Article Type: Review
Airstrike Eagles of World War II Review
So, you're hammering away on some project that is mundane and redundant. You need a little pick-me-up and the coffee just isn't getting it. Maybe a little mental stimulation like a PopCap game such as Zuma or BeJeweled might help. What if I told you that there was a fun little shooter based on World War 2?
Well, let us say loosely based.
The included HTML based manual says you can play one of three sides: Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe and Red Army Air Force, but the website says;
Fly 5 USAAF planes: P-51, P-47, P-80, B-17 & P-38.
Well, no better way to find out which it is than to jump right in and install the download of 310 MB. It went pretty smoothly on my newer Windows 7 rig, and before too long, I was looking at the screen to create a persona. Once done, you are presented with areas to explore like options, campaign, multiplayer, a gallery, and more.
Not much in the way of options except to choose keyboard, mouse or joystick, resolution, shadows and sounds on a single screen. The part I was looking for was a way to change joystick buttons, or keyboard controls.
Ah, well, with the manual just a KVM button mash away, I'm off!
First a training mission in my all-time favorite WW2-era combat aircraft, the twin engine P-38 Lightning, resplendent in black and white invasion stripes. It is a good shakedown to see if you have a grip on the controls by flying through a point in space, then gunning a stationary balloon. The escape key acts as a pause key, and allows a look at your objectives, which will be x'd off, checklist style, when complete. You can also abort, resume, or check out options there.
There are options to look around, if you have a joystick with a coolie hat, arrow keys for mouse-based flyers, or the infamous A,S,D,W combo familiar to FPS'ers, if the keyboard is your input method of choice. The terrain is fairly nice down low, as that is pretty much where you go. The sounds are convincing enough, and do sound different from plane to plane, which was easily noted in the next mission, a B-17 bomber training mission.
Instead of being in the snow, with the flakes falling all around like the first pair of P-38 missions, you have rolling hills festooned with sparse 3D pines. A look down view via your preferred controller yields a set of cross hairs. Hit the pickle button when the cross centers, and you get a resounding *BO-oo-OM* on impact. If you hit anything substantial, you hear the collapsing of timbers and glass breaking added to the effect. Satisfying.
In pressing on with the campaign, it does what it states, and you proceed through them, even if you have a failed mission. You can auger straight into a hill and miraculously survive, but you will be down an airframe. One of the two rewards given on the debrief screens are aircraft; the other is medals. The typed-out debrief will bestow rank on you, using the modern USAF ranking system, from Airman through full General. Heck, when I made my second run through the campaign system, I was made "General of the Air Force." Unfortunately, once through a campaign, you cannot go back and fly any of the missions againthey are sealed closed.
This arcade game is rife with historical inaccuracies. The bomb loads are extraordinary on all four flyable aircraft, but are stealthy, as you can't see them or any rockets slung below. The P-80, given rarely, is no faster than any of the other prop-jobbers, and the best aircraft all around? not the P-51, which everyone knows won the war, but the ol' Jug herself, the P-47. Bf-109's pop quickly and easily under the withering fire of this mighty beast!
Taking it up versus others in multi-play would wreak havoc, but there is only a LAN version of MP, which I used to test controls and screen captures and the like. As there is no opposition to fly, an online option just wouldn't make sense. Maybe, as the manual alludes, there may be other nations in the future. I, for one, do hope so.
But it is, as stated, an arcade game with a gentle nod toward a specific time in history, not a hardcore rivet-counting, flight modeled combat simulation, so for that it is quite good. Just plain swirling around, blazing away, bomb and rocket lobbing fun!
There are between one and three mission options after receiving the debrief from the prior one. Some have recommended aircraft, which you are free to ignore, and range from Italy through the English Channel, and points in between. Fail one? Maybe you can re-fly it, but more often than not, a re-fly is not an option.
The options for difficulty, from novice through ace, determine how much damage you can take, and how much the enemy can deal out. An option to withdraw is given if you catch the edges of the map, which you can only find if you suddenly see a red arrow below you, and a message to about face to get back into the battle.
This leads us to the meters in the lower section of the screen, as you always get a third-person view. Radar, compass, damage and speed. Speed is only affected by climbing or diving, as on my game system, I have to hold down the shift key to keep the fans turning at all, which is weird, as Windows thinks you are trying to use "Sticky keys" and pops up through the game to ask if you'd like to use them. Once turned off, it is okay, but a little taxing.
The weird bit is that I installed it to my netbook, with an assist from Slitherine to accommodate the wide screen, and the opposite is true. You have to hold the CTRL key to slow it down. The ability to change key commands in future updates would seem a must to me. Just so you know, the netbook can technically run it, but when the action gets going, the video can't handle the tasking and it slows to a crawl.
The missions presented can change on the fly. Interdictions can turn into defense of an area. Protection of ships in the channel against aircraft, then a submarine shows up. Adapt, and go shoot 'em up, as that is what this fast paced shooter is all about.
Bottom line? Realism folks need not apply. But if you want to jump in with a minimum amount of fuss and just blast the stuffings out of enemies loosely based from 60+ years ago, this is a good one to have at it! Just one more mission!
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