05 May, 2006

Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII Review

360 Review | Down in a blaze of mediocrity.
Flight simulators aren’t the most common breed on consoles. Sure, there are a few exceptions – the Ace Combat series and Crimson Skies come to mind – but, for the most part, they largely fall under the PC’s domain. Blazing Angels: Squadrons of World War II is the first such game on the Xbox 360. Shockingly, the game puts players in the role as a – gasp! – fighter pilot in World War II. More specifically, players lead a squadron of fighters as they attempt to shoot down the Japanese and Nazi war machines over the skies of Europe, North Africa and the Pacific. And, it doesn’t do a bad job at it, to tell the truth. While the single player campaign is a bit boring and too repetitive after about an hour, jump on to Xbox Live or connect some extra controllers and things get a bit more interesting.

As you would expect from a game using the Second World War for a backdrop, the game’s plot is a bit predictable. Players – assuming the role as an American fighter – quickly establish themselves in Britain as crack fighters, helping the British stopping the Germans in the Battle of Britain, then moving on to helping out the ground troops in North America, before returning home – only to be attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. Thankfully, you aren’t alone out there, being the captain of this crack squadron. Your first wingman is Joe – your standard American hick. Next up is Tom, who seems like a pretty decent average guy. Finally there’s Frank, who seems quite angry with the world. Surprisingly, there aren’t any cut scenes, really – basic establishing shots for a few seconds before each mission, but that’s it.

The guns are BLAZING.

The guns are BLAZING.
Blazing Angels doesn’t really have any significant depth to it. Flying the planes – throttle is on the right stick, steering on the left – takes a few seconds to master, if that. Guns, available with a quick squeeze of the right trigger, are quite accurate, and will bring down the majority of the foolish enemies with a few decent hits. There’s also the secondary fire button of R1, which will either launch missiles or drop a bomb on a target below, depending on what the mission objective is. The only slightly tricky thing to come to grips with is the objective-lock camera. Grab the left trigger, and the camera will pan around your plane to center on the next objective. Highly disorientating initially, but extremely handy on those occasions when you lose your bearings.

Your squadron also comes into play thanks to the d-pad – even if it is in an extremely basic form. You can control their formation by pressing up which either makes them find their own target, or hang on your wings. Each squadron member also has their own special ability, which can be used in tight spot. Frank goes insane, dashing after the nearest target and ripping them to pieces. Should you find yourself in trouble, you can call on Tom to sling a few insults at your pursuers, taking the heat away from you. Finally, Joe has the rather brilliant skill of being able to diagnose the problem each time your plane starts smoking, giving you a button sequence to press to make things better. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t that tough to begin with, so this ability of Joe’s makes falling out of the sky virtually impossible – the only way you will ever die is if you fly into an unseen mountain while using the objective camera.

Why so many clouds, Ubi?

Why so many clouds, Ubi?
Mission objectives aren’t particularly interesting, to be honest. They generally consist of using the bomb camera (sometimes to use bombs, sometimes to use the spy camera) to take out any targets below, or fight off all enemy planes in the air. Your enemies aren’t terrific pilots either, with only the enemy fighter aces showing any effort to evade your fire. Unfortunately, these aces aren’t particularly common in the game, so it’s mostly a case of shoot basic enemy fighters until your brain melts. While coming up with some extra objectives for a World War II based dog-fighting can’t be easy, it’s not impossible, either – something to mix things up would have been really appreciated.

Blazing Angels isn’t a long affair. There are twenty missions which will take most players less than ten hours to plow through. The medal system – kill bad guys fast – may extend this slightly. There’s also several other arcade modes to be unlocked, but they basically consist of beating time limits, so they aren’t terribly interesting. You can play split-screen or on Xbox Live though, and the game becomes a lot more interesting since you’ll be facing opponents which are, presumably, not total rubbish like the computer. There’s a variety of game modes too, so this will keep people with Xbox Live Gold memberships interested for a while.

Environments and backgrounds in Blazing Angels looking rather nice, with highly detailed buildings, cranes and, occasionally, even tanks and people on the ground. The planes themselves also look rather lovely – up close. However, due to the large distances involved, planes tend to look more like tiny dots in the horizon, which is a bit of a shame. It’s completely unavoidable, but a shame no less. On the negative side, the ground below doesn’t really look like a war zone. Even after completing the Pearl Harbour mission, there are only a few billowing smoke clouds rising from the ground – hardly the complete devastation you would expect. The most disappointing aspect of the visuals is the complete lack of a first-person camera – you’re stuck watching the plane all game. Where’s the sense of immersion in that? It’s a somewhat critical oversight, Ubisoft.

Smoke on the water...

Smoke on the water...
The single biggest problem with Blazing Angels is the audio. Most of it is perfectly acceptable – planes sound good, machine guns are nice and punchy, the score is suitably epic – but the voiceovers are utterly offensive. The American characters are mostly OK – even if Joe’s exaggerating southern accent is a bit ridiculous – but outside of that, it’s straight to stereotype city. German’s speak in broken English, for some reason, and have an absolutely ridiculous accent. The British sound about as wimpy as you can be – you almost expect them to start screaming ‘tally ho, chaps’. But, the most offensive are the Japanese voiceovers, which portray Japanese fighter pilots as evil and psychotic (expect them to constantly scream ‘DIEEEEEE’ and laugh manically), with the most dismal accent we’ve ever heard. It’s not realistic, and it certainly isn’t PC – it’s ridiculous.

So, what we have here is yet another slightly above average Xbox 360 game. It’s decent fun for a few hours in single player, until the repetitive objectives and brainless AI start to melt the mind. Online play is pretty damn interesting, thanks to some often intense dog-fighting. But, thanks to some highly offensive voice acting, generally repetitive gameplay and the extra modes not involving much imagination (couldn’t they think of something besides time limits to make the game more interesting?), Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII can’t really be recommended to anyone who isn’t looking for a flight game on their Xbox 360. And, if you are, you really should go and buy a PC.
The Score
A decent rental title this one, but we can’t imagine why you’d want to pay the usual 360 premium to actually buy it. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
I can't actually find this review on the site? Is it on the main page? It looks like my browser at work is having trouble updating stuff cuz the last couple of days it had the "article" thread as Obs as the last poster and the "gaming" thread as Xcs:sive as the last poster......maybe i'll delete some cookies and refresh.
7 years ago
I had to pull it to fix something after it first went up. It should be fine now.
7 years ago
:S i don't like the avatar Brendan.

...but then again you won't care what i think.That's what makes you Brendan icon_smile.gif
7 years ago
Joe Sakic is all kinds of awesome. The Avs will beat the Ducks. Yes.
7 years ago
This game was crapo and even Crimson Skies on original xbox Kicked this games ass to hell and high water, even the graphics on crimson skies were way better than Blazing Angels Bah im glad EB games have a 7 day satisfaction policy or I wouldve been up sh!t creek $120 less.
The pitch of colour can be flashing in an ugly non appealing fashion in this game and the depth of the landscapes looks like a hobo emptied the lint out of his pocket onto the map..
NO KUDOS For this game 3 stars, will last the Avge gamer a few hrs max.
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