IGN Review of Freedom Wings
Freedom Wings hit store shelves as quietly as a stealth fighter earlier this month. With good reason, too: the game, while offering enormous promise as a dogfighting action game, simply stops at the promise and delivers something totally opposite of what's expected. Freedom Wings' production feels entirely half-baked, burned to a cartridge before the concept could gel together in a final product, and though the game is certainly playable it's just one of those games that needed a lot more direction and time in the development cooker before it slipped through the door.
A package with a title like Freedom Wings and printed screenshots like the ones on the back are a tease to potential: full-fledged dogfights on the Nintendo DS system. But once you boot it up you'll find something completely unexpected: Freedom Wings is, by and large, a "flight RPG" if there ever is such a thing. Everything, by default, is automatic: take-offs, landings, and dogfighting is all handled by simply tapping on the screen and telling your plane to go do its thing. Every moment or so an enemy will sprout up on the overhead map on the touchscreen, and tapping on that enemy will have your plane "lock" onto that enemy and go after it. In this automatic mode, everything's done in a routine, and the routine is based on the attributes on the two fighters locked in combat. The missions are simply "fly here and survive along the way," and never stray from that formula. While you go from place to place, any enemy you take out along the way will award cash and experience points, which can be transferred into higher attributes for your plane
and, ultimately a stronger, smarter craft.
Though there's a slight air of strategy in Freedom Wings, it's ultimately a broken design because the developers don't anticipate one style of play: the "switch from auto to manual and back again" technique. See, at any time you can turn off the auto control function and take command of your own craft. But when it gets kicked into manual control, the plane moves around with almost no real-world restrictions. It can turn as well as nose up and down so unnaturally fast that it's near impossible to get it to point in a specific direction without all sorts of counter correcting. This makes dogfighting an incredible pain in the rear since the touchy digital control makes it near impossible to keep up with the moving targets. So you honestly wouldn't play this way normally.
But here's the kicker: when you encounter an enemy, you can let your plane into its AI routine, and if the enemy plane doesn't go down in direct head-to-head orientation, simply kick on manual control and whip around. The computer AI of enemy craft is still on its automatic routine, but you have way more maneuverability in manual mode so you can simply pull a 180, get behind the enemy, and then kick on the automatic control and let the craft take out the enemy using its way more precise routines. This pretty much kills the challenge that single player poses because the player gets a huge unfair upperhand over high level enemies.
The games unfinished state is enhanced by a clunky game interface and dialogue and menu text seems like it's temporary placeholder. You can't crash the plane into the ground, either, which gives the game the feeling that the game was left on in debug mode before it left the publishing house. It's a shame that the flight engine is so bad, because Freedom Wings has four player multiplayer that only requires a single cartridge for everyone to duke it out in the skies. It just isn't any fun because there's no precision in human control, and no life in the default automatic mode.
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