David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-03-01 20:59:03
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of World War II - Rank C
Developer: Ubisoft Romania
Also available for PlayStation 3 and PC
Blazing Angels 2 is a World War II pulp adventure air combat game. I love this niche genre; imagine if Indiana Jones was an ace fighter pilot instead of an archaeologist. Taking to the skies to gun down Nazi quasi-future tech makes for a crazy cool vibe. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't match up.
The game looks fine in screenshots. It's not lavished with super-high textures or next-gen lighting effects, but the design has good flavor and the tech is passable. It's the frame rate that hurts the visual experience. It isn't particularly high to begin with, and is extremely distracting when it starts to chug a bit. Screen tearing is mildly noticeable from time to time as well. This isn't a deal breaker for most games, but it's particularly damaging to the sensation of movement and control in racers and flying games.
The action itself is marred by soft and floaty controls. You never quite feel like you're in precise control of your fighter planes. Compounding this is an awkward lock on system. When you keep it active, the screen itself fixates on your target, as you slowly and gracelessly turn your plane toward it. This serves to make you feel like you're controlling a remote control plane, as opposed to actually piloting a fighter.
Blazing Angels 2 just feels slow and plodding, from the boring intro (where you roam around flying through markers) to the lethargic dogfighting that constitutes the bulk of the game. The worst offender might be the checkpoint system. The game isn't particularly difficult, but you'll occasionally misjudge a dive during a strafing run and crash, or you might gamble hard on a particular attack vector and get shot down by underestimating the concentration of enemy fire. This is horribly aggravating when it happens right before a checkpoint and you lose a huge chunk of progress.
I've been purely critical so far, but you'll notice that I didn't give Blazing Angels 2 a terrible grade. If you've been yearning for something in the vein of Secret Weapons Over Normandy or Crimson Skies, this game will give you a quick and dirty fix. The narrative is fairly bland, and it's difficult to get meaningfully invested in any of the characters (your wingmen are simultaneously invincible and disposable), but Blazing Angels 2 does occasionally provide cool moments, like a boss battle against a massive zeppelin aircraft carrier above the Egyptian pyramids. The reward system of upgrading your planes with points earned from mission objectives is also fairly satisfying. Multiplayer includes co-op and larger scale dogfighting, but I can't comment on them, as I couldn't find a room to join in on.
If you're trying to decide between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, grab the 360 one. The framerate of the 360 version is more stable than that of the PS3, or rather, it's less unstable.