Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of World War II
Aircraft simulations have a tough time trying to break the mould. You can have all the planes you want, massive guns and impressive upgrades, but in the end you’ll end up either bombing ground targets or flying around in circles engaging enemy planes. Sky Odyssey changed that on the PS2 six years ago by introducing stunts to perform and tasks to the complete, featuring the classic train fly-over and the intense difficulty of doing so. Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII has a clever mix of both concepts, nailing the cocky and confident attitude of pilots as well as the bastard handling on World War II aircraft.
We’re thrown into the action immediately as a retired war veteran in a stunt plane and after we’ve flown through a few markers, our plucky pilot has a flashback to 1940, where a pleasant summer day changes to a dark and overcast evening filled with Luftwaffe. As you fly around the cleverly camoflaged tutorial it becomes clear how hard these planes are to handle. Not helped by the bizarre decision to assign the right stick as the throttle and the steering, armchair pilots will soon find themselves cursing left right and centre as they struggle to make fine adjustments on the difficult covert operations spread over the next 18 missions. Whilst assignments do have their sweet spots, the control method means you’ll often have to settle completing the scenario the same as everyone else instead of in your own inventive manner.
After completing primary objectives you’ll often be given time to fly off and grab some prestige points, the currency used for buying upgrades to your vast collection of aircraft. The immediate target are the enemy, with planes littering the air and barracks, trucks and AA guns positioned on the ground, but there are also stunt markers dotted around devilishly tricky buildings and landscapes to fly through. Annoyingly, the checkpoint system only saves primary objectives, so if you’re a few seconds from the end of a mission with a stack of prestige points and you find yourself wedged between two buildings, it’s back to the start for you with the counter reset. Once or twice and you’ll move closer to the screen, determined not to make the same mistake, but when you’ve continuously wiped the floor with the Germans thanks to your tricky flying only to meet face to face with your maker courtesy of a cunningly-placed tree, frustration boils over.
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Mission of World War II is, obviously, based around skirmishes that had ridiculously small chances of success, so you can forgive the game for being incredibly hard and seemingly impossible in places. But in most cases you’re asked to do the most insane of things which, hampered by the right stick configuration, are extremely frustrating. Flying through glaciers to find a lost submarine is all fine and dandy, but then add in an enemy you need to stay in front of so your rear gunner can fire at him (but only within a certain range and height) and suddenly the controller just can’t handle it. In fact I’m not sure a flight stick specially made would help matters entirely. It would have been better if the aircraft themselves actually had handicaps (instead of the old slow rolling trick) rather than impairing players with an utterly silly control configuration.
Helped along wth a solid graphics package, Blazing Angel 2 looks right at home on the Xbox 360 with vast cities, lush valleys and barren landscapes created without any obvious repetition or slack designing. Flying low over towns reveals landmarks, parks, vehicles and the whole infrastructure you’d expect to see in a settlement, whilst in valleys the water trickles down from snow-capped mountain tops and tree’s line hillsides to hide enemy foundations. Planes are impressively recreated with all the familiar paintwork and smoke billows from the undercarriage when damaged. It would be been nice to see some damage, if a tad unrealistic, such as bodywork leaving the wings to leave just a mesh in places (and thus impairing handling) as well as the cockpit being smashed, to name but a few.
The sound is decent, if uninspiring, backed up by a decent score that tries to keep the action fast paced. Planes make a spluttering noise when losing speed and climbing too high and then a fast, holy-crap-I-can’t-keep-up wrench when haring down to earth. Weaponry is nothing out of the ordinary, with your classic high-pitched squeal as bombs are released to the rat-a-tat-tat of machines guns. The characters will chatter over their radios during the action, and whilst sometimes humourous the entire thing is scripted and so you’ll end up hearing entire conversations again and again as you start over and over, either thanks to the difficulty of the mission or the controls.
With no Ace Combat to speak of, Blazing Angels has the skies to itself and so is the only aircraft simulation available (unless you’ve a copy of Crimson Skies) on the 360. It does a good job to show the courage of World War II pilots and the situations they found themselves in, but lets itself down on some missions that are either far too tedious or difficult to be fun. Yes, flying a plane whilst looking backwards at low altitude isn’t something to be sniffed at, but this is supposed to be a videogame and not a documentary or training simulator.
There are various multiplayer options available to those who get tired or frustrated at the single player campaign, including a co-op function so your mates can watch your six (whatever that means) as you blast tangos. Mostly you’ll usually end up flying around in circles try to shake off foes from shooting your down or try and complete acrobatic feats, which is hilarious the first few times but eventually wears down to who can crash their plane in the most inventive way.
This is by no means a must-have title, but one that can take care of a boring weekend ahead and still have room to venture back through either for achievements or some risky, gun-toting action. Blazing Angels 2 takes us back to the times when ol’ Blighty was on it’s knees in order to save the world. Again.
Six out of ten
- Nice and smooth, easy-on-the-eyes graphics
- Impressive storyline
- Frustrating control configuration
- Some rock hard, seemingly impossible missions
- Poor checkpoint system
- Gameplay can become tedious with frequent restarts