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ups: up to 16 players, Pretty cityscapes
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Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII Review
game: Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
four star
posted by: Matt James
publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Ubisoft Romania
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 12:21 PM Sun May 7th, 2006
last revision: 12:00 AM Mon May 8th, 2006

Click to read.Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is like a pendulum, constantly swinging from greatness to mediocrity. At one moment you\'ll find Blazing Angels dizzying and the next you\'ll wonder why they would release the game in such a miserable state.

Even more interesting is how I found my expectations and exasperation about Blazing Angles, for good and bad, before I even sat down to play.

I really wanted Blazing Angels to be Crimson Skies 2. I have a fondness for Crimson Skies; it\'s my favorite Live game for the original Xbox. So when they first started showing off Blazing Angels I really just hoped for a Crimson Skies sequel.

There are similarities between the two games, but Blazing Angels is really a very different kind of game. I had to keep that in mind. Thankfully, Blazing Angels is a strong enough effort by Ubisoft that it was easy to leave Crimson Skies behind and experience Blazing Angels on its own.

In addition to the challenge of surpassing its predecessor, Blazing Angels\' is also handicapped by its storyline and setting. I am sick of playing through World War II. It\'s more bearable as a fighter plane game instead of a first-person shooter, but I still wish it were based somewhere else in the timeline. As a flying game, it does have the opportunity to explore areas of WWII that most games haven\'t yet touched. For example, I\'ve never played through Pearl Harbor before. So, once it gets going the WWII setting is far from all bad. Still, I was groaning a little at the prospect of another WWII game long before I ever started playing.

Right from the beginning I had some mixed feelings about Blazing Angels, and I hadn\'t even played it yet.

As I think about what I want to say about Blazing Angels I feel conflicted. You see, I like the game. I want you to at least give it a try. But when I think of what to say about it, it all feels so negative. I don\'t really think poorly of Blazing Angels. I just wish it could have been polished a little more. Then we would have had a great game instead of a really good game. I just wanted to preface the rest of the review with that.

If you are looking at the screen shots you will notice that they are lovely. The graphics are mostly amazing. Where Blazing angels really shines is the cityscapes. Flying over Paris is one of the coolest things graphically that I have experienced in all of my gaming life. Then there are times when the graphics just don\'t hold up. When you fly up close to trees they look flat and two dimensional. Also, coming over the horizon the trees would often fall apart, looking like a mess of horizontal lines. It is strange when so much care was obviously put into the visuals that they would be so neglected in some spots. Overall you will find yourself hypnotized by Blazing Angels.

As I mentioned, there are some really fun scenarios, like Paris and Pearl Harbor. There just isn\'t enough variation. I had a hard time playing more than a level or two at a time. When they do attempt to mix it up it is done so poorly it isn\'t even worth playing. A few missions in you trade your machine guns for a camera. You need to take pictures of certain key things. It starts off badly by explaining how to do this very poorly. Once you get the hang of it though it isn\'t so tough, at first. You take a couple pictures of nearby boats in order to warm up but then you are given the task of finding enemy caravans in the desert and snapping a few off. I hated this with a passion not often matched. There is a giant sandstorm going on so there is almost no visibility. You don\'t have a radar or anything so the only way to find the caravans is to search blindly through the desert. It isn\'t easy and the scenery is so dull that you will be pulling your hair out in frustration within minutes. All the while, you have to listen to the radio chatter drone on and on. You\'ll be looking so long they will start to say the same things over and over and over again. I had no fun what-so-ever during this portion of the game.

Since I have mentioned it, the voiceovers are really annoying. I know it is pretty much expected that you will hate them but the wing men in Blazing Angels are in the upper echelons of sucky voiceovers in videogame history. You will be turning off the voices within the first training mission. And if they weren\'t bad enough the first time, if you ever have a hard time with an objective it sure as heck doesn\'t help having to hear the same darn thing over and over again. Nice thing is you can turn the voices down and leave the marvelous score turned all the way up because the rest of the audio is phenomenal. Once again the 360 punishes anyone without a surround sound system. If you aren\'t listening to Blazing Angels in all its glory you are missing out on an amazing experience.

I had trouble adjusting to the control scheme. This was made worse by the fact that the controls are not customizable at all. It would have been nice to be able to change things around to a more familiar control scheme. Specifically, I wanted to be able to move the throttle from the right stick up to the shoulder buttons. I adjusted though and got pretty good but I never felt like the ace that I wanted to be. Next time give us some options.

One control function that I did like was the lock-on. Taking a more realistic approach your lock-on fixes you to look on a given target. You still have to fly your plane in the correct direction, it just keeps your view on your target. Sometimes this makes it a little hard to fly but that makes sense. Next time you\'re in your car try driving while looking backwards the whole time, not easy. On second thought, better not try it. This is the way lock-on functions should work for fighter plane games from now on.

There are a number of odd little hiccups that make it hard to know for sure what you are going to hit and what you will fly right by. Buildings always seem a little farther away than they are. I hit a number of buildings that I thought I had plenty of room to fly by. You have to develop a feel for how close you can get because your eyes deceive you. When it comes to enemy planes you can fly through them. This was strange when it seemed like I was doing such a good job of hitting everything else. In the end you just learn to play with these little foibles.

The multiplayer and online stuff is all done well. You can have some huge co-op engagements or fight it out with each other. This Blazing Angels nails on the head.

I would have preferred it if they didn\'t try to make the aiming system quite so realistic. You really have to lead those planes, which often just look like red brackets because they are so far away. This is pretty tough. Since there is already a certain amount of license taken by having you shoot through a reticule that floats just above your plane why not make it so that when the reticule is correctly lined up with the plane that the bullets hit? I mean within reason. If you are holding a plane in your sights for a few seconds it seems reasonable that your shots should hit the target.

Blazing Angels has an intensity that brings me back to it. It is a game that I would urge you to play. I have listed a number of drawbacks that are only made so glaring because of the skill at which the rest of the game is made. I wish they would have just done a little more. Added some control options, some more interesting twists to the typical dogfights, and cleaned up those few places where the graphics fall apart. At one point I grew frustrated with a mission and started screwing around. I spotted a bunch of sheep in a pasture and swooped down upon them, amazed at the level of detail. Then I flew low over some water, shooting it with my machine guns and flying through the spray it caused. Blazing Angels has so much going for it that I want you to take my harsh words and use them not as a deterrent but as a warning. So you don\'t go into it with the lofty expectations I did. So it doesn\'t take you as long to find those moments, big and small, that make this such a fascinating game.

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