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Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII Review

Developer: Ubisoft Romania Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 23, 2006 Also On: PC, Xbox and Xbox 360

The whole “poser” thing has always evaded me. For those of you who are unfamiliar with such a thing, a poser is someone who pretends to be something they’re not for superficial social gain. How does this relate to Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII? Here’s why: it tries to be a high-thrills flight game that puts you into the most intense dogfights of World War II, but it’s actually just a ho-hum game that offers very little to a genre that already has classics like Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, and the Ace Combat series. Just like that fully-dressed skater boy that can’t roll down a hill without skinning his knee, Blazing Angels tries but crashes and burns.

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Blazing Angels loses its focus in several ways. First of all, it throws you, an unnamed “Angel,” into all of World War II’s most perlious battles. You’ll defend London one day, scout North Africa the next, only to end up getting surprised by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor the next. Sure, for the sake of a game, this is pretty nice–it takes you to some beautiful and varied locations–but in terms of a story, which Blazing Angels tries pretty hard to include, it ends up being as butchered as Bessie the cow at White’s Meat Market. I didn’t find the characters to be annoying or anything like that, I just couldn’t escape the strange feeling of this in-game squad being everywhere to save the day.

Aside from the story, I wonder what in the world Ubisoft Romania was thinking when they crafted this game’s engine. As early as the training mission, you’re asked to get used to what has to be the bane of this entire game: A camera system that focuses on your current target, which spins the camera angle in all sorts of directions and forces you to awkwardly adjust your flight path in order to shoot at your target. Although you don’t have to use this system, it’s recommended, and to complete some of the timed mission objectives, you almost have to learn it. The controls as a whole just aren’t fast or tight enough to offer the thrill that other games offer; and although the game itself is fast-paced, the controls don’t reflect this.

If Ubisoft wanted a realistic shooter, why’d they give you unlimited missles, unlimited fuel, and even more strangely, invulnerable squadmates? Your three squadmates, all of whom can execute some sort of special ability, simply can’t die. One of them has an ability that draws attention to his plane and away from yours, but even when six or seven bogeys are hot on his tail, he’ll manage to survive, thus giving way to the easy pleasure of your shooting them down. Just as strange, one of your squadmates will analyze your ship’s damage and give you a four-button cue that allows you to “heal” your ship. You have the ability to use this power several times throughout the mission, which allows you to take copious amounts of damage with little to no circumstances. I also found it funny when I’d hear the same analysis two or three times throughout a mission. I mean, there’s only so many times you can switch fuel lines before your plane explodes.

Visually, Blazing Angels is above average. I’ll give it props for its realistic sense of speed, beautiful lighting effects, and impressive landscapes. However, I’ll never get over the constant banter from enemy ships. I can’t even count the times I heard the same broken, cheaply accented line out of German planes, or even more annoying, the Japanese ones.

Blazing Angels doesn’t quite make its landing onto the aircraft carrier of excellent flight games. Instead, it comes in far too low, smacking the side of the carrier and diving into the salty depths of the ocean. If you’re looking into a flight game, check out some of the older classics like Crimson Skies or Ace Combat. This game just doesn’t have the meat of those titles.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5.7
Written by Cliff Review Guide