Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII might have been missed by a lot of people amongst the hoopla and celebration that was the PlayStation 3 launch in March. Many overlooked this Xbox 360 port in favour of higher profile titles, which is a shame as it offers something different from the majority of the available games on the fledgling system.
The game opens with you taking command of a blazing angel fighter pilot, learning the basics in a well-developed tutorial and then battling your way across England, Europe and beyond. You encounter the notoriously brilliant Luftwaffe while attempting to maintain the strength of your squadron through increasingly more difficult missions.
The squadron aspect of the game is perhaps also the most valuable feature. You eventually become the captain of three wingmen; these wingmen each have unique attributes which they can use to assist your battles across the deep, blue sky. Joe can heal your craft, Tom can draw enemy fire and Frank can shoot a lot better than you can. The proper utilization of these attributes often proves the difference between accomplishing goals and plummeting to failure.
Blazing Angels blends the simulation and arcade worlds reasonably, although at its heart the game feels like an arcade shooter. The controls are simple to pick up, easy to master and provide gamers with a choice between an arcade experience and a full-on simulation one. Most of the levels are fairly polished renditions of the 1940’s theatre of war and as the game progresses into the Pacific, the colours and vibrancy of the tropics is a nice counterpoint to the detailed and authentic flying machines.
The action is frenetic at its best and mundane at its worst. Levels progress through a series of goals which, once achieved, open up further goals. Each individual level can become a little too linear moving from point A to point B but usually offer enough enemy fighters (which display decent AI) to keep the levels even the slightest bit taxing. The SIXAXIS functionality seems a little gimmicky and forced at times, there is no real need to use the tricky motion-sensitive controls and the game at no point encourages you to master it.
Blazing Angels also offers the advantage of having a very in-depth multiplayer experience through the PlayStation Network. Up to 16 players can take part in a variety of challenging and dynamic game modes, offering both team-based and solo death-match and capture the flag variations. Offline split-screen is also supported but lacks the immediacy and competition that is found online.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a solid, if not spectacular, port from the Xbox 360. The improvements are marginal enough and the gameplay is, well, solid. But flying fans might just want to wait around for either the inevitable sequel or alternatively the highly anticipated Warhawk which should fly its way onto the PlayStation 3 later in the year