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Blazing Angels Review 138

Fun is the end goal of constructing a game. The hype, graphics, and back of the box features mean nothing if the game doesn't deliver the fun. Ubisoft has chosen to unburden itself of many of the clunky parts of the action genre by focusing on a formula that works. Blazing Angels is a WWII airplane shooter with minimal interface elements, a satisfying physical experience, and an ignorable plot. It's not a game for the ages, but Angels manages to deliver an uncomplicated and entertaining experience. Read on for my impressions of very grounded flying game.
  • Title: Blazing Angels
  • Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft
  • System:360 (Xbox)
As a Yank in Britland, you're going to get razzed a lot in Blazing Angels. You're one of a few Americans attached to the RAF, and the war of the Greatest Generation is on in full force. Along with a bumpkin of a mechanic and a pair of taciturn flyboys, you'll be taking on the largest aerial battles in the war. Starting with the clash at Dunkirk, you pilot craft around the world on the side of the Allies. Aside from the scenery whipping beneath your plane and the 'flavour' of the missions you're given, there's not much more to the plot of the game. Angels takes you through a Cliff's Notes version of the war, which I actually appreciate. I'm more than a little tired of WW2 games trying to teach me about that period in history, so it was nice to set the brain on autopilot during the dramatic cutscenes (all of which are skippable).

Autopilot won't help in the combat arenas, which move at a brisk clip. Each battle is broken down into a series of objectives. Your wingmen keep you appraised of the situation with audio cues and a great 'objective lock' feature. By holding down a button, your camera turns to focus on whatever you should be attacking. It makes three dimensional dogfighting a manageable (and enjoyable) experience. The focus of the controls seems to be entirely about putting you in the moment as much as possible. There are almost no HUD elements to clutter your view. Weapons have unlimited ammo, and a simple on-screen indicator tells you when you've got a good aim on a target. The controller's vibrate function, which in many games I find annoying, emphasizes the danger of the moment as your vintage craft shudders to greater speeds. While the sometimes necessary confusion of aerial combat can make for disorienting moments, the control scheme is intuitive and useful.

The missions themselves, unfortunately, don't live up to the moment-to-moment action. Once you're diving and wheeling against a pilot in the Luftwaffe, you're going to tend to forget the reason you're there. The distinct mission segments are utterly forgettable. They mostly consist of 'take out that unit' or 'keep that vehicle/building intact'. Mediocre setting elements could have been saved by good voice acting, but that's sadly not the case here either. Almost universally the voice actors go full out for 'recognizable stereotype', and sometimes don't even manage to get where they're aiming for. Probably most annoying are the extremely chatty enemies. As you shoot down opponents you'll be constantly bombarded with insulting commentary and annoyed exclamations. You'd think that the opposing forces would be running on different radio frequencies.

Visually, Blazing Angels is a competent success. The 360's power is put to use creating a seamless and smooth combat experience and expansive observable vistas. The game's art direction has something of a softness to it, giving the appearance of flying through an old-timey photograph. The specificity of the art direction coupled with the title's speed results in a fighting experience that feels something like an homage to another Xbox title.

That title is Crimson Skies. One of the original offerings for the first Xbox, the alternate history flying shooter is a solid and enjoyable gaming experience even three years later. In comparison, Angels comes up short, but certainly not for lack of trying. Blazing Angels is ultimately an uncomplicated flying experience that aims for style over substance. It succeeds at simplicity where Full Auto failed. It does what it does very well, without technical hiccups, and backs that technical prowess with simple and fun gameplay. The brevity of the experience and the corny voice acting keep the game from being a long-haul title, but this one is definitely worth a rental. Rent it, play online, grab your achievements, and then move on to weightier games. With some of the hotly anticipated titles slated for later this year likely to run to epic lengths, this dime-store war story will feel like a nice change of pace.
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Blazing Angels Review

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  • simliar (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chimera512 ( 910750 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:29PM (#15239606) Homepage
    experience for PC? I've been looking casually for a simple flight sim ever since Red Baron II disappointed me, granted I haven't been looking too hard. Does anyone know of a solid flight sim that doesn't require 12 hours to learn how to fly the F/A18 on ala Jane's?
  • by gorbachev ( 512743 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:34PM (#15239647) Homepage
    No technical hiccups? That's not what several other reviews claim. There're graphics glitches like "tearing" appearing in when doing a high speed turn and there're some mission glitches that prevent some missions from getting completed depending on how you approach the mission.

    The missions are repetitive and ultimately boring. And the voice acting is VERY annoying.

    The title had so much promise.
  • by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:08PM (#15239970) Homepage
    I'm not a big fan of realistic flight combat games.

    A video game is never going to have the stakes (your life) that real combat has, nor the months of flight training. So it makes sense to distill a game into the "interesting bits"

    Interestingly Gamers Quarter [] #2 had a review of Steel Battalion that seems to indicate it's taking this approach; about as "hard sci fi" as you can get, with that giant dashboard accesory, and then heightening it by having "real character death"... you can't restore if you get killed (and don't yank the memory...)
  • by GameEngineer ( 961102 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:18PM (#15240045)
    "There're graphics glitches like "tearing""

    360 developers are making games that the system can't handle - thus the bad framerates and tearing and all the other graphic problems people are seeing.

    It seems that 360 developers are not writing to the actual hardware but to what they envision the 360 hardware should be. Hopefully 360 developers will face the reality of the underpowered 360 hardware and start toning down their engines. Lower resolution or less detail or both. Console gamers will not put up with the mess 360 game graphics have turned out to be.

    If the 360 can only handle 480p games then that is what developers should target for the system.

  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Monday May 01, 2006 @05:48PM (#15240793) Homepage
    I've been very disappointed in the lack of good simulators the last few years. There are a few fixed-wing PC sims that are good, but nothing like the heyday of the late 90s where it seemed every month had a new realistic fighter/bomber/helicopter sim.

    I would happily pay $150+ to be able to play Longbow II in a high-res 3D environment with current graphical features -- it was engrossing enough in the primitive Voodoo-optimized version, and the game mechanics/AI would barely need to be tweaked at all. Sure it's exciting to fly an F15 at Mach 3 with your pants on fire, but for my money nothing was as fun as 30 feet off the ground at 300 mph, popping up over a hill to engage 12 hard targets in 2 seconds while jinking to avoid small arms fire. Or the thrill of flying a fast, vulnerable Kiowa scout, hovering just behind the trees painting targets for the Apaches and then getting the hell out of dodge before the Iranian air force realizes you're in the neighborhood.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe