If there’s one tried and true formula in game design it’s the simple fact that shooting Nazis just never seems to get old. Perhaps it stems from the great joy that can be gained repeatedly thwarting a genocidal manic with plans for global domination, but by now the large majority of us have in some way helped blow the heck out of the German war machine from Normandy to Stalingrad without leaving the comfort of our own homes. This time around we’re back in the cockpit for Blazing Angels 2, keeping the skies safe one downed Messerschmitt at a time.
While the original Blazing Angels was content to stay mostly within the historical events of WWII, Blazing Angels 2 goes considerably farther down the path of embellishment. Specifically, it puts you in command of a secret Allied air commando team who fly around the world on secret missions to take down a secret German special projects division before they can turn the tide of the war by unleashing their nefarious secret prototypes. In this context “secret” is code for “totally made up”, and if it sounds a little on the Saturday matinee side that’s exactly what it is. Complete with graphic-novel-style mission introductions and a rousing musical score it’s a little cheesy but basically all in good fun, and it succeeds in setting a good-natured swashbuckling tone for the action of the game provided you didn’t have your heart set on a solemn historical reenactment.
The original Blazing Angels’ single player campaign was marred by a number of irritations, particularly with its wildly uneven difficulty and frequently frustrating mission goals. The good news is that BA2 has eliminated much of that frustration from its 18 mission campaign. The bad news is that most of the challenge left with it. While it can be fun flying around being a total badass in the great variety of planes and locales, completing missions successfully is rarely in doubt and even getting the coveted Ace rating is fairly easy. A few boss-like encounters sprinkled throughout the campaign this time around inject some extra zing, and the crisper overall presentation, most notably the greatly improved HUD, is a big plus. There’s also a new system for buying upgrades using prestige points earned in the campaign, another nice touch that adds a little more depth to the whole experience.
If what you’re really looking for are authentic human pilots to humiliate in the online skies, BA2 comes complete with a bevy of multiplayer modes. Though most are just aerial versions of standard FPS game types—solo and team dogfights, flag and control point capture, and attack/defend game types—they work well enough at altitude with only a few tweaks here and there. Additionally up to four players can fly missions cooperatively both in an online campaign mode as well as several special skirmish maps.
The hard dose of reality for wanna-be console top guns is there just aren’t many flying games coming out these days. What the genre really needs is a next-gen Crimson Skies, but the sad fate of FASA Interactive makes that prospect dubious. So for now we have to live with what we’ve got, and with little in the way of competition that means Blazing Angels 2. Though it falls well short of greatness it does manage to be pretty good, and the multitude of upgrades make for a huge improvement over the original. The campaign is a little on the easy and short side, but it’s a generally enjoyable ride that’s not without its moments, while the serviceable multiplayer adds a bit more bang per buck. This is definitely a step in the right direction, and perhaps if there’s a Blazing Angels 3 they’ll finally get it right.