Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII for Nintendo Wii

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Since Gamespot.com and Ign.com are too busy reviewing Wii Virtual Console games to talk about Ubisoft’s newly released “Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII,” then let me take this opportunity to review it myself. My prediction, based on their lack of coverage for the game, is that it will score low in their reviews. That’s okay though, because I’ll be happy to give you an unbiased review based on my own experience with the game.

GRAPHICS:
The graphics are really unimpressive, even for Wii standards. Now understand that it is not the planes themselves that are the problem. In fact, the planes you fly and fight against all look fabulous. The problem is with the ground buildings and units. Now the units on the ground don’t really need to look great, because you’ll be flying by them so fast, and hopefully blowing them up, that it won’t matter. In fact, the explosions from the destroyed ground units and crashed aircraft actually look good. However, the buildings do not have a great deal of detail. Don’t get me wrong, cities like London are huge and do not look flat at all, and the low-resolution buildings could be acceptable, if not for the complete lack of any anti-aliasing. This means you will see a lot of jagged edges on everything you see on the ground. Not to mention the ground itself looks absolutely horrible. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how close to the ground you are simply because the ground looks just as pixilated from high up as it does from near the ground. Smoothing out a few pixely edges and upgrading to a high-res ground would have been worth a small downgrade in airplane model quality, which as I mentioned looks fantastic. It is worth mentioning that even though the ground looks crummy and the buildings are jaggy, the colors and style seem to be filtered through some old-timey war movie lense. This actually improves the visuals enough that I am willing to forgive the graphic faults. Also, the framerate is smooth and steady. It only slowed down a little bit on the London map during a multiplayer dogfight, but even then the reduced framerate was barely noticeable.
GRAPHICS SCORE: 2 out of 5 stars

CONTROL:
I’ve heard people complain about Ubisoft’s control problems, particularly with Red Steel. Well you can rest easy in knowing that they nailed it with “Blazing Angels.” Players are given the option of using 5 different control methods, including a remote-only style held like how you do in “Excitebike.” The four other styles use either the nunchuck as the “flight stick” or the remote. Now when using the remote for axis control (that’s for plane tilting, not the German forces) you do not hold it vertically like you would a real flight stick. Instead, the remote is held like how you do a regular remote. For this reason, I prefer using the nunchuck control, which feels more like a real flight stick and has the primary and secondary fire buttons mapped to the Z and C buttons (on the nunchuck) respectively. The plane responds instantly and accurately to every tilt and turn, no matter how slight or exaggerated the movement. In addition, the throttle is mapped to the analogue stick, which makes speed control just as easy as axis control. Wingman commands are issued with the directional pad on the remote, along with landing gear and view control (a cockpit view has been added since the Xbox and PC version). And speaking of other consoles, it is my opinion that the superior controls on the Wii make up for any graphical difference between the Wii and the PS3.
CONTROL SCORE: 5 out of 5 stars

CONTENT:
With 20 missions, each which last a minimum of 15 minutes, there is a fair amount of content for the campaign. In addition, there is a ranking system for each mission and objectives are reviewed at the end of the mission, showing the player how he could obtain the “Ace” rank on any given level. It adds a replay value to the game and will require different attack strategies in order to complete the missions fast enough to obtain the best rank. Players can track their progress in that respect by reviewing their medals. Also, there are several other modes available once the player has completed the first mission. An arcade mode requires the player to fight a wave of enemies, an ace mode pits the player against an ace pilot flying the same plane, and a mini-mission mode lets the player play through 6 random mini-missions. Completing these bonus modes unlock additional content. For example, downing an enemy pilot in Ace Mode unlocks the “Ace Paintjob” for that particular aircraft. And speaking of aircraft, there are dozens of different planes to choose from, allowing a player to retry missions using different planes with better (or worse) features.
CONTENT SCORE: 4 out of 5 stars

MULTIPLAYER:
This is where many of you probably skipped to. There was a rumor going around that Ubisoft would be including a 16-player online mode. Alas, the multiplayer is limited to only a two-player split screen mode. However, I did make a couple of interesting observations that I will discuss in a moment. The multiplayer mode itself has plenty of options: from dogfights, to bombing runs, time limits, respawn limits, point systems, the era of planes which appear, and more. As I mentioned, the framerate is very good in multiplayer mode, though there was a barely noticeable decrease on the London level. I can imagine the multiplayer mode will get plenty of use from people who enjoy trying different aerial maneuvers to waste their opponents and secure bragging rights.

Now for the interesting observations. The instruction book has a line in it that mentions “all offline modes.” However, there is only one multiplayer mode in the game, and it is just as “offline” as the single player campaign. In addition, with the exception of this line, there is no other mention of a multiplayer mode. The book does not even discuss the two-player split screen mode included in the game. This is either an oversight by the booklet writer, or because an online mode was intended, but never included, or both. Now some people have suggested that Ubisoft could release a patch later that unlocks the online mode later on when Nintendo is ready. Those people suggesting this have been mocked as being “wishful thinkers,” but perhaps they should not be mocked so quickly. I also noted something odd in the multiplayer screen. The control and sound options screens all default to having one option highlighted. This means that, for example, on the sound screen, one of the changeable options is already highlighted and you simple need to press left or right to change the option. However, with the multiplayer mode, none of the changeable options are highlighted. In fact, the title of the “GAME MODE,” which is “Split Screen” is typed as if it is an option, and it is highlighted. You have to press down to select one of the changeable options. Now what does this mean? Well, if it is true that an online mode exists but is not enabled yet, the way to access that would probably be through the multiplayer screen. And since the game defaults to highlighting the GAME MODE “Split Screen” it may be that the “mode” could be changed in the future to select “Online Play.” How’s that for “wishful thinking?”
MULTIPLAYER SCORE: 3 out of 5 stars

FINAL VERDICT:
Online multiplayer would have been great, and the ground graphics could have looked better, but overall this is a great arcade-style WWII flight simulator that is fun to play alone or with a friend. The number of missions and game modes, while not overwhelming, do provide plenty of content to keep a player satisfied for a long time. If you want an entertaining flight sim with great controls, then you will find “Blazing Angels” to be a worthy purchase.
OVERAL SCORE: 4 out of 5 stars.
 

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