With the arrival of Sony’s PlayStation 3 comes a flurry of quick and easy Xbox 360 ports like Ubisoft’s slick arcade dog-fighting game, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII. As in the 360 version released less than a year ago, armchair pilots strap into a variety of authentic WWII aircraft and, with the help of D-Pad activated wingmen, swiftly attack a mix of air, land and sea targets through either a relatively easy single-player campaign mode or against equally aggressive human opponents online.
Unlike on Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 version has been jazzed up with the latest and greatest motion controller technology Sony’s Sixaxis has to offer. One simple button click will transfer a plane’s full 360 degrees of movement from the analog sticks to the controller’s internal gyroscope allowing the plane’s full range of motion to be managed by simply turning and tilting the controller.
The first ten minutes of experimenting with Sixaxis motion control is a true test of patience. Simple tasks taken for granted like flying a straight line to a target or pulling up from a dive at the right moment turn gravity into a deadly adversary. Even once becoming accustomed to the controller’s “feel” and realizing a wide sweeping motion is not required for a wide turn, frustration shifts to dog-fighting and trying to keep a target in the crosshairs long enough to fire off a few rounds. A hard bank turned combined with the targeting crosshair and firing comprising a large portion of the game – especially the latter levels – is exponentially harder using motion controls over analog sticks.
To further differentiate this updated PlayStation 3 version from the Xbox 360 version, Ubisoft’s Romanian studio oddly remixed the voiceovers (for the worse) and added 11 new planes and 2 new missions: one a preemptive strike in the North Sea, the other a battle over New Georgia Island. The new missions follow the same straightforward seek-and-destroy approach as the others and only serve to extend the single-player campaign by a few extra minutes.
Online support allows for up to 16 players to join in a raucous free for all dog-fighting fest, shooting down marked planes or setting sights on a lone, outnumbered ace pilot. Taking on human opponents is far more satisfying than chasing AI drones, though not quite the blast of the Xbox classis Crimson Skies without the benefit of super-weapons. Of greater concern is with a lack of PlayStation 3 consoles in gamers’ homes, the odds of finding 15 other opponents to fill all the slots at a time when you want to play are slim.
Another strike against the PlayStation 3 version is its inability to keep the framerate up during intense close quarters combat. This nuisance becomes particularly grating when concentrating hard on motion controls only to lose your flight angle and have to realign an enemy fight in the crosshairs all over again. I don’t recall running into countless instances of bogged down framerates on the Xbox 360, so why should the all mighty Cell processor handle these 720p visuals worse?
Ubisoft was wise to release Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII on PlayStation 3 and fill a much-needed Sixaxis motion control void, but in the process of rushing it out the door, the developers appear to not have had enough time with the final console hardware required to optimize framerates and the PlayStation 3 community is not robust enough yet to continually fill 16 slots for online play. The game does still look as pretty as it did on Xbox 360, and for newcomers to the now “series” of Blazing Angel games, the overly easy single-player mode conquerable in well under 10 hours (assuming analog stick use only) makes for a perfect rental.
- Overall: 6.8
- Ubisoft upped the ante with Sixaxis support, new planes and new missions, but dropped the ball with inconsistent framerates and an online network desperately seeking gamers.
— Dan Bradley