Versions Available: PS3 (PSN), 360 (XBLA) Version Tested: PS3 (PSN)
Do you long for the thrill of the dogfight? Find yourself uttering phrases like ‘Chocks Away’ or ‘Tally Ho!’? Then bitcomposer Games latest flying game is probably just what you’ve been looking for.
Air Conflicts: Secret Wars isn’t really a new game, though. It appeared in limited form as a full retail game last summer, but didn’t really get a look in among other, bigger budget releases. Now it’s back as a downloadable game on PSN and XBLA at a more reasonable price and it suits this new home well.
The game mostly takes place in WWII, with smuggler Dede caught up in work for the allies at the start of the war and becoming a key player in the resistance. Throughout the campaign there’s also the chance to play as her late father in flashback to WWI. These historical missions provide a completely different feel to the main game and are welcome breaks from the constant dogfighting and bombing runs that Dede and her friends find themselves involved in.
Air Conflicts may look good in stills, but it certainly isn’t a looker when moving, especially for something that was once a full retail release. There is an incredible amount of pop-up and drawing in of details at the last moment. When you make it to Berlin and fly over the city, it tends to cause a shimmering effect as the graphics engine struggles (and sometimes fails) to cope with rendering all the town below you and the enemy aircraft above. That said, explosions are nicely done and there’s nothing really broken about the graphics, they’re just not that special.
It’s nice to see another game supporting 3D, but this seems to further hamper draw distance and makes the shimmering effect worse. Not to an extent that 3D can’t be used, but certainly to its detriment.
Likewise, cut scenes are pretty dire. Static drawn scenes are delivered between missions, along with some pretty ropey dialogue from voice actors with some questionable accents and who don’t seem to be able to deliver their lines in any convincing manner. It’s clear that there wasn’t a huge budget to spend on actors or artists for this title.
However, the game does get one thing right on the PS3. Move support is a great addition that feels pretty natural from the off. Holding the Move controller upright, you move it just as you would a joystick and the buttons are used logically to control everything from weapon selection to speed without the need for the second controller. Even on the Dualshock, the game feels well designed in the control department.
Despite the setbacks in graphics and presentation, Air Conflicts: Secret Wars somehow manages to delight in its dogfighting, bombing and even stealth missions. Taking off and landing is made as basic as possible, so as not to get in the way of the action, but once you’re in the air and facing off against enemy planes it all gels together and the game comes in to its own.
Just like the resistance, this game is an underdog that manages to come out fighting and wins points for pluckiness. The lack of complicated flight controls and the exhilarating feel of shooting down three enemy aircraft before going on to blow up a convoy of trucks manage to make this an arcade flying game worth experiencing.