Sept 18, 2007
If you liked the original you'll like this. It's the cliché that most of us reviewers try to side-step as urgently as if it were a loony-eyed hobo. Thing is, it isn't true of Blazing Angels II: Secret Missions of WWII, because anyone who paid for the original will probably find this sequel a personal insult to them, their family and their dead Labrador.
While the first Blazing Angels covered the basics well enough, it also suffered from rushed presentation, obvious budget restrictions and a few genuinely bizarre design choices - a set of problems that, unfortunately, this sequel repeats with careless abandon.
The lock-on system is still horribly clumsy, the story is still not so much tongue-in-cheek and the enemies still seem more of a messy respawning mass than individual dog-fighting aces. And despite our black and white protestations, there is still no altimeter. The problem of not having one still persists: tear into a pretty plume of volumetric smoke in pursuit of a Stuka and you'll emerge either ascending into the slate grey Normandy sky or plummeting into the slate grey North Atlantic with no idea which is which. While there's nothing in the design as lion-molestingly stupid as the original's "searching for a camp in a sand storm" there's still some dumb game design at work here to rub it in.
That said, there are some occasions where it works: the rubbish mini-games and all-American crew are gone, it looks pretty enough - albeit in a slightly stuttering way - and the hundreds of aircraft should be a joy to anyone who likes their lemon drink weak and their skin swathed in polyester. So what if it's taking more liberties during the years 1939 to 1945 than the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces? The immense array of prototypes and real planes, with their fanciful weaponry, add variety to both the visuals and the gameplay.
But the real change is in the arrival on the horizon of a worthy rival - the ludicrously polished, lavishly budgeted, jet-powered, utterly pompous Ace Combat. If you've played the Live demo - and half a million people already have - and enjoyed every swoop, you'll be rightly holding off spending on this to head skywards on that.