A lone squadron of Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers roams the skies above the English channel, patrolling for Nazi destroyers and a battleship that have laid claim to these waters. Suddenly 10, 20, maybe 50 German fighter planes fill the sky, their jet engines easily outclassing the British biplanes that were considered outdated in 1939. But it's 1941, and you're outmanned, outgunned, and, well, you know the drill. But you and your wingmen have three things going for you: this is Heroes Over Europe, the upcoming arcade World War II flying game; a slow-motion bullet time mode; and rockets...unlimited rockets. The Germans don't stand a chance.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2008/234/944340_20080822_embed003.jpgWith slow-motion adrenaline mode, bogeys are easy prey. [Not actual gameplay.]
Let's also give credit where credit is due. The Swordfish were unsung heroes of WWII and crippled the mighty German battleship Bismarck in 1941, so repeating such a feat in Heroes Over Europe is not outside the realm of possibility. The sequel to 2005's Heroes of the Pacific, HOE puts you in the cockpit of authentic Allied fighter planes in a fight against the mighty German Luftwaffe. American, British, Canadian, and New Zealand aircraft comprise more than 40 total planes, including such classic hits as the Spitfire, Mustang, B-17 Flying Fortress, and the de Havilland Mosquito, a British fighter bomber made mostly of laminated plywood, affectionately known as the "timber terror."
Each aircraft is rated in top speed, agility, and weapon power, and after playing with both the Swordfish and Mosquito, the differences quickly become apparent. Dive-bombing in, say, a B-17 is a bad idea because it will take you much longer to pull out of your dive and you'll likely dive right into the English Channel. At least your controls are fairly simple. Moving left or right on the left stick controls your rudder, while moving up and down climbs and dives, respectively. The right stick controls rolls by moving left and right, while up and down will increase and decrease your speed. Fans of Heroes of the Pacific or, more recently, Blazing Angels, will feel right at home.
HOE focuses mostly on dogfighting, though bombing missions will be sprinkled in. At first, the game doesn't do much to separate itself from previous arcade sims. You simply maneuver behind enemy fighters and fire unlimited bullets in their path. Against bombers, you dive in from above so as to avoid their gunners. But Aussie developer Transmission Games added a nifty adrenaline meter to spice things up. As you have an enemy in your sights, a meter will slowly fill around your targeting reticle. You can then press a left shoulder button to slow down time and target individual sections of the aircraft. It's still difficult to pull off as the reticle is quite shaky, but taking out a wing or the fuselage makes for a one-hit kill, and then you're free to move on to your next target. Currently, weapons are limited to guns and bombs. Ironically, our Swordfish torpedo bomber was armed with unlimited rockets rather than actual torpedoes. Though fun to fire, we hope that actual torpedoes will be added. Fans of Battlestations: Midway will recall the thrill of dodging antiaircraft fire to successfully deliver our payload, and we hope torpedoes are added before the game's release.
HOE still has a ways to go in development, but the view from the sky was a treat. There was a noticeable amount of texture pop-in and some of the plane models were unfinished, but the landscapes and cities looked as if they were pulled from a 1940s version of Google Earth. One notable omission is cockpit view--try as we might, we could only select between two different follow cams. Let's hope that feature is added before release, because nothing puts you in the cockpit of a WWII plane like a, you know, cockpit view.
The single-player missions will begin with the German bombing of London and finish with the final bombing of Berlin. The game will also have you play as three different Allied pilots in an attempt to immerse you in the story. As for multiplayer, Atari is promising 16-player online action and four different modes, though we have yet to see it in action. When we do, you'll be the first to hear about it. You can fly the unfriendly skies for yourself when Heroes Over Europe is released in 2009.