Xbox 360

  News 
  Reviews
  Previews
  Hardware
  Interviews
  All Features

Areas

  3DS
  Android
  iPad
  iPhone
  Mac
  PC
  PlayStation 3
  Vita
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Media
  Archives
  Search
  Contests

 

Air Conflicts: Secret Wars

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: bitComposer Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Flight/ Edutainment/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

As period pieces go, Air Conflicts: Secret Wars does a nice job of placing you into realistic settings during the two World Wars, including several in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Germany. The details don't stop at the bird's-eye view, as you'll notice when you dive-bomb an enemy installation or convoy. There's also the historical angle, when you consider all the planes you'll pilot during the game's seven campaigns. History buffs will appreciate a depiction of the Sopwith Camel that doesn't include Snoopy, right? Biplanes, jets, the occasional bomber... each of these is playable, and you'll see plenty in the sky opposing you from the enemy forces.

In addition to the nice production value of the playable and in-game assets, there are lots of nice touches such as voice acting and interstitial scenes to flesh out the "lost" stories of war. There's been such a glut of WWII games especially on consoles, we appreciate any attempt to approach war from a different angle. Right off the bat, you play the role of a woman pilot pulled into the battle, a spunky flyer from a long line of flyers. She comes off as an unlikely combatant, but with your help, she rises to become a formidable fighting ace. The lead-in scenes are played well by the game's voice actors, but let down a bit by the decision to pan across static art rather than step up to actual animation or at least storyboards.


Gameplay:

Dogfighting games on consoles aren't all that common, to say the least. Classics like Colony Wars come to mind, even though they're over a decade old. We've had more recent arcade entries such as the Peanuts-themed air combat game for XBLA, Snoopy: Flying Ace, that oddly shares the same time period as Air Conflicts: Secret Wars. In this more realistic depiction of the air war over Europe and the Mediterranean, you have more to do than just shoot down enemy planes. We loved the breadth of objectives, from flying recon missions, to pick-up/drop-off goals, to outright destruction. There's plenty of dogfighting action, and a surprising amount of action from ground targets, that you'll either attack with guns or bombs.

Primarily a single-player game, Air Conflicts: Secret Wars does support system link and online play to allow for multiplayer. Really, you're getting the experience of sharing air-space with "real" fly-boys and fly-girls, but the simplicity of a local split-screen game isn't available. Burning through the skies with a friend on the same system should have been included; its omission will give Air Conflicts: Secret Wars a fairly limited shelf-life for most gamers, considering the challenge of conscripting friends to buy their own copies of the game and the limited social appeal of gaming with strangers.


Difficulty:

What you get here is an arcade title wearing the skin of a simulation. What looks and feels like a serious 'Sim is actually a pick-up-and-play title that handles with all the ease of any arcade flying game. You can modify the controls to turn Air Conflicts: Secret Wars into a game with more realistic handling, but there are still many forgiving aspects that keep players from becoming too frustrated. On its default setting, Air Conflicts: Secret Wars only requires you to fly through a set of rings to land, doesn't bother with any complicated flight controls, and lets you take lots of damage before exploding into a big red ball. Changing the handling doesn't actually change much of the surrounding aspects of the game, but it does make flying your planes more complicated. The hardest part of Air Conflicts: Secret Wars is sticking through to the end on more involved missions, which thankfully do offer checkpoints. As mentioned earlier, the ground targets are often more difficult than those in the air. Targeting on the ground requires more precise controls, and bombing runs are especially hard. Although there's a targeting reticule that shows up on the ground, its relation to where your bombs will actually land is a bit mysterious. And by mysterious, we mean "throw your controller at the wall."

Game Mechanics:

As any fan of flight simulators will tell you, controlling a plane isn't the most intuitive thing for folks accustomed only to the left/right/forward/backward dynamic of most vehicular games. Let's face it, most of know about racing cars, boats, bikes, and trucks, but precious little about flying anything other than 2D spaceships. The default, Arcade Mode offered in Air Conflicts: Secret Wars pretty much reduces the handling to up/down/left/right controls, and doesn't even invert the up/down unless you specifically change the settings. One tweak away is the Simulation Mode, which drastically changes how you control your plane. Instead of moving smoothly left and right, this mode requires an understanding of how the rudder works. You can roll using the Analog Stick, but only the rudder pulls the plane left or right. When you combine roll and rudder, plus juicing your speed, you can definitely pull off some cool tricks. Buttons control firing machine guns or dropping bombs, and you can drop back into tail-gunner mode when it's impossible to shake an enemy plane.

Air Conflicts: Secret Wars struck us as a solid, if not terribly long-lived single player game, with some nod to Xbox LIVE fans. There are enough missions (almost 50) in the game to make it something you'll spend more than a long weekend pushing through, and there's some incentive to replay early missions with planes you might have discovered later in the game, at least for points. The fun factor isn't as high as it might be in a true Arcade flight-combat game, but the subject matter doesn't really lend itself to comedy. Peeling back the covers on some of the bloodiest air theaters of both World Wars is great material for students of history, simulation buffs, and arcade pilots looking for a bit more depth.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Related Links:



Microsoft Xbox 360 Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure Nintendo DS Aliens: Infestation

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated