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Matt Keller
07 Oct, 2007

Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII Review

360 Review | As opposed to 'Blatantly Obvious Missions of WWII'.
There has been a constant flow of games based on World War II for about a decade now – and we’ve pretty much seen it all, especially in the first person shooter and real time strategy genres. One particularly important part of the war which seems to go under the radar a bit in the video game world is aerial combat. Now, that’s not to say that it hasn’t been done before – we’ve seen games such as the 194X series, IL-2 Sturmovik and most recently Secret Weapons Over Normandy address the war in the skies, but it is certainly a concept that’s a bit fresher than say, storming the beachheads at Normandy for the nth time. At the launch of the Xbox 360 last year, Ubisoft released Blazing Angels: Squadrons of World War II, a new World War II air combat game, which was reasonably playable, but an ultimately forgettable experience. Now we have Blazing Angels 2: Secret Weapons of WWII, which is by all means an improvement on the first game, but is an experience that is a little too short-lived.

Blazing Angels 2 takes a different approach to its predecessor with its narrative; rather than simply trying to re-create historic battles, the second game in the series puts players in command of a secret squadron of Allied pilots that carry out covert missions in the midst of the Second World War. This has given the developer a lot more creative freedom, not just in terms of the game’s story, but also in terms of the craft and weapons that can be used in the game. Players take on the role of Captain Christopher Robinson, a young trainer/pilot from the air force, who has been recruited to lead previously mentioned covert squadron. In the first mission, one meets Thatcher, or “Teach” as he is referred to, an older British pilot and friend of Captain Robinson, while Milo (the engineer) and Thorpe (a hot headed young pilot) join the team mid game. Much of the game is spent dealing with the threat of General Von Kluge, a particularly nasty homicidal German official. It’s a pretty straight forward narrative, broken up occasionally by some pretty nice comic book-style intermissions – but the characters on the whole are a lot better conceived than the ones in the previous game.

Hey there, blimpy boy, flying through the sky so fancy free

Hey there, blimpy boy, flying through the sky so fancy free
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Many of the game’s 18 missions are spent dogfighting Axis planes and attacking ground emplacements, but occasionally players will be asked to do more interesting tasks, like taking out ridiculously heavily armoured zeppelins, or launching an assault on massive German artillery cannons and Tesla coils. Flying the game’s many aircraft around is very arcade-like, not unlike Secret Weapons over Normandy (LucasArts previous attempt at this type of game). Players will have to deal with common problems such as stalling the plane and turbulence later in the game, but don’t expect the sophistication of something heavy on the realism like IL-2 Sturmovik. As such, this makes Blazing Angels 2 quite easy to pick up and play.

The developers have taken a lot of liberties in terms of putting technology into Blazing Angels 2 that was not available during the war into use on the battlefield. Players will have access to things such as a wide array of jet fighters and advanced weaponry such as self-guided and remote controlled missiles. It might upset those looking for something a little more realistic or historically accurate, but it makes for a far more interesting experience. The game always makes it pretty clear what needs to be done in missions for the most part, but its suggestions do not always ring true – for instance the eighth mission has players protecting Red Square from a German bomber raid; the game tells players to take out the bombers, but it’s the ground troops that do the most damage to the target the player has to protect – simply doing what the game tells you isn’t enough.

Smearing Vasoline over your goggles doesn't make you fly any better

Smearing Vasoline over your goggles doesn't make you fly any better
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Destroying enemy fighters, accomplishing the (rather occasional) secondary objectives and collecting stunt markers placed across each level will increase one’s prestige points. In between missions, prestige points can be traded for various upgrades such as armour strength, weapon velocity and range, and manoeuvrability. The three wingmen also have abilities that can be used in mission that can be upgraded here – Teach will destroy any craft threatening the player, Milo will repair the player’s craft at various intervals, while Thorpe will seek and destroy a designated target (and anything else in the area). Wingmen upgrades reduce the recharge time and increase the effective time of their given orders.

The single player game is actually over quite quickly – the missions are not very difficult (apart from the one in Red Square), and the extra planes and upgrades can be unlocked in a single play through. We’d expect a player of average ability to take no more than about 6 hours to see everything that the single player component has to offer. The multiplayer component of Blazing Angels 2 is not entirely different from the single player experience, but there is a reasonably large number of modes available, from basic death match and ‘capture and hold’, to the more interesting cooperative games. It can prove to be a little difficult finding enough opponents on occasion, but the latency is actually very good – we experienced no lag when played with half a dozen other gamers from the USA. The game’s 1000 achievement points are broken up relatively evenly between single player and multiplayer; all 550 single player points can be obtained in a single play through, but the multiplayer ones are much more demanding, bordering on slightly ridiculous – we’re flat out playing any game in multiplayer for 50 hours, much less one with very few opponents.

Maybe they're searching for multiplayer opponents

Maybe they're searching for multiplayer opponents
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Blazing Angels 2 boasts reasonable graphics – they’re not outstanding or overly flashy, but at the same time accomplish what they need to. Some of the plane models look rather impressive, and the weather effects – rain, lightning and volumetric clouds are quite nice. The overall look of the game is much improved over the original, with a lot more colour and a far more stable frame rate, though that’s not to say that we didn’t have the occasional hiccup. The major issue is that the game has an amazing amount of screen-tearing – we’ve seen the screen cut into as many as six parts when executing a turn in a jet fighter, which is getting a bit ridiculous. The game’s soundtrack is compiled mainly of wartime music and ‘high adventure’ tunes – again, serviceable but not really outstanding. The voice acting is far better than it was in the original game, but there’s still a lot of that fake accenting going on with the German and Japanese characters in the game’s cutscenes, though they do break into their native language when in the middle of a dogfight.

Brevity is really the downfall of Blazing Angels 2. While it’s a relatively enjoyable experience, there’s just not enough content in the single player game, and while there are plenty of game modes in the multiplayer side, there’s a distinct lack of opponents. The focus on secret technologies and arcade-style gameplay really makes it hard to recommend to a simulation buff, but for someone after a quick bit of somewhat historical aeronautical action, then Blazing Angels 2 is worth a rental.
The Score
Blazing Angels 2 goes in guns-a-blazin', but runs out of fuel rather quickly.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  6/09/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $119.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  Arcade
Year Made:
  2007

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