustrating when you can't quite keep up, but it isn't a massive issue all of the time.
The aforementioned 18 missions in the single player campaign won't take you too long to get through, although you can go back to try and rack up as many 'prestige points' as possible in each mission which allows you to unlock new air crafts as well as giving you access to more upgrades to what you already have. When you come down to it though, the missions can be quite linear, and it's not realistic that a player would go back and complete them more than once or twice at most, unless you're an absolute obsessee of the genre. Luckily, there is a multi player mode which you can sink your teeth into. There are missions you can play with a friend, along with standard online multi player modes such as capture the flag and racing varieties, and should keep fans of the game quite busy - if they can find a match easily, that is. In our experience with the game, not many people were playing online and it took a bit of effort to get involved in a competitive match. Once we found one, it was quite enjoyable, but given the lack of online community at this point, you will struggle to find anything interesting other than maybe a generic death match.
Blazing Angels 2 doesn't look bad visually, although it does suffer from some frame-rate issues, even in the opening cinematic. Planes are incredibly detailed and you can see pretty far into the distance at the air crafts and landscape up ahead, but the game can look quite grainy at times as well and also suffers from pop-in at times, while the environments do tend to look pretty samey when it comes down to it. The soundtrack is also fairly simplistic, and while it tries to build a really 'epic' feel at times, it doesn't really get you in the fighting spirit and all sounds rather similar. However. the explosions and the sounds of planes zooming past along with heavy gunfire certainly do create a war-like atmosphere.
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII can be an entertaining game - the first few missions are varied and interesting enough to get players involved in what they're doing; but as the game goes on, it's repetitive nature becomes obvious and you may find yourself getting tired of shooting down more and more planes. For fans of the genre, there is a lot to like, including a variety of planes and upgrades, plenty of multi player options and a couple of different ways to play the game. Although it is definitely an improvement over the first game, most people will find it difficult to get sucked into the war one more time, unless perhaps it's a only for a rental. Perhaps the third time will be a charm?