Blazing Angels: Squadrons Of WWII is filling a void on the consoles. While flight sim/air combat games were the rage of yesteryear on the PC, they have never enjoyed the same level of exposure on consoles. Apart from Crimson Skies on Xbox and the ever-popular Ace Combat series on the PS2, air combat fans haven’t often been able to scratch their dogfighting itch on home consoles. Finally, in 2006 Ubisoft delivered a game that addresses this shortage.
See the World from a Bird’s-Eye View
If you’re just looking to shoot some floating red cursors in the sky and take in some sights–Paris, London, Pearl Harbor, Berlin, North Africa, among others–Blazing Angels may suffice. The recognizable landmarks and cities really great, though some of the other areas of the game aren’t nearly as appealing; while in flight, for example, the enemy planes you’ll be required to take down are so small as to be almost imperceptible. The red cursor will show you exactly where they are, but you won’t have much of a chance to check out the plane models in-game.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII doesn’t attempt to be much more than an arcade shooter with some level objectives and multiplayer options. In that sense, it succeeds. You will have to put up with some cut corners, repetitive missions, low-grade models, lack of difficulty, and awful voicework that sometimes borders on offense. Instead of speaking their native tongue, the enemies converse (and taunt) in broken English. The accents are rarely flattering.
Practice for Online by Playing the Campaign
In the single-player campaign, you’ll start off training as a lone American helping out the British, but that soon gives way to the real reason you’re learning to fly: the front lines! Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a team-based shooter, though players will be flying solo on the first few missions. Each squadron member has their own unique special attack or power, and this is where reality takes a flying leap out of the plane window. 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 advice on how to fix planes as it’s divebombing into the ground or ocean below. Joe will give you a series of buttons to press on the controller which will magically save you from imminent disaster. This can be done over and over and over. Which eliminates much of the challenge from the game. Most players will coast through most of the missions in Blazing Angels and find themselves becoming bored by the repetitive nature of the design since players rarely die. Naturally, players can always make the conscious decision not to repair the plane and let the chips fall where they may, which could add some challenge for those players who crave it.
Unfortunately, the arcade skew of the game further decreases the challenge by granting your squadron virtual invincibility. In addition to Joe, there is also Frank and Tom. Frank can be called upon to break formation and rain destruction 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, is used to distract enemies and get them to chase him instead of you. Still, he never seems to be in any danger of being shot down. Without fearing for your comrades or having to protect them, it’s hard to feel any connection to them.
Unlock New Levels and Aircraft
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 still 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 the change of scenery makes up for the historical inaccuracy. Later battles feature heavier fighting, which adds a welcome level of challenge after the ease of the first few levels.
If you’ve been frightened of 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 easily accomplished by rotating the R analog stick to get the propeller spinning. Pressing up or back on the R analog stick provides speed adjustment. The L analog stick pitches and turns, 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 it’s in fine physical condition as when it’s on fire, which again makes the game easier than it needs to be. The later Wii release of this game included motion controls, a fun novelty, but sacrificed the responsiveness of the original controls in the process.
Play Against Friends Online
Once you’ve cut your teeth offline, you’re highly advised to play Blazing Angels online, where you’ll undoubtedly find the game far more entertaining; there is much more hanging in the balance. 3 competitive online modes await: Seek and Destroy, Aces High, and Dog Fight. Up to 16 players can take part in the action. You can also play in team battles and a 4-player co-op mode that allows you to go through the campaign with three teammates. Having teammates who can take damage like you do actually adds a bit of challenge to the campaign.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a good time, just as long as you know what you’re getting into. It’s much in the same vein as Crimson Skies. The game is at its best when played online, but the single-player mode can be fun for a while; it just may not capture everyone’s attention span for the entirety of its 20 missions.