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Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Platform(s): Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft

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Xbox Preview - 'Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII'

by Geson Hatchett on March 11, 2006 @ 4:24 a.m. PST

In Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII, a title exclusive to the Xbox, players test their air-combat skills as they experience the most famous battles of World War II, from Western Europe to the Pacific. As a squadron leader, the player can fly up to 40 WWII aircraft in both single-player and multiplayer missions.

Genre: Flight Sim / Shooter
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 23, 2006

Snoopy’s done it. You’ve done it. I’ve done it.

We all have, at one time or another, pretended to be a daring pilot in the World War II conflicts, or some facsimile thereof. We’d make crazy little airplane and machine gun noises, and hoped no one heard us too loudly.

Well, make-believe no more, air-heads. Ubisoft’s giving us Blazing Angels: Squadrons of World War II, and it’s something that would make Snoopy proud. In this game, you’re the central star of your own squadron. This squadron starts out as rookies, but as the story rolls on, you and your wingmen’s skills improve through battle.
These battles consist of ones that have taken place in World War II, with some liberties taken for theatrics. You’ll also get to fly up to 38 planes, modeled after the real-life types used in the day; the P-51 Mustang and the British Spitfire, for example. Squads can also consist of pilots of different nationalities in battle, which sometimes makes for interesting pre- and post-battle conversations.

The whole thing is pretty much Medal of Honor in the sky, which gives you a sense of being part of something much bigger than yourself. At the same time, you’re definitely the one making most of the difference. You’ll see your partners sometimes act on their own, and maybe take down a few folks by themselves. On top of this, you can issue commands to certain wingmen, or your entire squadron at once—such commands include ones that call for protection, for assistance on a target, or for indiscriminate carnage on every enemy in the vicinity. Still, even through all of this, it’s clear that you are the hero.

Dogfights aren’t the only aspect of the game, however. There are also bombing sequences, which can be tough to get the hang of at first. In these you have a gunner already in your plane shooting at air targets, but you still have to protect him. At the same time, you’ll have to let bombs go so that they’ll hit ground targets, such as battleships.

One of the more novel approaches to the game’s play mechanics is the enemy tracking system. By using the left trigger, the view will shift from in front of you to towards wherever the most enemies are, and zoom out a bit as well. Your controls will remain as if your view will never shifted at all, and as a real cinematic feeling can be had when you swivel your plane around to meet the oncoming enemy horde. Not only does this all look really cool, but it makes sure that the controls are as intuitive as possible. This is an arcade shooter at heart that’s easy to pick up, and tough to master. As this is World War II, there really isn’t any technology to make sure that shots are perfect, and that rockets lock on properly. You’ll have to pick your spots with explosives, and lead your shots with your own skill.

The game pumps a heck of a lot of atmosphere out of the Xbox. In a smart move, the best visual effects have to do with the sky itself. The varying types, densities and hues of the clouds are a beautiful sight, and the smoke effects that take place when the fiery debris of planes crash into the landscape are incredible. Visibility will be impaired depending on how thick the smoke is. The whole thing takes place over expansive models of cities residing in countries such as France, Germany, and England, and both the cities and the planes are given almost as much detail as the skies.

The game also keeps your ears busy at all times, blasting you with the sounds of gunfire, rockets, bombs, your squadrons, and the explosions. Oh, there are so many explosions. The Doppler sound effects that take place when planes whiz by one another are also another significant thing to take note of. Background music consists of patriotic, epic tunes that are often drowned out b the sounds of battle, but are still nice to have.

For those looking to take the action outside of their home (somewhat), the game will feature up to 16 players on Xbox Live. You can either duke it out amongst yourselves in dogfights, or form squadrons for cooperative and tactical play.

If you’ve been looking for a way to do some dogfighting, but you never could get into technical flight simulators, yet still wanted something above the simplicity of Crimson Skies, then Blazing Angels has got your number. Look for it at the end of this month, and carve your own legacy as a World War II Flying Ace.


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