IGN Review of Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII
Earlier this year, Ubisoft released Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII, a sequel to their arcade flight action title from last year. Players were placed in the cockpits of experimental and top secret aircraft as they fought the Nazi menace across the globe. While the war has been raging for a few months on the 360, Blazing Angels 2 has recently flown onto the PS3. Is it an ace, or will it completely crash and burn?
Instead of continuing the story that was established in the original game, Blazing Angels 2 approaches the conflict of The Greatest Generation with a completely new cast and group of enemies to defeat. Set in 1940, players are cast as Captain Robinson, the head of a secret team dispatched by the Americans to take on the Nazi threat and other dangerous flight situations. Known as Operation Wildcard and running outside the bounds of governmental law, the team was tasked with doing whatever was necessary to accomplish their missions. Of course, this meant taking to the skies and raining down serious destruction on Herr Hitler's minions and their secret weapons divisions.
Over the course of 18 missions, players will lead Operation Wildcard across the globe, fighting their way through bombing runs whose skies are peppered with anti-aircraft fire, jet-powered planes and Tesla coil-wielding opponents, amongst other threats. Obviously, both the realism of the game missions and weaponry take an alternate history view of the conflict, but this is done in an attempt to keep the action faster paced and more arcade-like for new pilots. Fortunately, you won't have to face up to the Fuhrer's forces by yourself. As you progress through each mission, you'll acquire three wingmen, each with their own skills that can help you out in battle. For instance, one pilot can taunt enemies, drawing their attention so you can pick them off or cleanly perform a bombing run without being attacked. Another pilot will run through an enemy formation and shoot down all of the enemies he can in a short amount of time, while the third will repair your plane in the middle of missions.
While having wingmen is a useful feature, especially when you're going into battle, in reality it doesn't work particularly well. For one thing, your wingmen will only take out enemies every now and then, forcing you to take on the lion's share of destruction. Another problem with these "helpers" is that your wingmen are never in danger of being shot down at any point during the game. Your plane could be turned into Swiss cheese in the middle of a firefight, but a wingman will be completely unscathed through an entire mission, even as they fly through the same adverse conditions that you do. Plus, their abilities are somewhat hit and miss as far as their effectiveness. While attacking and destroying some planes helps, taunt is only a useful tactic if you're trying to pick off the few planes that have been attacking you from behind. Anyone else that hasn't lined up in your sights or engaged you won't particularly care, and you'll go down in flames. Even worse, the repair feature can't be intentionally triggered; instead, you have to wait for specific moments during combat (usually revolving around checkpoints) to be repaired, and even then, most, if not all of your damage is healed. This makes surviving many battles way too easy.
The same can be said for the easy access to special weapons and upgrades, which can help unbalance some of the gameplay as well. Part of the game revolves around performing stunts and completing secondary objectives to gain what's known as Prestige Points, which can be used to upgrade your craft with gear like better targeting systems or bullet resistant plating. However, your enemies don't gain access to the same gear; in fact, while the planes you might go up against may differ from mission to mission, they are usually weaker than your craft. As a result, sometimes the only way that the game will try to even the odds is to throw impossibly large numbers of these enemies at you and try to wear you down or force flying mistakes. This might have been a bit trickier were the game to limit the number of weapon reloads that you have access too, forcing you to conserve your missiles and machine guns, but you come armed to the teeth with a ton of bombs, missiles and other weapons to accomplish your task. What's more, since that pickups for these arms are quite plentiful, you can waste most, if not all of your special items and get them replenished at a checkpoint or by destroying a target and gaining a weapon pickup.
What you will find as you take to the skies is that the various planes are surprisingly easy to control in most situations. Players can choose either an arcade or simulation style flight scheme, and can also choose to use the Sixaxis to maneuver their craft as well. Sixaxis flight doesn't necessarily take away or add too much to the gameplay, and many pilots will probably find it to be a "take it or leave it" kind of mechanic, but you can use it to maneuver through environments, target enemies and destroy objectives. The largest problem that you may find with some of the planes is that they don't necessarily feel as though they're particularly fast or agile in air. You can't make S turns or Immelmans, nor can you quickly perform barrel rolls or other evasive maneuvers that you'd expect from these crafts. As a result, making turns feels slower than you'd expect, and dodging or targeting some enemies is harder than it needs to be. In particular, one mission, which has you aiming from a rear canopy while a computerized co-pilot fires for you is much harder than it needs to be.
The single player game does provide 18 different missions that you'll take on, which you'll probably wind up flying through in quick fashion. Fortunately, if you're looking for a bit more of a challenge, you can hop into the multiplayer arena and take on other pilots via split screen, LAN play or over the PSN. There are three main game mode types within multi-player: Solo, Co-op and Squadron, each of which have additional secondary game modes, such as capture the flag, racing or kamikaze. The modes of multiplayer are pretty creative, much more so than the standard deathmatch that everyone is accustomed to, and the inclusion of being able to complete the single-player missions of the game with friends is a nice extra. However, the largest problem is that not many people are playing online as of right now; of the little more than 500 players on the PSN with the game, the majority of them will play a solo dogfight match before they'd hop into the other modes, so if you're looking to play something like Squadron Base Assault or Co-Op Bombing Run, you may be waiting for an extremely long time.
The visuals of Blazing Angels 2 are decent, although they aren't really pushing the system to the max by any stretch of the imagination. While you will notice that some of the planes appear to be quite detailed, with ailerons and other model features sharply and distinctly animated, some of the other aspects to the game aren't as impressive. There's some grainy filters on environmental textures and the render passes and pop-in that occurs as you drop in elevation does stand out. You'll also wonder what takes the game so long to load levels or other features of the game, and whether that's because of a technical issue or a simple port over issue to the PS3 isn't completely clear. What is rather nice, however, are some of the lens flares and explosions that you'll witness during bombing runs. The comic book presentation of cutscenes to help tell the story is a nice addition as well, and works rather well with the alternate storyline take of WWII.
Sound isn't particularly impressive. The soundtrack isn't particularly catchy or intriguing, and while there's a couple of sweeping tracks that attempts to capture a cinematic feel, the repetitious nature of the game hampers the strength of the music. The sound effects seem rather appropriate, although a couple of the explosions based on some weapons seem to be a bit too similar as opposed to weighting the size and scope of the detonated munitions. The strongest part is the voice acting, and while some of it can feel a bit forced and overdone, it's not too bad. The exception might be the German accents that seem to be strained for villainous effect.
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