Posted – 12.15.2007
The first Blazing Angels was an exciting, action packed flight into WW2, as long as you didn’t mind the graphics tearing, heavily stereotyped voice acting, and a host of other issues that detracted from the fun that you could have had. Apparently listening to the critics, Blazing Angels 2 promises more of the same while improving on most everything that was wrong with the first game. It’s a lot more fun with plenty of rewarding moments to go around as it does a many things right, but it still comes up a little short thanks to a few problems that also make a return.
This isn’t a game that takes its WW2 history seriously as it throws out any pretense that its predecessor had in doing so by embracing its thrill-a-minute approach to action in much the same way that Secret Weapons Over Normandy had. If you’re looking for any historical accuracy here, you can pretty much forget it. In this sequel, you play the role of Captain Christopher Robinson, the leader of a small group of elite pilots participating in Operation Wildcard. Not wanting to make an official entry into WW2, the United States forms the group to secretly assist allies around the world in their fight against the forces of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan and in eighteen missions, you’ll do just that as you fight the best that the Axis and its allies have to offer. You’ll take part in missions that take you from the pyramids of Egypt to Moscow’s Red Square, and then across the Himalayas and then into the German frontier in a desperate chase to stop the Third Reich’s search for the ultimate weapon.
The presentation is a huge improvement from the first game with a stronger story that takes you on a grand tour of the world at war. Cut scenes made up of comic book style panels based on photographed stills of live actors fill in the pulp flavor of the narrative and the voice acting is a lot better this time around adding in plenty of narrative flavor that was missing from the last title. Gone are the cliched accents of your enemies, replaced with genuine German and Japanese, although some of the cutscenes and in-game dialogue between your teammates can still come off as a little corny. But the special effects and the planes themselves are still fantastic to look at as they hit the skies with sunlight glinting off of polished wings or rattling from the spread of shrapnel exploding around you. The orchestrated soundtrack brings in plenty of over-the-top themes that compliment the action making it feel a lot like a cinematic experience that never gets too old to enjoy complete with an ending that makes getting through the action worthwhile.
The fictional approach that the game takes is especially true in regard to the planes that you will be flying and in using the kind of weapons inspired by the designs and fantastic sci-fi that were only speculated about during that period. Camera controlled homing missiles, flashbulb defenses that can blind foes behind you sending them crashing into that mountainside you avoided, and a Tesla coil that can short out the electrical systems of planes that are around you are only some of the crazy inventions that you’ll be using in the game. During the action, depending on how well you do and how many birds you shoot down, you’ll earn reputation points that can be used to purchase upgrades for your squadron such as self sealing fuel tanks, additional armor, specialized barrels for your guns, and even an improved battery system for your special weapons. New planes will also be unlocked depending on your performance, adding to a hangar of choices that you can tap into for most every mission.
Flying is simple enough although a tutorial mission showing you how to get around would have been nice to have. Veterans won’t have as much of a problem with the learning curve, but newcomers might find that the controls can take a little getting used to. You can choose between a simulator style control scheme or the arcade, both of which have their own issues. Simulator controls make the left stick responsible for climbing and descending along with rolling the plane. However, rudder controls are tied to the right stick, which also acts as the accelerator and brake making it more than a little awkward to strafe while maintaining a particular speed. Arcade controls fare better, although it might be a hard pill for simulation grognards to swallow as the plane rights itself from a roll by simply letting go of the stick, taking away from the detail that their flight hand might have wanted to wield in combat. Despite these issues, the controls still make it easy to jump in and start fighting in the skies over Europe and elsewhere.
This time around, a radar system has been added allowing you to get a better idea of where your enemies and objectives are which is a huge relief. Your teammates are also back as a new team. The members of your team help you in battle when you use their special abilities whether it is going in to attack and wipe out an enemy wing of planes, distract your foes, or repair your plane in battle. Their abilities slowly recharge over time making it vital to use their skills only when you need to. Veterans may remember being able to repair your plane in battle, but in the sequel, this only happens at certain moments during a mission making it a little riskier to simply go in without worrying about getting bullets driven through your engine block. The squad system also allows you to send your team ahead into battle or have them watch your back, or attack certain targets. It works well enough for what you’ll need it to do, although you’ll still be responsible for doing most of the work. At least you won’t have to worry about your teammates’ health, only your own.
