Crashed and Burnt
It’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Why would 505 Games and Ubisoft both choose to release World War II flight combat games not only in the same month but within a week from one another? Was it a perfect storm or poor planning? It’s hard to say. Regardless, air combat enthusiasts seeking to get in on the action will have a choice to make. Don’t worry. We’ll help make it easy for you.
Practically nipping at the heels of Il-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, Transmission Games’ Heroes Over Europe completely does away with any attempts to provide a realistic flight combat simulation experience like its competition and instead hones-in on the guns-blazing, full throttle arcade action that’s already fairly commonplace in the genre. Some players may prefer to embrace simplicity and enjoy focusing on being in the moment while sending entire squadrons of bombers and fighters planes plummeting in a fiery demise. Heroes Over Europe certainly has all of that and more, but it’s rough around the edges in more than a few areas.
The game’s story follows three different pilots from three different nationalities who interact constantly through amusing and personable radio chatter while filling Luftwaffe aircraft full of holes. You’ll play as each character at different times throughout the game’s 14 main missions, though the timeline of battles and locations jumps around jerkily from mission-to-mission. This inconsistency in the transitions can be jostling like a nasty bout of turbulence, but the interactions between characters and seeing the human side of a gritty war filled with chaos, explosions, and death is definitely engaging. The radio dialogue is almost always present, and the fact conversations extend beyond the typical “enemies at two-o-clock” banter adds to the experience rather than detracting from it. It’s a little surreal when your wingman starts chatting about how his wife and family are actually somewhere down in the city below you that’s about to be bombed to hell by incoming bogies you have to pick off. There are a lot of moments like this in the game, and they help to pull you into the experience.
Even with compelling plot moments, Heroes Over Europe is primarily about hopping into the cockpit with your trigger fingers itching and not touching down until after a protracted airborne tussle that results in the highest kill count possible. Multi-tiered mission objectives send you on a quite a few different tasks, including some unusual jobs like defending firefighters from bogey strafing runs and blasting submerged mines to clear a safe path for friendly ships. These odd errands break up the repetitious nature of other missions. So much of the game boils down to simply flying around and blasting the hell out of everything in sight. The underlying mechanics make this an enjoyable task at first, but it gets ridiculous when you start dreading the decimation of the current wave of enemy ships you’re battling because it means there’s going to be four more behind them and a few more behind those four. It doesn’t take long before the air combat starts to feel like a grind.
True to the arcade aesthetic, learning to fly is effortless and any plane you fire up seems to maneuver with an unnatural ease in the sky. Though there’s a marked difference in the standard arcade mode controls and the “professional” level control scheme, both are pretty straightforward and simple to handle. You don’t have to worry about stalls or spinning out of controls due to poor flying. This is fine for the average player, but the flight realism is going to be too limited for sim-level gamers. And while it’s pretty awesome when your plane gets riddled with bullets to the point where you can actually see through the wings and tail of your fighter, it’s pretty damn silly when you realize there’s no way the thing would still be airborne in such a condition. Furthermore, there’s not enough difference in the handling of the various planes you’ll pilot to make unlocking them feel special.
The inclusion of a few dramatic special moves punctuates the game’s intentional ignorance of realism in an attempt to round out the dog fighting experience. Tailing an enemy ship in your targeting sights long enough gradually fills a meter that lets you engage the ace kill mode. This temporally zooms-in, slows down time, and gives you an opportunity to take down your opponent in a single shot targeted to a key area (pilot, engines, tail, etc.). It basically acts like a sniper rifle.
Rocketing upwards and then diving down full throttle at enemies kamikaze-style with your guns Gatling away triggers an “energy attack” that boosts your damage and affords greater protection from bomber’s tail gunners. As cool as they might be, neither special maneuver is as effective as your trusty old machine guns. They take too long to setup during frenzied encounters against large volumes of enemy planes.
Heroes Over Europe has a punchy visual flair that incorporates colorful, retro-WWII propaganda and stylish static art pieces into its design. All of the game’s menus are super flashy and loaded with cartoonish art, which is stimulating and amusing. While the rest of the game looks good in motion, the graphics aren’t as honed as they could be. They’re not necessarily ugly; they’re just not that amazing. The way planes crumbled under a direct hit is certainly well-done, and the ridiculous level of visible damage your planes will sustain is cool. The rest is hit or miss.
Multiplayer modes are limited, though the dogfights and team battles for up to 16 players are still quite fun. It’s satisfying taking down an enemy plane when you know there’s a human cursing you out from his burning cockpit on the other end. But this doesn’t negate the game’s underlying issues. Had it been released a bit sooner, it might be worth recommending for a quick fix of airborne mayhem. Heroes Over Europe arguably has some high points but fails to outshine the competition.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
There’s some nice stuff to look at. However, the graphics aren’t amazing. 4.0 Control
Responsive and easy to pick up, but the hardcore flight sim fans will find the realism levels to be lacking. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great dialogue adds a nice level of personality to the characters and the war at large. 3.3 Play Value
The 14 missions are reasonably lengthy and the online modes are fun, yet the core gameplay gets repetitive quickly. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.