PC REVIEW: BLAZING ANGELS: SQUADRONS OF WWII

These Blazing Angles have an angel in their corner...and his name is Joe. If you want a decent challenge, leave Joe alone. by Vaughn Smith

March 28, 2006 - Blazing Angels: Squadrons Of WWII is filling a void on the consoles right now, nevermind that it's just expanded the somewhat meager X360 library by 1. While flight sim/air combat games were the rage of yesteryear on the PC, the same can't be said for the consoles and that remains true today. Apart from Crimson Skies (Xbox) and the ever popular Ace Combat series on the PS2, air combat fans haven't been able to get their dogfighting joneses (should that be pluralized?) for quite some time. Ubi Soft was smart to jump in and deliver but the game isn't without its faults.

First off, I have to say that if you're just looking to shoot some floating red cursors in the sky and take in some sites - Paris, London, Pearl Harbor, Berlin, North Africa (make sure to wave at the Call of Duty 2 boys down below as you pass buy) - maybe Blazing Angels will suffice. The recognizable landmarks and cities really look great, but it appears that the artisitic budget was blown on getting them to look that way as other areas of the game aren't nearly as appealing. While in flight, the enemy planes you'll be required to take down are very tiny, but have no fear, the red cursor will show you exactly where they are while completely blowing the arse out of the reality of the game. I thought my grandfather had become senile when he was telling me stories of shooting down floating red brackets in the sky over London during the war. It appears he was telling the truth. Sorry for putting you in the old age home Gramps. My bad!

Okay, so I'm being a tad facetious. Blazing Angels attempts to be nothing more than an arcade shooter with some level objectives and multi-player options. In that sense, it does succeed. You will have to put up with some cut corners (cockpit view = removed), repetitive missions, lowgrade models, lack of difficulty and the most hilarious/offensive voiceovers I've ever heard. I honestly don't know whether to be offended or laugh my ass off at the German, British and Japanese dialogue. You have to hear it to believe it. Instead of speaking their native tongue, the enemies converse (and taunt) in broken English with voices that would have be toned down about 50% to be considered caricatures. It's like listening to a Dean Martin Roast and the guests of honor are Japan, Germany and Britain.

In the single player campaign, you'll start off training as the lone Yankee helping out the British but that soon gives way to the real reason you're learning to fly. The front lines! Blazing Angels is a team based shooter although you will find yourself flying solo on a few missions. Once you do have your squadron, comprised of real classic meat and potatoes 1940's names such as Tom, Joe and Frank (can you imagine having to fly with Kyle, Tyson and Jarred?...I mean, come on! Those guys would get you killed!) you can command them to attack, defend and regroup. Each squadron member has their own unique "special attack or power" and this is where reality takes a flying leap out of the plane without a parachute. Joe, the resident mechanic, has a special meter that fills as you go along (as do they all) and when you're in big trouble, Joe can be called upon to give you advice on how to fix your plane as it's divebombing into the ground or ocean below. Joe will give you a series of buttons to press (on the Xbox 360 controller) and you'll magically save yourself from imminent disaster. And you can do this over and over and over - which as I mentioned, completely eradicates any sense of challenge from the game. Therefore you will coast through most of the missions in Blazing Angels and find yourself becoming bored by the repetitive nature of the design since you'll rarely die or have much trouble picking the red brackets/red lines out of the sky. Naturally you can always make the conscious decision not to repair your plane and let the chips fall where they may. In doing so, you will wring far more entertainment value out of the game and you'll even find some missions downright nasty such as Berlin and the Battle of Rabaul. Ouch.

Unfortunately the arcade skew of the game further dumbs down the experience by granting your squadron virtual invincibility. I already exposed Joe and his godlike button commands that will keep you in the air almost indefinitely, but there is also Frank and Tom. Frank can be called upon to break formation and unleash hell on a few pesky enemies. And he does. Without fail and without any danger to himself. Frank just doesn't fall out of the sky. Tom, on the other hand, can pull guys off you like a bouncer on Wet T-shirt Wednesdays. He just somehow manages to fire up the enemy (even though technically he can't speak their language) to the point that they'll stop chasing you and go after him. Maybe he's mooning them... Without fearing for your comrades or having to protect them, there is no connection made to them at all. I was more emotionally attached to Slippy from StarFox 64.

