a huge World War II aviation buff, I was very excited to hear about the
development of Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII for the Xbox
360. The more I heard, the more I salivated. Not only would you be able
to fly some of
the most interesting planes in the war -- like the Messerschmidt 262 jet
fighter and the North American P-51D Mustang -- you'd also be able to see
from the cockpit as you flew the game's various missions. As an added bonus,
you'd be able to take to the air on Xbox Live and battle with gamers from
all over the world. The multiplayer air-to-air combat that I loved so much
in Crimson Skies would
now feature my favorite airplanes. How could that miss?
unfortunately, reality has visited me in the form of the finished product.
Blazing Angels' developers had some lofty ideas but, when the
time came to get it out the door, Ubisoft apparently had to get rid of
a few things
a few others.
to go was the in-cockpit view. The game now features a third-person view
situated behind the tail of whatever plane you choose to fly. A unique
camera enables you to track your targets while you're flying so you can
maneuver to a better angle of attack. OK, I'll accept the trade-off.
there's the storyline, or what the game's campaign mode tries to pass
off as one. Blazing
Angels follows a group of Yank volunteer pilots from Dunkirk in
1940 to their
of Berlin in 1945, and makes a few pitstops in the Pacific theater for
some action at Pearl Harbor, Midway and Guadalcanal. Through 18 missions,
a nice selection
of weapons keeps things interesting as you'll not only dogfight
other planes, but you'll use rockets and bombs to take out bunkers, destroy
enemy ships and tear apart tanks and gun emplacements too. One level's
attempt at putting you in the ball turret of a B-17 bomber is the only
real clunker in
member of the squadron possesses a "special ability" that you
may use to your advantage during a myriad
of air combat scenarios. By
using the d-pad, you can select which one you need at a particular
time. Frank is a bit of a hothead and his "special
ability" is attacking enemy planes that may be giving you a bit
of trouble. Tom's "ability" is a knack for taunting enemy
pilots and getting them to leave you alone for a bit. Joe is your health
on him causes a combination of buttons to appear at the top of the screen.
Following them in order will repair your plane. Which
brings us to our next problem: there's no limit on the times you can
use Joe (or Frank or Tom, for that matter, but the usefulness of their
abilities is questionable anyway.)
short, the game's single player mode is incredibly easy -- save for
a few frustrating "navigate through a narrow corridor" levels
that require trial and error until you've replayed them enough times
know when and where to turn. The fact that each level contains checkpoints that
don't require you to start from the beginning everytime you die is appreciated,
but I was able to get through 15 of the 18 missions on the first try.
multiplayer mode is much more interesting and challenging but it's no
better than the one found in Crimson
is available for $19.99 these days.
are some positives to Blazing Angels. Even though it
is too easy, it still manages to be fun. Blasting enemy planes out of
the sky is always
a thrill and there's nothing terribly wrong with the game's control scheme.
Although the voice-acting is horrible and some of the enemy voices are
so politically incorrect that they border on offensive,
there's enough going on to keep your attention focused on the
rather than the lack of variety in the radio chatter. The graphics, while
far from the best the Xbox 360 can muster, do a decent enough job displaying
the planes at a nice level of detail.
hoped Blazing Angels would beat Crimson
Skies out as my favorite
air combat game, but it doesn't come close in either the single or multiplayer
The game was obviously rushed -- the numerous spelling mistakes are
another clue to that -- so it's just a shame that the developers didn't
take just a bit more time to give us what was initially promised. Why
pay $60.00 for an air combat game that features a mediocre single-player
the table? (Strangely, the Xbox version of the game, which is not terribly
different graphics-wise, is only $39.99.) A rental, if anything, Blazing
just plain disappointing.