The first flight game to be released for Xbox 360, the squadron-based Blazing Angels focuses on the most intense air battles of the war. With graphics and visuals far superior to other flight games, Blazing Angels is a looker. But as the gameplay disappointingly makes evident, looks aren’t everything.
The game puts you at the head of a fictional elite American squadron called the “Blazing Angels.” The squadron participates in almost every major air battle of the war. Featuring photorealistic recreations of landscapes and iconic structures such as London Bridge at the Battle of Britain, the Eiffel Tower during the liberation of Paris and even the design and details of the ships in port at Pearl Harbor, the game is visually stunning. There are also informative cut scenes in between campaigns that explain some of the factual history of each battle. How and why the Angels are zipped from theater to theater is a bit of a mystery, but it’s all in good fun.
As the squadron leader, you fly up to 42 planes. They include the Supermarine Spitfire Mark V and the North American P-51D Mustang, and enemy planes such as the German Junkers Ju-87B Stuka and the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero. Piloting the planes is relatively simple and can be easily picked up within a few minutes of playing. The game also tries to eliminate the lack of peripheral vision, which has been a problem in past flying games. Blazing Angels compensates for this by placing the camera view behind the plane and incorporating the “Follow” camera function, which allows the camera to immediately face your target or destination with the press of a button. If the developers had only incorporated a cockpit view with this function, the game would be more realistic.
Realism is lacking in other notable areas. For example, each member of your squadron has a unique ability, including protecting your plane from enemy fire, engaging the enemy and repairing damage. The mechanic in the squadron, named “Joe,” is able to patch up your damaged bird even in mid-air. Also, damaged planes perform the same as full-strength planes. Therefore, as long as you keep Joe repairing any damage you receive, you rarely ever get shot down and are basically an invincible flying ace. Missing is the sense of urgency that you would expect to have in a real-life battle—or in a more realistic game.
The game’s missions disappoint as well. They tend toward the monotonous and repetitive, with massive quantities of relatively easy-to-defeat enemies. You spend the most time shooting at enemy aircraft and ground personnel. The inclusion of other aspects of WWII aviation, such as landing on and taking off from aircraft carriers or maneuvering around buildings and other obstacles, as part of a mini-game or side mission, would have helped to counter the missions’ tedium. As it stands, however, you hardly ever take off or land and you dogfight until there isn’t a single enemy left in the sky.
Blazing Angels’ packaging boasts that the game will make you feel “like a pilot in a great WWII movie.” A movie perhaps, but with repetitive missions and the lack of realism, you certainly don’t feel like you’re in a war.
Originally published in the March 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.