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Air Conflicts: Secret Wars Review (360)

1941. Rommel and his Afrika Korps advance across Libya towards Tobruk. As the Luftwaffe descend only one person stands in their way. Deedee! A chirpy young smuggler and daughter of an ace WWI pilot. A lady whose sole interests are money, smoking and horrific voice acting. And those pesky Nazis are getting in the way of her business! Sure, she’ll give the Allies a hand but only if she can smuggle a crate or 3 of whisky at the same time. Yet as the game progresses Deedee will be forced to confront her own past and find the truth of her father’s disappearance. Oh yeah, her father disappeared. Not so ace after all, eh? Tally Ho!

So the plot isn’t the strongpoint in this arcade flight simulation, more on that later, but how does it play? Definitely more arcade than simulation, you won’t have to worry yourself about the technicalities of flying. No messing with flaps or gears, you won’t even have to land the plane yourself. Instead you fly through four large floating circles, which see you safely back on the ground as if by magic. The training wheels are kept firmly on here. There’s even a button for ‘Adrenaline’ that is basically bullet-time, slowing down the action to let you line up that perfect shot. The amount of adrenaline available to you is thankfully short as it can render any dogfight fairly easy and therefore pointless.

The campaign mode includes almost 50 missions which, to be honest, can be a little formulaic. Go to X. Destroy planes on the way to X. Destroy X. This would be fine if the dogfights, the main meat of the game, weren’t so formulaic themselves. I realise that there’s only so much you can do in a game like this but frankly I was becoming bored by the third mission in which I had to fly to a base, shooting down Luftwaffe planes en route, then destroy trucks leaving the base before shooting down yet more planes. You’ll never guess what the next mission involved.

I can’t imagine that serious flight simulator fans will ever grow to love AC:SW. I can’t imagine that casual arcade flight fans will either. It tries to have a foot in both camps. The option to change the controller configuration from arcade to simulator (therefore giving you control of the rudders) seems like an effort to please both too. The simulator option does give you more manoeuvrability but at the expense of accuracy. At least with simulator controls you can now perform barrel rolls and loops far easier than the arcade option, which can feel like playing Afterburner on occasion. You also have radar but on several occasions when I received an update to my mission over the in-game radio the radar would disappear while the message played only for me to be in my enemies sights when it reappeared or completely lost.

There is a Multiplayer option available when you tire of the Campaign mode. You’re offered Deathmatches and Capture the Flag games but I can’t tell you how good or bad they are since after six days of looking so far I haven’t found another soul online playing. The addition of non-AI opponents can only be a good thing though.

Back to the plot then. As the game progresses, Deedee’s cold smuggler heart seems to melt a little as she begins to unravel the circumstances behind her father’s disappearance. She travels to several occupied countries joining Resistance groups along the way. At this point I really need to point out the god-awful voice acting again and question why the budget couldn’t stretch to cut-scenes that don’t consist of a single cartoon image that we zoom in and out of and side to side as if we had just downed a bottle of smuggled single malt. Little things like this distract from what otherwise could be an interesting plot that makes the history of WWII a little less dry at times.

There is a range of aircraft available to fly through ought the game from Sopwith Camels to Spitfires to Meteors (ask your granddads kids!). They’re unlocked after successful missions but you’d struggle to notice any real difference in feel or abilities between them. The jet fighters don’t even seem much faster than the single prop bi-plane. Other things niggled away at me. I’m no history buff but did all these planes have such great radar back then? Or have radar at all? In some of the planes the most technologically advanced kit would have been a cup holder. Did we really have machine guns with unlimited ammo back then? Giant floating magic landing rings? Auto lock-on fire? Little things, clawing away at my brain saying “this doesn’t seem right”. But it’s ok. It’s an arcade game…..Only an arcade game.

BitComposer has tried to be different here. The smuggler angle is actually refreshing rather than you playing the same old ace combat fighter with a jazzy nickname and comedy moustache. There is scope for a good game here by adding a plot to a genre that generally forgoes one (other than “It’s war! Go out and shoot something!”). The repetitive nature of the game is its downfall though. You’ll struggle to finish the Campaign unless you’re obsessive and the multiplayer option may remain a mystery unless more people flock to it. There are flashes of brilliance. Some of the graphics are beautiful. On one mission I crashed into a hill while admiring the sunset (actually how the Red Baron died. No, not really). The music is lovely and fitting whilst not distracting from the game. The flying itself is smooth and enjoyable and it’s a pity that we’re denied the chance to try to properly take-off or land your craft. I thoroughly enjoyed Air Conflicts: Secret Wars to begin with but by the end couldn’t stomach yet another almost identical mission. Initially fun but ultimately flawed.

6 Messerschmitts out of 10


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