Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII Review (PC)

Published by Ubisoft Romania, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII isn't the first game of its type and likely won't be the last, but it's definitely taking a strong place with and above its predecessors.  Holding this place may be a tall order, but one that, with strong graphics and historical missions, certainly isn't out of reach.

Crossfire! Shots away

One of the differences in this first person shooter that grabs you right away is the fact it may be first person, but certainly not 'only' person.  The word squadron in the title is purposeful and describes very well what kind of game you're in and what's expected of you as the commander.  Unlike other FPS where you may go in Rambo style guns blazing in Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII you are the commander of a squadron of two other wingmen including air mechanic.  

You begin as just another rookie and work your way up to a pilot of competence and confidence.  Your squadron wingmen, Tom, Frank and Joe have the responsibilities of defend, fight and repair, but all at your command.  

Tom's greatest ability is to provide strong cover for your position, particularly when you find that your tail is taking a pounding, or you just don't have enough eyes in the back of your head to account for all of the action going on around you.  He has a special 'taunt' move that will allow him to draw your attackers off, taking the heat off of you, creating a diversion and opening the enemy for the all important counter-attack.  

Frank is your one plane wrecking crew, ready and willing to tear through anything that gets in your way.  You can set him up to take on all enemy attackers with the 'engage all' command, or bring in his firepower to assist on your kill with the 'my target' command.  

Last of your squadron, but by no means least, is Joe the air mechanic.  He doesn't have any special commands, but he's capable of repairing your ship midair bringing you back into a fight that may look lost which can't be nearly as easy as he makes it look.  This part is one that was slightly problematic since mid air mechanics is rather out of era at any time, but does add a unique aspect to the game and can fit into an appropriate suspension of disbelief.

Early on you'll find that you need to learn how to work most efficiently with your wingmen, which can be a source of initial frustration, but this will pass.  The Campaign objectives are designed with the squadron scenario in mind and you'll find them difficult, if not impossible, to complete successfully without taking advantage of what each of your wings has to offer.

Wild blue yonder, gorgeous background texture Over the river and through

One of the shining points of Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is the historical aspect which is reflected in the eighteen missions of the Campaign mode, running you through the most famous air battles of WWII.  Your objectives and planes change with each mission, giving you an opportunity to work with more than forty era-appropriate birds, weapon choices and missions from dogfights to bombing runs.

Beyond the single player campaign Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII opens up a multiplayer arena with both solo and team-based competitions.  These can be against other players, or players versus the AI.  There are several different game options each with specific goals to determine a win, making for hours of multiplayer fun.

Technically Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is marvelous, particularly in comparison to some of it's nearest competition.  Crimson Skies is generally the bar to which flying games are compared and while not quite to that level Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is faithful to the legacy and doesn't disappoint.  The game play is smooth with no real framerate hiccups or graphic anomalies that are often seen in games where so much is going on all at once.  The online game is smooth with few lag problems, avoiding some of the frustrations that often occur in FPS multiplayer games.  The aircraft controls are surprisingly smooth, without being so complex that you feel like you're in a military flight simulator.  Most new players will find it fairly simple to pick up and play with a short learning curve to competitive excellence.

The graphics of Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII are designed in a gritty style with a muted color pallet that brings a more realistic feel to the entire game.  Backgrounds are well modeled, though some look the best at a slightly lower resolution.  Sometimes the fog and smoke effects can be more distracting than effective, but mostly these serve well in the genre in general and this game in specific.

The plane modeling is remarkable with planes showing the appropriate wear and tear that should be in an era game.  These aren't planes on their maiden voyages, but battle hardened with traces of wear and tear and proof of their last missions in torn metal and scraped paint.

The audio track for this game deserves its own recognition for a job well done.  The sounds surrounding the battles and plane operations are thrilling without being too much to process all at once.  Both low and high frequencies are covered in explosions, weapon fire and the whine of the propellers and pushrod engines.  The accompanying soundtrack sounds like something that would be played in an era appropriate Hollywood flick as much as a console game.  The music work is completely professional and expertly adds to the tension of the game play, particularly in the Campaign missions, though it may get lost slightly in the action of multiplayer.

Bombing run Incoming!!!

For flyers that have been reluctant to give console-controlled games a try Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a good place to take the opportunity to experience something new.  With no terrible shortcomings or failings Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is well worth the price and a very enjoyable FPS flight experience.

Top game moment: I enjoyed the historical opportunities of the missions, encompassing such notables as the Battle of Britain and Pearl Harbor.  While not new battle grounds these were well played and allowed for opportunities to experience many different aspects that I'm sure historical pilots didn't have opportunity for.

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