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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action
Publisher

Ubisoft

 

Developer

Ubisoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 2006

 

 

- Cool explosions

- Nice visual effects

- Relatively easy to jump in and start playing

- Arcade Mode and Multiplayer can be a lot of fun

 

 

- Control choices leave a lot to be desired.

- Frustrating missions that don’t offer much variety

- Needed a little more cohesiveness in the story department

- Vocal tracks lack authentication

 

 

Review: Crimson Skies: Highroad to Revenge (XB)

Review: Secret Weapons Over Normandy (PC)

Review: Destroy All Humans! (XB)

 

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Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

As Blazing Angels: Heroes of World War II rolled over various real-life events like the escape from Dunkirk, the attack on Pearl Harbour, and the landing at Normandy, I couldn’t help but wonder when a developer will put you behind the bomber controls of the Enola Gay, with your sweaty trigger finger at the ready to bring a instantaneous death to thousands and painful lingering deaths to thousands more.  Why isn’t that in a game? (I know why, it's rhetorical question.)

 

blazing angels review          blazing angels review

 

And when you first match wits against the Japanese pilots you start to wonder what the hell the development team was thinking when it came to voice acting.  All enemy chatter – German or Japanese – is delivered in a highly accented and borderline racist tone that is in complete opposition to more authentic World War II games like Call of Duty that feature Germans speaking, hey, get this, German.  Would the Japanese and German pilots spout broken English?  I’m sure more than a few knew some English, but they should be speaking their native tongues – subtitles are less distracting than the crap the player is subjected to.  Besides, there are subtitles for all the spoken dialogue!  Some of this can be counterbalanced by the fact the Americans all sound like backwood hicks and the Brits come across as complete prigs.  Was it all meant to be over-the-top?  I have no idea.

 

Starting by running off on a tangent isn’t always the best way to start a review but I felt it was necessary in this circumstance because it’s the first sign of troubles ahead.

 

As already indicated, during the single-player campaign you fly through a number of historical theaters such as North Africa and the South Pacific, blasting bogeys, bombing ground targets, and occasionally dropping torpedoes to take out enemy ships.  Each mission you go on has several checkpoints along the way and changes your mission objectives.  After the first three missions it all melds together and the objectives begin to be unchanged from the ones that preceded it.  Only a few times does the action deviate from the norm, like when you have to land, access another plane, then take off and bomb some targets.  That’s pretty nifty but it sure doesn’t happen enough.

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The difficulty varies wildly from piece o’ cake to “this is what it’s like to go insane.”  Saving some frustration is the checkpoint system which saves your progress during a mission at logical points.  But sometimes the criteria for reaching the checkpoint is so onerous that you may feel like just giving up, jumping online, and forgetting that there is a single-player campaign.

 

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In a tribute to the Death Star trench run, Blazing Angels features one particularly annoying mission, where you’re required to fly straight down a fjord – a big crack in the ice – while covering the six of your wingman.  With persistence and a memorization of all the twists, turns, and pillars of ice, you may be able to complete it within the time limit.  There’s actually no reason the game gives you to be going so damn fast through an ice canyon, but if the clock reaches zero it’s back to the last checkpoint!  Another of my least favorites involves flying around in a sandstorm looking for German encampments, using only their radio transmissions to guide me.

 

Complicating the whole game is a couple of control “quirks” that were entirely avoidable.  The left stick controls the plane’s up, down, left, and right motion, while the right stick controls your speed (forward for more, back for less) and roll; the right trigger fires your guns and the left trigger locks-on to your next target or enemy that poses the most threat.  The D-pad issues basic commands to your various wingmen when they’re flying and the face buttons are used in the repair of your bird.  (When you call for the assistance of your mechanic Joe, he shouts out button combinations to stop the fuel leak, put out the fire, etc. so you can get back into shape. ) But the real kick in the ass is the secondary fire is activated by click down on the right stick!  It becomes a real exercise trying to line up a target properly then flubbing it because I had to push down on the right stick, which so often meant affecting my speed and/or roll.  Meanwhile, the left shoulder button is used to raise and lower the landing gear – this is a function that is rarely required to complete a mission objective.  It seems logical that these two functions should have been swapped or at the very least given me the opportunity to switch them manually in the options menu.

 

blazing angels review          blazing angels review

 

The multiplayer modes are quite fun and they run over Live without any difficulty.  The dogfights can last forever, but it offers the kind of fun I was expecting from the single-player campaign – arcade fun.  Which explains the existence of an Arcade mode where you have to take out wave after wave of fighters, while being restricted by a time limit.  There is also a Mini-Campaign mode that is unlocked after completing the main campaign.  The only real draw for this mode is that being successful will allow you to unlock better armament.

 

Blazing Angels flies for the most part without many faults in the visual department.  The aircrafts are very detailed, the HUD information kept to a minimum, and the speed/framerate of the game is quite good, even if it sacrifices the detail most of the ground targets in the process.  There are some strange visual seams that show up on some of the backgrounds but when you’re trying to send enemy pilots into the drink while avoiding fire from their wingmen, you don’t have much time to just look at the backgrounds.  The cities and various military installations have some feeling of gravity and “being there” because many of the buildings can be blown up in a show fire and debris.

 

Although I wasn’t one of the many that figured Blazing Angels to be the spiritual successor to Crimson Skies, I did expect a bit more than just an average experience peppered with frustration and a poorly thought out control scheme.  The multiplayer and online portions elevates Blazing Angels slightly because it offers some good fun, but on the whole, unless you’re really into World War II planes and want to play almost exclusively online, you can probably give it a miss.

 

- Omni

(April 11, 2006)

 

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