That's not to say Blazing Angels is complete drudgery. The dogfighting can be quite invigorating and even intense, especially the first few missions when everything is new. After you've experienced what the game has to offer, you'll simply look forward to new planes and new territories to engage the enemy. Of course, no pilots during WW2 did as much continent jumping as the Blazing Angels do in this game, but you'll be happy to substitute reality for a change of scenery. Once you head into the heavy battles, you'll be facing a lot more threats and you'll find the challenge quite welcome after so many cakewalks.

If you've been frightened off flight sims since the early PC days, Blazing Angels won't give you any headaches. It's pure arcade action. You will have to take off, but that's accomplished by rotating the R analog stick to get the propellor spinning, while pressing up or back on the R analog stick provides speed adjustment. The L analog stick pitch and turn, R analog provides roll/speed, R trigger fires machine guns, R analog press drops bombs, buttons B & X switch targets and the d-pad provides squadron commands with an up press (Attack, Defend, Formation) and the remaining three directions call on Joe, Tom or Frank to use their special moves. Your plane will handle just as well when its in fine physical condition as when its on fire and that's just plain silly. It wouldn't have taken much to include control problems depending on the type of damage sustained and that would have made things more challenging and to say the least, more interesting.

Once you've cut your teeth offline (which will take all of 10 minutes) you're highly advised to play Blazing Angels online where you'll undoubtedly find the game far more entertaining as there is much more hanging in the balance. 3 single player online modes await: Seek and Destroy, Aces High and Dog Fight. Up to 16 players can partake of the action online and I'd highly recommend it. You can also play in team battles and 4 player co-op that will allow you to go through the single player campaign with three other teammates. Personally, it's the only way to play it as far as I'm concerned as there is at least a decent amount of challenge.

You just have to know what you're in for with Blazing Angels (if you haven't already played it on Xbox). It's much in the same vein as Crimson Skies although I'm sure there will be endless argumnents as to which one is more realistic. Let me just say "neither" and end it already. BA is best played online, but the single player mode can be fun for awhile; it may not capture everyones attention span for the entire 20 missions.

Features:

  • WWII’s most epic and famous air battles.
    Experience the greatest air battles of World War II in famous locations from across the globe. Whether it’s the invasion of the Philippines, the fierce fighting for the desserts of North Africa, or the battle of Britain, the player and his squadron will be tasked with turning the tide of war.
  • Innovative squadron-based gameplay.
    AI-controlled wingmen will obey player commands. As the pilot’s skills improve, so will the skills of his squadron. The pilot’s heroism and leadership will grow during the course of the campaign as players fly with their squadron and evolve together into an ace fighting force.
  • A large variety of realistic-looking WWII aircraft. Pilot 40 authentic WWII aircraft including the famous P-51 Mustang, the P-38 Lightning, the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt, the Spitfire of Britain and the Japanese Zero. From the wing rivets, to the nose art, to the detailed cockpits, these planes are just like the real thing.
  • Twenty heart-stopping missions in a compelling storyline. Pilots will begin as untrained recruits and evolve through battle experience into ace combat pilots. WWII missions will take place around the globe in places like England, Germany, France, Morocco, Midway and Okinawa.
  • Authentic WWII atmosphere. Fly in close to Germany’s industrial terrain for a bombing raid, strafe the islands of the pacific, or emerge from the cloud cover over London and engage the enemy. The environment looks so real you’ll feel like you’re the pilot in a famous WWII movie.
  • Planes are easy to handle and fun to fly.
    No need to attend the Air Force Academy to pilot these planes; players can jump right into air combat action.
  • Xbox Live™ for up to 20 players online.
    Engage in head-to-head dogfights or cooperative team play between squadrons on huge maps with large formations.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

Rating out of 5
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII (PC)
3.8
Graphics
The planes and locales look great. Infantry men on the ground and vehicle models look pretty bad.
4.0
Control
It's easy...some would say too easy. But the control won't hinder your game in a negative way.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some have called the voice acting racist; some have called it hilarious. It's definitely oddball. The music is quite good.
4.2
Online
You'll find most of the games value is online. If you can play online, then I highly suggest you do so.
4.5
Play Value
For a game that's a little too easy in places, Ubi Soft gives you enough to play with within that framework. Online or offline co-op, online play and a decently long single player campaign will keep you playing for quite a while.
3.9
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: X360 (shown), X, PC
Dev: Ubi Soft Romania
Pub: Ubi Soft
Release: Dec 2005
Players: 1 - 16
Review by Vaughn

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best