|Most flight combat simulator
games leave me feeling like someone who joined the army after watching all of the MTV
commercials. Wheres the adventure, the excitement, the sheer coolness of the
dogfights promised on the box? The sad truth about overly realistic games is that war, in
the real world, can be tedious. In the real world of aerial combat, shooting down one or
two aircraft over the course of an entire career is considered impressive. Who needs that
kind of realism? Aerowings 2 is not a game of how flight combat really is, but how you
want it to be.
If you view the training missions as part of the game and not as something you have to get through in order to get on with the rest of the game, you will be a lot more satisfied. The training includes thorough briefings before the mission with detailed evaluations following. They essentially do a video replay with play-by-play commentary.
The planes look incredible. You can unlock 25 Japanese and American aircraft by progressing through the game. It was the little details that sold me: the lowering of the landing gear, the reflection of the ground speeding by on the cockpit, and the blinking lights on the tail. The aircraft are so beautiful that there is almost enough pleasure to be had in just handling the planes. Almost.
No matter how much you enjoy the way the aircraft handles, the scenery above and below you, or the realistic details in how the planes are rendered, there comes a time when you feel the need to blow things up. The first Aerowings focused on flight rather than combat and it probably would have left me a little unsatisfied. These are games, not tests. The combat aspects of this game do not dominate, but rather compliment an already enjoyable experience. This would be a good game without the machine guns and missiles, but it is a great game with them.
The weapons aspect of the game is pretty simple. The game chooses for you whether or not to use the guns or missiles and then you get a lock on and fire. Only one button is used which simplifies things a great deal. The controls themselves just feel right. The only thing that could have made the controls more intuitive would have been an actual flightstick. The HUD is clear and easy to read. Not just a pretty decoration, the HUD gives you all you need to know without distracting you from the task at hand.
You have the option in this game to go head to head with a friend. There are almost limitless possibilities for configuring aerial combat scenarios. The Dogfights usually amount to who gets the missile lock-on first, but it provides a great break from the mission goals. There is also a freeplay section where you dictate the setting, enemies, and difficulty levels. And, of course, you have the option to just fly around if you want and that can be quite soothing. The freeplay and dogfight sections of this game really add to its replay value.
The combat missions that you fly after completing the training range from simple to borderline insane. You start off trying to shoot down some stationary targets, but then move up to some pretty difficult dogfighting. If youre feeling pretty cocky about getting through the training, then the later missions will do a good job of humbling you.
This game is a collection of great scenarios that can be played with a vast fleet of fighters. It seems to lack a bigger goal encompassing the whole of it. A story mode where the world, or at least the worlds oil supply, is on the line might have been nice. You can only get so excited about shooting down nameless enemies for no other reason than youre told you need to shoot them down (which is probably fairly realistic). As I progressed through the game I felt I was becoming a better pilot, but I didnt feel that the world was a better place for my piloting skills.
My only contention with the graphics is that the landscapes tend to be a little flat. I like to pilot as close to the ground as possible and there just arent any canyons to narrowly scrape through. With the exception of the city scape, most of the surfaces have the dynamics of the plains of Wyoming. However the weather and day/night conditions added a lot of texture to the scenes of play. The storms were particularly impressive.
The only other problem I had with the game was the music. It was only the high caliber of graphics that kept me from thinking I was playing Top Gun on my NES in my parents basement. I can understand the desire to evoke that movie through similar music, but Kenny Loggins hasnt had a hit for fifteen years! Let him rest. Although I experience a lot of nostalgia for popular 80s music (it is the soundtrack of first kisses and early video games), I cant listen to it seriously anymore.
It is not a pure action game. There is strategy involved and you have to pay attention to details like fuel supply and G-Force, but theres not so much to learn that you cant take off from the runway on the first day. It is the perfect blend of realism and entertainment. At times it does feel a bit like school, but always one of your favorite classes, one that you would never even consider ditching. Ive always felt that the whole point of video games was to get away from the real world which is why the popularity of Flight Sims on the PC have always baffled me. They are long, uneventful, and many of them dont even have missiles to fire or highjackings to deal with. Sure, the graphics are pretty, but so is the view out my living room window.
For a game to be satisfying you need to feel like you did more than just pound buttons really hard; you need to learn a little finesse, a little skill. In Aerowings 2 you have to learn just enough to feel like youre really doing something, but not enough to actually qualify for your pilots licence. Aerowings 2 is all fun and no tedium.