Still somewhat hot on the heels of Ubisoft's last World War II flight combat game, which was released on the Xbox six months ago, comes Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII. This is about as standard as a mission-based flight game can get--you'll get to bomb targets, dogfight, and defend a lot of stuff in a variety of era-specific planes. While it's a competent package, it doesn't stand out in any way.
Blazing Angels offers a very standard mission-based campaign.
You play the role of a squadron leader in Blazing Angels, but you don't start out with a squadron to command. Instead, you're one of the few American pilots helping out the British flyboys. You'll jump right into training, but that doesn't last long, because you're quickly whisked away to protect Dunkirk. You'll meet your squadmates early on, and you'll always fly with the same crew, though a few spots here and there have you out on your own. Even then, your group will keep in touch via the radio. When flying alongside them, you'll be able to give them basic orders, such as to break off and attack or to come back to defend you. Each of your three comrades has a unique ability. Frank runs his mouth a lot, but he's also good at getting out there and knocking out targets when you turn him loose. Tom can taunt enemies to pull them off of you if you're under too much fire. And Joe can occasionally allow you to repair your plane via a series of button presses. Their voices are constantly coming at you over the radio, and they're well done. The enemy also chats it up a lot, in heavily accented, nearly broken English, no less. At times, the Japanese voice acting sounds flat-out racist, which casts a dark cloud over the rest of the game's usually-sharp audio.
Once you meet your team, the game skips around, putting you in many of the major air battles of the war. Aside from some pretty extreme frame rate hitches here and there, and some ugly-looking ground targets, the different spots you'll visit look nice, as do many of the plane models. You'll fly over Pearl Harbor and try to prevent as much damage as possible. You'll fly out over the desert of North Africa in search of Nazis in hiding. You'll fly at Midway and take out a sizable chunk of the Japanese fleet. Despite the frequent changes of scenery, the missions are very cut-and-dried. You're presented with objective after objective, and very few of them are difficult. Between the relative weakness of the forces you'll be facing and your ability to make repairs to your plane, you rarely get shot down unless you're doing something dumb, like flying too high when attempting to creep up on some radar towers that are surrounded by antiaircraft guns. Overall, the game does a good job of making you feel very powerful, but ultimately the victories seem hollow, because you rarely feel like you can fail. At least the game mixes dogfighting with bombing reasonably well. Torpedoing enemy cruisers and carriers is fun.
Flying planes in Blazing Angels is kept pretty light. Your throttle control is on the right stick, and you maneuver with the left, fire with the right trigger, and use the left trigger to get the camera to crane over and "follow" your current target. The follow cam takes some getting used to, as it can be pretty disorienting. Instead of flying straight ahead, you're often getting a view of the front of your plane. But it's useful for quickly reorienting yourself and pointing yourself at your target, which is key for shooting down enemy planes. Still, an onscreen arrow on the front of the HUD would have probably worked, too.