Blazing Angels Review
World War II seems to be the setting for a lot of games these days. Whether they are First-Person Shooters, or Flight Sims — WWII is the hot topic. I’ve lost count how many games I’ve played that centred on the battles of WWII, whether from the ground, or the air. So it comes as no surprise that the first Flight sim game to hit the 360 was going to be based on WWII, aptly titled Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII.
Saying that, however, there is some thing different about this one from all the others. Something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the great attention to detail, or the superb addictive gameplay — I just don’t know.
Right from the off, Blazing Angels feels solid, smooth and fun. Imagine Crimson Skies (PC) meets WWII and the 360. The game is complicated in terms of how your plane moves, or reacts. This isn’t like Microsoft Flight Sim (PC), with 500 different keys needed to turn your engine on, then 300 more to lift your flaps and take off. Simply spin the analog stick around until your propellers are spinning nicely, then push up on the right stick to pick up speed. Once you’re fast enough, simply pull down on the left analog and then you’re away!
It seems a bit strange that I’m starting a review talking about the controls, but it just feels so comfortable on the 360. The left analog is used to pull up and down, and also to turn left and right, whilst the right analog is used for speed and rolling. The right trigger fires, and the left trigger locks your camera onto your target. It’s that simple, and it feels fantastic!
Blazing Angels sometimes feels more like a Flight Arcade game than a Flight simulation game, but again, that’s a very welcome change. Mind you, the game still manages to balance realism with fun to offer a very unique and interesting flight game.
The single player campaign sees you playing a single American pilot. In all honesty, I’m not 100% sure if he’s ever had any previous flying experience, but that doesn’t matter because the first level is a nice tutorial that helps you get to grips with controlling your plane and doing different tasks.
Once you’ve perfected that, you then play through a series of major WWII air battles, ranging from Western Europe to the Pacific. Some of the battles are simply immense, such as the D-Day Landing. Starting off taking out some land bunkers to cover the men as they hit the beach, you’ll soon find yourself flying over the beach itself, watching as the 100’s of troop’s sprint to green grass, whilst getting blown to pieces. The levels are fantastically detailed, and there is so much attention to detail you’ll be surprised that the game can run so smoothly. Other battles include protecting London from bombers (again, amazing!) and helping the French defend the Eiffel Tower.
There are, however, one or two levels that require some awesome flying skills. One of which requires you to stick very low to a river, and navigate your way down the river, without getting too high, which results in the AA guns ripping you apart. In all honesty, this level (and an ice one in a cave) is extremely difficult to get right. Although the controls are very smooth, controlling your plane isn’t always as easy. You don’t particularly notice it as much in the air, but when you’re required to go low, it can get quite irritating as you continually smash your plane into the floor.
Another gripe with the single player campaign is the length. I completed it in just over 4 hours. The missions themselves never last more than about 15 minutes, and in all honesty, the 18 single-player missions just isn’t enough. Along with that, the actual difficulty isn’t particularly challenging. If you get an enemy plane in your sights, about 2 bullets will send them into a fireball and plummet to the ground. They’re also not particularly good shots, and if they do take you out, you can quickly repair it by simply pressing 4 buttons in sequence when they appear, bringing your plane back to full strength. I actually found myself flying into the ground more times than I was shot down, simply because I got disorientated by the left trigger lock on camera, which keeps you focused on the target, not where you are going.
Other than the campaign, you can have a quick “arcade” battle, taking on 3 waves of enemy plane, again very easy. Multi-player is solid however, and saves Blazing Angels, with its 16 player team dogfights on Xbox Live.
For you achievement lovers out there, don’t expect Blazing Angels to fulfil your fantasies. There are just 7. When you complete the campaign, the only incentive to go back and play it again is to get the “Ace” rating on the missions, winning you a medal, which when collected will win you an achievement.
With all these negatives however, Blazing Angels still somehow impressed me. The graphics were simply fantastic. Every battle, whether it be over London, or Pear Harbour, just looked amazing — and the 20 fighters flying all around you just tips the balance from ordinary, to simply stunning. The arcade style handling is actually a very welcome change to the usual flight sim action, and makes the game somewhat addictive. Although not very long, the game is still worth a bash, and the multi-player will keep you flying for that little while longer.