Blazing Angels is shot out of the sky by its shaky graphical performance and overly floaty control options.
- Campaign has a good length to it.
- Graphics are kind of a mess
- motion controls are never quite right
- multiplayer options are anemic at best
- phoned-in voice acting drains all tension out of the campaign.
Blazing Angels has been appearing on consoles for a year now, starting with the March 2006 release of the Xbox 360 version. After a full year, Ubisoft has finally gotten around to releasing what appears to be the final version of Blazing Angels, the Wii version. It uses the Wii's motion-sensing control capabilities in a few different ways, though none of them ever feel quite right. When you combine that with the game's lackluster graphical performance, you get a WWII flight combat game that comes up short across the board.
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 there are a few spots when you go out on your own. Even then, your group will keep in touch via the radio. The voice acting isn't very good, and few of the lines are delivered with any feeling. Your pilot frames each new mission with a pre-mission cutscene that shows the flow of the battle you're about to enter and a speech that comes at the end of a mission. He's long-winded, and you're still flying your plane, so you'll just have to fly in circles while you wait for the guy to shut the heck up to get on with it.
When flying alongside your wingmen, you'll be able to give them basic orders; you can order them 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 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.
Once you meet your team, the game skips around and puts you in many of the major air battles of the war. Throughout the course of the game, you'll fly over Pearl Harbor and try to prevent as much damage as possible. You'll fly 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, these are very cut-and-dried missions. 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 can also be fun.
The flying controls in Blazing Angels are kept light. With the standard controls selected, you do most of the work with the Nunchuk. Tilting the Nunchuk steers your plane, and the analog stick on the Nunchuk is used for throttle control. You fire guns and drop bombs using the buttons on the front of the Nunchuk. This leaves your Wii Remote hand free for targeting and issuing commands to your wingmen. There are other options that move the controls around a bit, including a couple of options that have you using the Wii Remote by holding it sideways. The different options are a nice touch, but in all modes, the motion sensing is never responsive enough. Instead, everything feels a little too floaty.
Blazing Angels suffers from some serious frame rate problems and some ugly-looking ground targets. The game feels unstable in spots, and the jerky nature of the frame rate can be, at times, a little vomit-inducing. The whole game has a grainy look to it, so objects in the distance are hard to make out. If you squint, the game looks OK, but overall, it can get kind of ugly.
In addition to its campaign missions and a pair of minicampaigns that open up after you beat the game, Blazing Angels has a few quick-start alternatives. Arcade mode gives you a timer and puts you up against waves of planes. Ace duel puts you up against a single ace pilot, and you're both in the same type of plane. Beating the ace pilot unlocks a new paint job for that plane. If the dogfighting were challenging, that might mean something, but instead, you can get by just by easing off the throttle for a better turning radius and getting in behind your target. You can also play a two-player split-screen mode, which lets you play a few different multiplayer games, but this isn't much of a substitute for the online mode found in other versions of the game.
While this is the best flight game currently available on the Wii, that doesn't mean it's automatically worth purchasing. The sketchy graphical performance really gets in the way, and the shaky control can also be a hassle. If you're absolutely desperate for flight combat, you're better off renting Blazing Angels.