When I first saw Blazing Angels on the Xbox at E3 a few years ago, the game looked impressive indeed. The environments were impressive and the amount of planes on the screen invoked the feeling of a grand aerial battle. With the transition to the Xbox 360 though, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII gives the next generation console owner an above average game.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII puts you in the seat of various WWII fighters and bombers commanding an elite squadron of four pilots including you. Along for the ride in most missions are Tom, Joe, and Frank. Each pilot has a specialty that will help you through the game. Tom can draw off any enemies on your tail. Frank’s the Max Sterling of the group in that he can take out enemies left and right and now break a sweat. If you’re in need of repair, you call on Joe to help patch you up. When available, each pilot can be called upon by a push of the directional pad. After you use them, you won’t be able to call on them again for a short period of time. You can use them as many times as you wish so long as you wait for the requisite amount of time to pass.
Because Frank and Tom are so effective, they sometimes make the game too easy. When a few Germans are on your tail, calling on Tom will always result in any enemy aircraft to break off their attack on you. It would’ve been nice to have some randomness in terms of if the chasing airplanes would stop following you and go after Tom. Frank’s an even bigger advantage in that he’ll take down three or four fighters before he’s done. I almost felt cheating when asking Frank to take out a few fighters because he was so deadly.
If you’re in need of repair, you’ll be treated to a mini-game of four button pushing sequences when Joe is called upon. No matter how badly damage you are, a successful completion of the button sequence will result in a fully repaired and operational plane. Messing up in the sequence will cause you to waste your repair and you’ll be forced to wait until you can call on Joe again. Since you can use it an unlimited of times, the repair feature can make certain levels really easy thus allowing you to relax a bit. I also found that the father you get into the game, the easier the sequence gets. No two buttons repeat in the later levels so when the symbols pop up, you know they won’t be displayed again as you finish off the sequence.
Your squadron is pretty much invulnerable so you won’t have to worry about them. I’ve always found relying on NPCs to be a lot better in games when you aren’t spending too much time trying to protect them. The developers took that variable out of the equation so you can concentrate on keeping yourself alive and there will be times in the second half of the game where the action’s hot and hectic and you’ll be glad the other three can fend for themselves. I did say pretty much invulnerable as there’s a mission or two where you have to protect Joe but that’s about the extent of keeping your buddies alive.
Ubisoft has made the controls pretty easy for anyone to pick up. The left stick is used to control the pitch and yaw while the right stick controls the speed and roll. By combining the two, you’ll be able to perform some impressive maneuvers when dog fighting. Pressing down on the right stick will also activate any secondary weapon such as bombs or missiles. Some missions will simulate spinning the propeller by having you start the plane via rotating an analog stick. Overall, it wasn’t too hard to get used to so you shouldn’t have too much trouble picking up the gamepad and flying under control.
Enemies encompass ground, sea, and air units. You’ll be asked ot take out a convey in some missions, ace German fighters in another, and even some ships with your missiles. Thankfully, the enemies are pretty well labeled so that you’re not going to be firing on your allies. Each type of enemy is also represented by a different symbol so you can easily tell what type of enemy unit they are. This can help in some missions where you’re equipped with missiles and need to take out some ground targets: just line up and fire away before you are in their range.
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