Most of your weapons, such as missiles and bombs, have a hard limit that you have to keep an eye on. Weapons no longer regenerate themselves while in flight as they did in the first game, but you can always land at a friendly airfield to restock what you’ve used up, although that’s not always going to be an option in every mission. Your special weapons are in the same boat as well, although there are upgrades that you can purchase that will allow you to carry more toys as long as you have the points to spend. The game will always pick a plane and a suggested load out for you to make things easier, although you can always change it to something else. Not every plane that you’ve unlocked can be picked for every mission during the campaign, though, but you can still tweak what you have to some degree.
Plenty of single player achievements have also been added to the roster allowing single player fans to enjoy getting points for pulling off special stunts, tricks, or objectives without having to go online for most everything else. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of achievements for the online crowd, there are, but it certainly feels a lot more balanced this time around and is certainly a welcome change from the first game. After you’ve finished the game and have survived the final mission, you can even go back and play through your favorite missions with all of the planes that you’ve unlocked to earn even more points or chase after achievements. If that’s not enough, multiplayer pits up to sixteen pilots from around the world against each other in your typical deathmatches, co-op missions, and capture the flag. It would have been nice to see an option where you could fly the campaign in co-op.
Blazing Angels 2 has plenty of action going for it and feels a lot more complete than its predecessor had been as long as you don’t mind the pulp action take on WW2 that it specializes in. Enemies in the game come in all types and there are even a few enemy aces that will show up to add something nice to your end of mission report if you can take them out. Most other pilots in the game, though are pretty dense and much of the dogfighting boils down to who can outcircle the other plane first and hit them with missiles. In some ways, the action is reminiscent of Namco’s Ace Combat series, without the polished controls. Just as in AC, you have giant superweapons such as the “boss” zeppelins that you’ll come up against along with crazy stunt flying through tunnels. It can really push your sense of disbelief to see some of this stuff in a game like this, even if it only pays lip service to the history behind it.
Destroying ground targets is also another weakness of the game thanks to the fact that if you miss one little tank somewhere on the map, you could end up losing the battle because it was able to destroy a city on its own. This can get really annoying especially when your teammates won’t be of much help, adding to the difficulty level of what should be a routine mission. Some of the more frustrating moments in the game are due to this, and at times, it can be overwhelming in what the title throws at you. When the sky fills with planes, it can often be an awe inspiring sight, but it can also be a confusing one when you need to find a specific plane from the mess buzzing around you. The radar helps somewhat, but certain missions will literally push you to the far edge by grabbing victory from you at the last possible moment because of one plane, or one tank, that you might have missed. At least flying off of the edges of the map and the game automatically turning you around won’t end up killing you when you can’t control your plane, or that in-game cutscenes won’t accidentally cause you to crash into something that you couldn’t see. Fans of the first one will appreciate that change a lot more than newcomers will if they’ve experienced it, but still have to be wary of the crazy difficulty that it will sometimes throw in your face.
The main campaign can take about seven to ten hours to play completely through leaving not much else other than in-game achievements and the multiplayer to look forward to when all is said and done, but it’s still a fun ride through the pulpy mix of sci-fi and cliffhanger action that the game manages to pull together. It would have been nice to go further into the customization options for your planes, or at least have a few more missions to play through or specials to unlock, but as it is, Blazing Angels 2 is more of a solid arcade flier than its predecessor had been. It’s not a deep simulation nor does it try and pretend to be an accurate play-by-play of WW2’s darkest hours, but the few action packed hours that it has to offer can give prospective pilots looking to earn their arcade wings something else to look forward to when they take to the unfriendly skies.
– World 1-1