Air Conflicts: Secret Wars: The Breaking Review

Breaking News: Nothing but respect for bitComposer Games’ take on flying. Salut!

We’ve managed to get hold of the game early, and here’s the review. A day before the game is released. We were planning on posting this yesterday but there was some problem with our Printscreen, so we had to fish out our digital camera and take photos of the screen. We apologize for the low-quality ‘screenshots’. =P

In the beginning...

It’s World War 2, and you, as Dorothy Derbec, aka DeeDee, are stuck smack in the middle of it. Things are getting too hot for you to live your opportunist life, which consisted of liquor ad smuggling liquor, and more liquor. All of your friends and acquaintances share the same affinity for intoxication. But now, you are drawn into the war, even though you did not consider it yours. You are drawn in because of your past, and your own secret war: the story of your vanished father that you never knew. Legend has it that he was the man they could not kill, and he, Guillaume Derbec, was the luckiest pilot alive. Living by the motto that he who sought death out would not die, he’d escaped death closely on more than 50 different occasions, until one day, he disappeared without a trace.

That’s the basis on which this game builds, and on the pretext of the adventures of DeeDee, it takes you through 49 missions fought for seven different historical resistance movements. While the movements were real, the missions are in nowise so, and that’s the whole point of this game. Where other flight games pride themselves on fidelity to real life, this game is for the sheer fun of it. It puts you in control of some of the most renowned aircraft from both in the WW1 and WW2 eras, but the game is nothing near simulation. In fact, it reminds you more of Crimson Skies than anything else. And what arcade! The game is simple, sheer fun, nothing else. No frivolous lining up the aircraft carefully in your sights, no silly blackouts, nothing. Air Coflicts: Secret Wars takes you through a no-stress, no-nonsense, laid-back and casual gaming experience.

Stare at this while you wait for the mission to load. Fair enough.

The menus are a pleasure to use, innovatively thought out. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen aircraft flying in the background behind the menus, and the pack of Spitfires looks nice. Get in to the first-player campaign, and cartoony stills are voiced-over with dialog and/or narratives for the pre-mission briefing, which reinforces the ‘fun’ factor of the game. The forty-nine missions take you through the story of DeeDee’s search for what became of her father, and her various exploits along the way. You unlock all sixteen planes as you progress through the campaign and earn points (like XP), and you also earn upgrades to your character for handling bonuses, firepower upgrade, etc. From Libya to Slovakia, your hunt goes on, and you witness history in the making.

As far as the actual flying goes, it is very easy and intuitive. You choose from a set of six control configurations, with arcade settings offering less options than the simulation setups. However, the sim configurations are nowhere as complex as those on actual sims, and with virtually no blackout or redout, ultra-high-G turns are no problem. Targeting is fairly simple as well, keep your crosshairs within a reasonable radius of the target and the auto-aim will automatically make sure you never miss the target. Fun stuff, but I must say there ought to have been an option to turn the auto-aim off. Makes it look ridiculously easy at times. Oh, and did I mention that landing consists of flying through a series of circles that get smaller and smaller as you approach the landing zone (regardless of whatever speed you’re flying at)? Things like these, and the lack of any alternative options, let the game down a bit. Come on, many people like landing their planes themselves.

The dogfight, stealth, escort, bombing, reconnaisance and dogfight missions, each with its own character and style of play, are a pleasure to perform, and provide the variety essential to save a game from becoming repetitive hell. We couldn’t test the multiplayer features of the game, because, well, nobody else has it. We’ll try reviewing that as soon as multiplayer comes online.

Beautiful.

On the graphics front, the visuals are very pleasing to the eyes, but maybe not realistic enough. The plane and terrain models are pretty good, but perhaps optimal shading was lacking. It’s like the difference between Need for Speed and Gran Turismo, if you know what I mean. In addition, dogfights often result in one participant’s plane exploding, with the fragments scattered to the four winds. The explosion and the rest of the damage mechanism was, well, pretty basic. There are pre-defined damage models for the aircraft; impact-based damage would have been welcome. However, I’m straying from the point. Realism never was the goal of the game, according to the PRs at bitComposer Games, the focus was rather on ‘pure laid-back shoot-em-up fun.’ I can hardly complain, seeing as the PC version of game only takes up around 1.6GB of space. It’s a light game, designed to run on most PCs. I have noticed that the XBOX and PS3 versions of the game have slightly better graphics due to improved model shading.

Aim in a ballpark near the enemy during a dogfight, and you're good to go.

The audio component of the game is all right. Not awesome, but not horrible by any standard either. Combined with the pleasant visuals, the game turns out to be a very satisfying experience overall. The game does have some flaws, and a few could-haves, but this is a game that set itself a goal and went on to achieve it very beautifully. It decided that the world desperately needed an arcade flight game ever since the advent of Crimson Skies, and went on to provide entertainment in the same vein. Whether you are a sim junkie or the exact opposite, this game will have you at it for hours. A must recommend.

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Pros:

  • One of the best flying experiences since Crimson Skies
  • Tongue-in-cheek humor
  • Nice visuals
  • Interesting and entertaining storyline

Cons:

  • Primitive shading
  • Not enough user preference controls
  • A bit too simple for some

Rating: 7/10

Visit the official Air Conflicts: Secret Wars website here.

The game is available for pre-order here. (US customers only)

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Posted on July 7, 2011, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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