Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII Multiplayer Hands-On
We fly some of the most unfriendly skies imaginable as we check out the multiplayer features of Ubisoft's upcoming World War II combat flight sim.
Currently scheduled for release toward the end of this month, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is a combat flight sim that promises both a robust single-player campaign and multiplayer support for up to 16 players. Previously, our hands-on experiences with Blazing Angels have been limited to time spent with single-player demo missions, but earlier this week we had an opportunity to check out some of the game's multiplayer content on the Xbox 360.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII's multiplayer modes of play are divided up into three categories: solo, squad, and co-op. We didn't get to check out any of the solo gameplay options during our two-hour session with Ubisoft representatives and other media outlets, but we did note that the requisite dogfight (deathmatch) option was joined by seek and destroy (destroy every enemy once) and aces high (destroy the ace player to become the ace) game modes. Since we had around eight players for the duration of the session, much of our time was spent playing the squad-based game modes, which include dogfight, kamikaze, bombing run, and capture the base. The squad-based dogfight mode was essentially a team deathmatch, but the other squad games warrant further explanation.
Our favorite squad game during the multiplayer session was undoubtedly capture the base, which we're pleased to report offered much more than an airborne take on traditional capture-the-flag games. In fact, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII's capture-the-base mode has more in common with Halo 2's territories multiplayer game, or for those of you still hooked on World of Warcraft, the Arathi Basin player-versus-player battleground. The maps used for capture-the-base games have a number of strategic points for you to capture, including bases, airstrips, and aircraft carriers. To capture a strategic point, you have to land at (or on) it and remain stationary for 10 seconds. Blazing Angels' uncomplicated controls ensure that landing your plane and taking off again is a simple process, but the presence of opposing players and the bases' own defenses can make the whole experience quite nerve racking. Our team's strategy of having half of the squadron concentrate on capturing bases while the other half went after opposing players worked extremely well on this occasion, and our only real hiccup came when after successfully capturing an aircraft carrier, we found that it simply wasn't big enough for us to turn around on so that we could attempt to take off from it.
The next multiplayer game that we played was titled kamikaze, and it tasked one of the teams with destroying an enemy battleship simply by crashing their lightly armored Japanese Zeros into it repeatedly. The other team's goal, of course, was to shoot the Japanese planes out of the sky before they reached their target, which wasn't always easy given the speed of the Zeros and the fact that their respawn point wasn't all that far away. Fortunately, kamikaze is played against a time limit, so although it seemed inevitable that enough Japanese planes would eventually get through to destroy the ship, there were plenty of occasions where the clock intervened and declared the defending team the winners. Like the defending positions in the capture-the-base game, the battleship being targeted had plenty of its own antiair defenses, though we found that flying high above the target, stalling the plane, and then flying (or perhaps falling would be more accurate) straight down onto the battleship was a pretty effective way to avoid the AA fire.
Our time with Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII's squad-based multiplayer offerings closed with an enjoyable game of bombing run, which tasks each team with destroying the opposition's base while defending its own. In the game that we played, for example, each team had its own aircraft carrier to protect. The planes available in the pregame-lobby menu included both fighters and bombers, and on this occasion, both teams were smart enough to choose a mixture of the two. The fighter planes have very limited bombing capabilities and so were best suited to defensive duties, while the bombers are able to drop a huge payload on each run, provided that they don't get embroiled in any dogfights en route to their target.
Before the end of the session, we managed to squeeze in a quick cooperative game with three other players. Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII's cooperative games support up to four players on a single screen or online. The cooperative dogfight, bombing run, and kamikaze modes are basically the same as the squad-based modes of the same name, except that you'll be competing against the CPU instead of other players. The onslaught mode will be a deathmatch with bombers as well as fighters, and the historical-missions mode will let you play through 12--you guessed it--historical missions alongside other players. The historical mission that we checked out was an interesting one that tasked us with protecting a naval fleet, first from waves of German bombers and later from German warships. Those of our number who had chosen to fly bombers had a hard time with the dogfights but came into their own when the battle moved onto the water.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII plays every bit as well online as it does when flying solo, and the near-finished Xbox 360 game that we were playing on this occasion even boasted some refinements over the demo that we enjoyed previously. Overuse of the target-following camera, for example, caused our screen to turn black over a period of time if we didn't return to an eyes-front camera every now and then. This effect, which is supposed to simulate the way that real pilots can blackout, is pretty extreme and will eventually turn your entire screen black if you don't release the camera button for a moment. We found it to be a most-welcome addition to the game, though, because anytime we found ourselves flying in a seemingly never-ending circle with an enemy, we knew that it was only a matter of time before one of us would have to pull out of it in order to restore normal vision.
Another neat feature of Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII's multiplayer modes is the way that you can communicate with other players. Voice chat is standard, of course, but you'll also find that you can very easily use the directional pad to request assistance from your colleagues, and that they can subsequently use it to respond. Appeal for help taking down the enemy plane that's in your sights, for example, and the first member of your team to respond with the answer you're looking for will automatically target the enemy in question. In cooperative games, your teammates will even have the ability to repair your plane or to have all enemies automatically target them when you're in over your head.
We've thoroughly enjoyed our time with Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII thus far, and we look forward to bringing you a full review of the game later this month.
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