The menus are simple and it is a trivial matter to get yourself started in your first campaign. The campaign progression is extremely linear (to a fault, as we will see later) and starts with what should be a quick familiarization flight around the local area. This being war, though, one must be ready for any eventuality; before you can adopt a faux British accent say “never have so many owed so much to so few,” you're in the thick of your first dogfight. It is here that you will be introduced to 'Ace Kill', which could be considered 'bullet time' for dogfights. Ace Kill allows you to zoom in on your target while also slowing time to a crawl. The idea is that you will be able to precisely target a vulnerable area on your opponent's airplane and score a single-shot kill. It's an interesting feature, but with unlimited ammo I often found it easier just to keep spraying bullets in the general vicinity of the guy I was trying to kill and let sheer quantity exhibit a quality all its own.
Unlimited ammo may seem to be an unrealistic thing at first glance, but it rapidly becomes apparent why you need it. How else would you stop what at times feels like an unlimited amount of airplanes parading towards you in their attack on your beloved England? In that aspect, Heroes over Europe defines itself as an arcade-like game, rather than a more realism based simulator. This arcade feel carries through all facets of the experience. For example, anyone that has actually flown an airplane will find himself at a distinct disadvantage if he tries to apply real world flight characteristics to the flying he will be doing in the game. The only nod to reality is the firmness and finality of flying straight into the ground, an event that's not quite as rare as one would think if you allow yourself to fixate on targets like diving Stukas. It's not that there's anything wrong with an arcade feel; on a console with the limited control fidelity offered up by the standard controllers, it's actually a feature. Just know what to expect going in and you won't be disappointed.
What may end up being a disappointment is the rigid nature of the campaigns. You are required to fly the next mission in line, and you are required to successfully complete it before moving on to the next. That doesn't sound all that bad at first glance, but it can become very frustrating when you find yourself stuck on a mission, and after trying dozens of times to get through it wanting just throw your hands in the air and say “enough!” As early as the second mission, I ran into an objective that I just could not get through, even after dozens of tries. And while there are checkpoints in missions that you can restart from if you end up getting shot down or, as in my case, keep flying into the ocean, there is no way to save your progress in the (more likely than I would want to admit) situation where you need to turn off the game when you get kicked off of the TV so the family can watch Lost or Medium or Bones or.... whatever. That can be very, very frustrating.
If you have the time and devotion to get past that, though, shooting down massive numbers of German fighters and bombers in epic aerial battles over topologies as diverse as London burning at night or a dogfight with dozens of planes swirling over the white cliffs of Dover can be very entertaining. The radio chatter from other pilots in your squadron and the sounds of the guns and roaring engines combine to create an exciting and compelling military environment, while the clouds and attractive cities and landscapes lend a reasonable feeling of flight. You certainly won't learn much about how a real airplane behaves in the thick of a do-or-die dogfight, but that's not really the point of the game anyway. Rather, Heroes over Europe lets you forget about all of the details about angle of attack, stall speed, or even whether or not you still have any bullets in your guns and concentrate on just shooting down airplanes.
And, if you make it through another bloody day, at least you have a warm cot waiting for you back at base.
Great arcade fun, but the rigid mission structure and the absence of a good save game function can be frustrating when playing lengthy or difficult missions.
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