We take Totally Games' newest flight combat game for a ride at E3 2003.
LucasArts showed off a playable version of its upcoming flight combat game Secret Weapons Over Normandy at this year's E3. Developed by Totally Games, the creator of the venerable X-Wing games on the PC, Secret Weapons Over Normandy is by no means a hard-core flight simulator. The game emphasizes fast, accessible action that is easy to pick up.
The version we got to try out at E3 was running on the PlayStation 2, although the game will also be available on the PC and Xbox. Despite the title, Secret Weapons Over Normandy will actually let you fly missions in a variety of different World War II theaters from the years 1940 to 1944, including Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the skies over China, and even the Battle of Midway in the Pacific. In fact, the first mission demonstrated was Midway, where we hopped in an American Wildcat fighter. The mission parameters required us to provide air cover for the Dauntless dive bombers trying to take out the Japanese carriers, so we had to clear the skies of seemingly dozens of enemy Zeroes.
Since there will be so many aircraft buzzing about at high speeds, Secret Weapons Over Normandy provides several features to help you focus more on the combat and less on trying to keep control of your plane. The game can be played from a third-person view that lets you lock on to an enemy fighter to easily turn and track it down. As you bear down on a target, a red aiming reticle shows you exactly how far to lead your cannon fire in order to hit a moving target, taking both planes' relative speed and heading into account. You can also hit a button to put the game into a cinematic slow-motion mode, to further assist in fine-tuning your aim. Your ability to use the slow-motion mode is currently unlimited, which can make the game somewhat simplistic, but players looking for a tougher challenge always have the option of not using the feature. A very nifty instant replay feature is also included in the game. At any point, you can hit a button to get an instant replay of the previous 15 seconds of gameplay. As the replay is shown, you can cycle through about 24 different camera angles, giving you cinematic satisfaction from a particularly exciting kill.
In another mission, we got to try out an experimental fighter nicknamed the "Flying Pancake." This unusual aircraft is based on an actual design from World War II, with two oversized propeller engines to give the plane excellent speed and a flat spade frame to give the craft enormous lift (allowing it to fly at slow speeds too). The Flying Pancake mission objectives required us to take out some V1 buzz-bomb rockets in flight, and also knock out some ground targets, such as tanks. Thankfully we could outfit the plane with some X-4 guided rockets. Yes, even 60 years ago, the Germans had tested some of the world's first "smart" munitions--radio-controlled missiles. In the game, firing an X-4 puts the game camera into the nose of the missile, allowing you to steer it toward a target. We watched as a LucasArts representative deftly slammed an X-4 missile into a moving tank. The resulting explosion cut the camera away to a third-person view where we could enjoy the carnage.
One final mission put us in the ball turret of a B-17 bomber. We had no control over the plane, as the mission was focused purely on manning the turret. It was quite a rush to be able to pivot the turret in order to track and fight off the hordes of Bf-109s attacking our bomber and the rest of the bomber squadron. LucasArts noted that some of Secret Weapons Over Normandy's approximately 30 missions will take you out of the pilot's seat and have you man antiaircraft guns on the ground, on a ship, or in a bomber like the B-17. In all, there should be 30 different aircraft types in the game, with about 22 or 23 of them playable.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy is due out late this year for the PlayStation 2, the Xbox, and the PC. We'll be sure to update you with more information on this fast-paced action game as soon as possible.
- Release Date: Nov 18, 2003 (US)
- ESRB: TTitles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older.