IGN Review of Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII
Players eager to partake in frantic World War II dogfights were largely disappointed by the original Blazing Angels. The mission objectives were lackluster, the artificial intelligence companions were too powerful, and the core of the game, air combat, was simply dull. Has Ubisoft rectified its past mistakes of tedium with Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII? Yes, but some minor issues still exist.
Blazing Angels 2's mission variety is quite varied, providing several different objectives in every level. One level has the player and one of his squad mates flying over arctic terrain, testing out a defensive weapon that temporarily blinds enemy planes. The catch: Players must position enemies behind their aircraft for the weapon to work properly. Of course, a short time after the weapon is successfully tested, enemy planes appear with the intent to destroy a friendly submarine that has been stranded somewhere far below. Yes, somewhere; players must fly close enough to the water to properly receive the dying sub's transmissions, with a radar beeping as the player nears their location.
After the submarine has been found, the player must keep enemy crafts away from its location until an escort arrives. Unfortunately, the player's plane is barren of all weapons except for the defensive flash-like equipment. To defeat the planes, the player must lure them behind his own craft, blind them, and cause them to fly into an iceberg.
In another mission that emphasizes stealth, the player is flying a German craft among other German planes, thereby blending in perfectly with his hostile surroundings. Since peace was never meant to last, the player is quickly charged with shooting down all patrolling planes within the area--without raising alarm. A red eye will appear in the lower left corner of the screen to alert players if they're being watched; otherwise, shoot to kill, but make sure no enemies are able to walk--er, fly--away to tell their tale.
In expected and enjoyable arcade flight shooter fashion, Blazing Angels 2 features a couple of boss battles that are enjoyable, if somewhat easy. One mission pits players against a massive German zeppelin after the player has finished an intense dogfight with dozens of enemy planes. Like any good videogame boss, the zeppelin has specific weak spots that must be destroyed before the main structure itself becomes open to attack. Again, this and most of the other boss battles will be simple for most players of adequate or greater skill, but their greater purpose is to mix up the gameplay, and in that regard, they succeed.
Blazing Angels 2's core focus, shooting planes, is handled adequately by way of the keyboard and mouse combination, though a joystick gamepad with dual analog sticks is recommended. Moving the mouse up or down causes the plane to climb or dip, respectively--a difficult change to get used to, as flight controls are typically inverted--while moving it from side to side moves the plane in that direction. Navigation with the mouse is difficult due to not being able to slide the mouse in a direction and hold it there to keep the aircraft moving in that direction until the mouse has been righted. Instead, players have to slide the mouse in their desired direction, then lift it up, set it back, and then slide it again, over and over.
Better control is achieved by using the keyboard without the mouse, but again, a gamepad or joystick is recommended, which shouldn't surprise any PC gamer who has ever played a flight game, whether arcade or simulation.
Though each level's diversity is a blast to experience, Blazing Angels 2's checkpoint system quickly causes tedium and aggravation to set in. Bluntly, many checkpoints are simply spaced too far apart, or are not available in instances where they should be. The player's progress is usually saved after the completion of a Primary Objective, but not after a Secondary. Since completing Secondary Objectives rewards players with Prestige Points, which are used to purchase aircraft upgrades, wouldn't it be logical to have the game enact a checkpoint after the completion of any and all objectives?
Many levels start out with the player being positioned far away from the first objective, which makes repeatedly hearing the same dialogue and having to accelerate toward the objective for two or three real-time minutes a bore. Even worse are instances where players are assigned to do a certain thing--survive for X minutes; shoot down X enemy planes in Y minutes--for a certain amount of time. There were numerous occasions when I was less than 30 seconds away from finally finishing off a large swarm of enemies, only to accidentally crash into a building, or another aircraft, or get gunned down, which resulted in having to try, try again.
Whether dog fighting, stealing enemy aircraft and manning its turrets, or dropping a spy on top of a moving train, Blazing Angels 2's mission maps surpass the high graphical quality set by the original, though only gamers' PCs are able to crank most of the visual options to their highest settings. The aforementioned level where players must rescue personnel onboard a ruined submarine takes place in an arctic zone with massive icebergs floating across a large body of water, while a different mission takes place in Cairo, which features palm trees, pyramids, and lots of bad guys. Minute details such as soldiers scrambling around an attacked base add to the game's immersion, though players will usually be too busy blasting baddies out of the sky to notice.
Blazing Angels 2 doesn't look bad at lower settings, it just isn't that impressive. Textures are bland and smeary, and lower refresh rates result in prolific image tearing. The game never becomes unplayable, but prospective buyers should plan to run Angels 2 on a rig with at least 2BG of RAM, a 2GHz processor, and at least a 128MB video card, though a 256MB card is recommended.
The planes themselves look great and can be aesthetically and mechanically customized to better suit the player's needs. Visually, not too many options are available--three layers of colors, plus symbols for the wings, tail, and body--but they're enough to sate most artistic desires. More important are the mechanical aspects of the crafts, and in this regard, Blazing Angels 2 does not disappoint. As mentioned, players use Prestige Points to purchase upgrades such as increased projectile speed, higher chance for critical strikes, two different types of armor plating--each of which decreases every plane's maneuverability; a third type is available that will cancel out the negative impact on maneuverability, but it's quite pricey--and there's even an upgrade available that increases the amount of Prestige players can earn from every mission.
Though upgrades do exist to advance the effectiveness of the A.I. squad members, such upgrades are almost useless. Just as in the first game, the wingmen are invulnerable, which means there's no risk involved in ordering them to attack over and over again. This also decreases the player's emotional ties to his teammates, as there's really no reason to worry about their safety during any given mission. Along the same line, there aren't many story elements that focus on the camaraderie that apparently exists between the player and his three colleagues. With invincible teammates and a lack of any real emotional ties between them, the wingmen become nothing more than A.I. bots useful for killing enemies.
Gamers can rectify the lack of emotion they don't have for their teammates by jumping online and playing through the campaign with other players via LAN or online servers. Several different modes available for solo, squad-based, and cooperative play. Standard Deathmatch can be experienced through the Dogfight option--there's also a team-based option--but the real fun is found within Angels 2's specialized modes. Seek and Destroy revolves around the goal of killing every other player at least once. Once one player has killed all others, that player receives one point.
Aces High is a dangerous game of tag, where the first player to kill another becomes "it," known as the Ace. Only by killing the Ace can players increase their score. My personal favorite multiplayer mode was Kamikaze, which pits players against waves of kamikaze fighters seeking to destroy a base. Players must shoot down the flyers as quickly as possible to prevent the base from being destroyed.
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