Review by Drunky

"Not quite epic, but still entertaining for awhile."

Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a rather fun air combat game. It has a few minor drawbacks, most of which leave it far behind other next-gen titles.

You'll be playing as a rookie Yank sent to aid the British soldiers during the enemy offensive. Over time you'll work your way up the ranks and eventually be given more important missions and tasks to complete to help achieve a victory over the Axis powers. Even though the mission objectives will change, the tactics you'll need to use generally remain unchanged.

As you start out you'll be hooked up with 3 fellow teammates who will aid you in your tasks. Together you'll form the Blazing Angels, a name which you will definitely have to earn. Unlike other games which give you control of your own team, Blazing Angels will actually put these guys to use. Tom will be your well rounded flyboy, he can lure enemy fighters off of you and provide cover or just go all out on the enemies. Frank is the suicidal lunatic who can knock anything out of the sky, and then you have Joe, who is a mechanic turned war pilot. Using his knowledge of planes he'll be able to repair you as you fight. Your ability to patch yourself up will be utterly dependent on Joe. Just like in a real battle it'll be in your best interest to always watch out for your team and keep them alive. To do this you'll be able to give them a few basic commands, you can send Frank out on a rampage, send Tom to taunt the enemies and get them off your tail, or have Joe walk you through the repair process. You'll also be able to go into defensive and offensive mode, which you will need to use frequently to get your objectives done in time. The commands are simplified, and you wont be able to send them direct objectives like which enemies to target.

Now of course you wont be able to rely on your team completely, as they will be there for support and not to do the objectives for you. The objectives are not that varied, as they will usually start with you flying somewhere and blowing, sinking, sabotaging or photographing something. There are a few obstacle course missions which will just rely on your ability to maneuver your plane. The missions will take place in (or rather, over) major World War II battlefields and locations, from Normandy to Pearl Harbor. The gameplay is entertaining for awhile, but then you begin to feel the repetitiveness sink in.

You'll be able to use a variety of fighter and bomber planes throughout the game, which are unlocked as you progress through your campaign, but the minor changes in handling, speed, firepower and life don't add anything noticeable to the actual gameplay. In the end its just the same objectives with the same results.

The graphics are not impressive in the least. The planes have no in-depth detail, you can make out their models, but aside from that there are nothing discernible. Bland model textures covered with an even blander paint job. The environment is even worse, when you're high up in the air just cruising along, the trees, the cities and the rivers look incredible. When hug the ground to shake the enemies off your tail, you'll notice the 2D paper tree models and vague gray blocks of buildings that look straight out of a poorly developed PSX game. From a close up perspective the buildings look horrible, but when you consider its an air combat game you'll probably think its unimportant, but you'll spend more time skimming the trees than you think, and it does begin to take away from the realism. Later in the game when you move away from the cities into the glaciers up north, the environment will be greatly improved and the icebergs and fjords look breathtaking.

Too bad the explosions don't look anywhere near as good. Unlike today's generation of games, where explosions will leave a charred metal skeleton or at least some debris behind, Blazing Angels just leaves an orange cloud with a few indiscernible pieces flying off. Nothing really spectacular about it.

The sound is amazing, you can hear all the rumbling sounds of your plane, the rat-tat-tat of the machine guns and the whizzing of the rockets. You can even hear the incoming roar of the enemy fighters as they try to sneak up behind you. The best part about the game is the chatter you'll hear from your fellow Angels and the other ally pilots. They'll of course give helpful hints and tips along with updating your mission plans, but then they have the pointless chatter, which is just entertaining to listen to. Their banter really helps you get to know the otherwise ignored characters and gives the same sense of unity that other war games try to convey. Now a major problem with the games sound is the enemy chatter. The heavily accented and sometimes idiotic or deranged lines they spout may border on racism but are definitely stereotypical.

The replay ability is limited, the campaign is rather short, a few hours at most, and extremely easy. There are other modes of gameplay, arcade and multiplayer. The arcade mode you just go into 1 on 1 dogfights to earn the rank of ‘Ace'. Multiplayer allows you go into (up to) 16 player dogfights or do co-op.

Gameplay: 7/10
Short campaign, repetitive mission objectives.
Graphics: 5/10
Horrible environments, buildings, trees and planes.
Sound: 6/10
Great voice acting and special effects, horrible enemy voice acting.
Replay: 6/10
Short, no reason to replay campaigns, great multiplayer.
Overall: 6/10

I'd recommend you rent it first if you're interested in the air combat genre, seeing as the current selection on the Xbox 360 is limited. You should be able to get the full enjoyment out of the campaign and multiplayer during the rental period. Getting those hard to get achievements may require a little bit more time though.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 05/17/06

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