Earlier this month, at its Ubidays event in San Francisco, Ubisoft showed off a playable version of Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII for the first time. Representatives from Ubisoft's Romanian studio were on hand to demo a few of the game's 18 missions. We also had an opportunity to get some combat time during a battle over Cairo. That mission played out very differently from those in last year's Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII because some of the controls--notably those for your wingmen--have been improved. Also, historical accuracy and realism will be taking a back seat to fiction and gameplay this time around.
In Blazing Angels 2, you'll be flying as the leader of an elite undercover squadron called Operation Wildcard. Working for the American government, your mission is to foil the Third Reich's plans to develop a weapon of mass destruction. That mission will take you to locations all over the world, including Moscow, Rome, China, the Baltic Sea, the Swiss Alps, and the Himalayas. Our demo kicked off in the skies over Egypt, where German forces were attempting to parachute tanks into the city of Cairo. The first objective was to make sure that no more than 15 tanks made it down safely while fending off attacks from enemy fighter pilots. The city below was larger and more detailed than any of the locations from last year's game. For example, market stalls and washing lines were clearly visible among the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of quite varied buildings. Besides the much-improved visuals, the feature that really stood out during this portion of the demo was the arcade-style scoring system that awards you prestige points every time you or one of your wingmen takes down an enemy. You can also earn points by performing stunts, such as flying fast and low to the ground or going under a low bridge, which is basically the kind of stuff that you'd probably be doing anyway--just for kicks.
Fast-forwarding to the end of the Cairo mission, we were treated to our first look at one of Blazing Angels 2's new boss battles. On this occasion, the boss was a gigantic zeppelin that dwarfed the nearby Great Pyramid. The zeppelin was certainly far bigger than anything that would've existed during World War II. Its appearance at the end of the mission was also very much in keeping with what we were being told about the game's level design: missions start out in a relatively conventional manner but get more fantastical and over-the-top as you progress. Without wishing to give too much away, the battle with the zeppelin boss was a lengthy affair where we were required to destroy its many gun turrets and several waves of planes before we could even think about downing it.
Between levels, you'll have an opportunity to spend your prestige points on a number of different upgrade options, including squad training, larger fuel or ammo capacities, improved gun sights or weapon range, tougher armor, and the like. Where applicable, these upgrades will be applied to every plane in your hangar when you purchase them, so you won't need to worry about having a plane that you've spent a lot of points on becoming obsolete later in the game. Blazing Angels 2 will feature more than 50 aircraft in total, including plenty that saw on active duty in real life and a number that never made it past the drawing board, prototype stages of development, or simply weren't ready before the hostilities came to an end. Ubisoft Romania has also taken some liberties with the weaponry in the game, so don't be surprised if you find self- and TV-guided missiles in your arsenal. Perhaps the most noteworthy modification being added to the planes is close-range defensive weaponry, which will include an engine-clogging smoke screen, a rear-firing shotgun, and even a Tesla coil device that can mess with multiple enemies simultaneously if they get too close. All of the defensive weapons will feature in the story-driven campaign, but they're clearly designed with multiplayer battles, which in the original game could often deteriorate into dogfights where each "dog" was chasing the other's tail, in mind as well.
Multiplayer options in Blazing Angels 2 will include free-for-all deathmatch, capture the flag, assault, epic battle, and cooperative modes of play. Unfortunately, we weren't shown any multiplayer action on this occasion, but the next portion of our demo certainly didn't disappoint. Set above a great-looking Baltic Sea littered with battleships, the level looked and played very differently from the mission over Cairo. The Baltic Sea level took place at night, so all of the ships were attempting to locate our squadron with powerful searchlights. The beams of light were moving constantly, and failure to steer clear of them while trying to complete other objectives invariably resulted in taking damage from antiaircraft guns. The last level we were shown went even further to demonstrate how varied the missions are going to be because its first objective required us to drop a spy onto a train as it sped through the picturesque Champagne region of France. We didn't get to see how the rest of that level played out, but the scenery was even more impressive than in the previous two levels. We're looking forward to finding out how different it will be when the blue sky is filled with enemy planes and black smoke.
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of World War II is currently scheduled for release in August. We'll bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.