Take the spirit of Crimson Skies and a bend toward historical accuracy, and you'd end up with something close to Combat Wings, the upcoming arcade flight combat game from City Interactive. The game features around 60 aircraft duking it out in the skies over 13 missions spread across four theaters of World War II, letting you fight as the ace in almost any side that took part in the war. As an arcade game, the flight model isn't a very big stickler for realism, instead letting you quickly take to the skies and get into a good old-fashioned dogfight.
One of the bigger features that the game brings is the Ace mode, which expends a refillable bar and lets you perform feats in combat much more effectively. In Ace mode, the game takes over the flight to some extent, piloting your plane in a rough manner so you can manually make fine adjustments and more easily shoot down an enemy aircraft. Ace mode also zooms your vision and slows down the gameplay so that it's a little easier to line up shots, and any enemy killed in this mode rewards you with a cut scene showing his plane bursting into flames and breaking into pieces. Additionally, it is impossible to crash into the terrain in Ace mode, so as you line up those shots, you don't need to worry about smashing into a rocky outcropping.
The combat seems primarily based around air-to-air fighting, with enemy targets showing up on your screen and a reticle shows where you need to lead your shots. As you do so and try to avoid return fire, there is a lot of radio chatter from both friendly and enemy units. Though it's not exactly realistic, the developers found that it's more entertaining to listen to a larger helping of chatter rather than the reality that is mostly silence punctuated by gunfire.
The game covers a lot of ground, with the four theaters of WWII, including Africa, Britain, the Pacific and Russia. Due to the myriad factions that fought in those theaters, there are quite a few nations represented with their aircraft. Aircraft produced by the U.S., Germany and England are expected, but there are also offerings from Dutch, French and Italian manufacturers. During some missions, you can choose which aircraft you wish to pilot, and the selection list isn't exactly a small one.
Other features, such as the ability to customize your craft with decals, were still largely under development, and some features, such as a cockpit view, have not been implemented. The game will support the PlayStation Move, though the same can't be said for the Kinect. The weapon loadouts of planes is static, so proper plane selection is extremely critical.
Combat Wings does a good job of re-creating the intensity and speed of a World War II dogfight, only without all of the gameplay baggage that can come with it. While the title obviously cares about its history and how it presents it, that doesn't mean that the fun needs to take a backseat. With the game releasing this September, armchair and gamepad flight combat enthusiasts can look forward to taking to the skies for some of the biggest battles of the war.
Greg Hale also contributed to this preview.
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