Air Conflicts: Secret Wars: Putting up a good dogfight

November 12, 2011

It’s not often we see any World War II flight combat games on the market these days. While fans of this genre will most likely play the best of the best on PC, those few who own consoles and want to get some great flight combat action rarely see anything outside of Ace Combat. And so we have Air Conflicts: Secret Wars, a game appealing to such a specific audience that it limits its best features entirely.

The game’s story attempts to weave together multiple characters during different times in World War II, but really fails to go anywhere. The story isn’t bad, but you just never find yourself caring about any of the characters. During cutscenes, you get the see the game’s use of a “graphic novel” style, which is just laughably bad art work that seems like it was hastily thrown together at the last minute. If you’re coming to this game for an intricate and complex story, there’s really nothing for you here. At the very least, the awful voice acting will provide you with a chuckle or two.

One of the most important aspects of any flight combat game is handling. With Air Conflicts, you are offered two options right from the start: arcade and simulation. Arcade handling is as basic as you can get, but it feels very stiff. You never get the feeling that you’re really in control of your plane, and trying to maneuver during dogfights is a pain. Simulation mode, on the other hand, is great…once you get the hang of it. If you can find the time to try and master your skills in this mode, it can be quite rewarding.

Sadly, the missions you are provided are often boring. The developers try to claim they are offering a lot of variety, with missions that range from typical dogfights, to stealth, to escort missions, but they all end the same way. You’re either going to be shooting a lot of planes out of the air or bombing ground units throughout most of the game’s campaign. The variety is there, kind of, but it’s there in an attempt to cover up the tedium.

Even the basics of any flight game, the dogfights, are pretty dull here. The enemies never really provide a challenge. At best, they’ll be able to avoid you for a while before they just blindly fly into your line of fire, effectively giving up. Even on the hardest difficulty, you are never met with a challenge. At one point I saw one of the enemy pilots just ram into the ground for no reason; even the A.I. finds the combat boring. Sure, the simulation mode is still great, but without a proper challenge you’ll never be able to test your skills, making it all pointless in the end.

Those hoping to test their skills online might be rewarded with some equally skilled players, but nobody is playing the game. We were unable to find a single game, making what could have been a great experience effectively meaningless. The game also provides a “dogfight” mode, which is essentially the three multiplayer modes with bots, but the A.I. continues to be as brainless as ever. This is probably your best bet to try out the large number of planes the game has to offer, each one of them handling pretty differently.

Air Conflicts: Secret Wars could have been a great multiplayer game for those who take the time to master the simulation controls with a group of friends. Sadly, there just isn’t anybody playing online, leaving people with nothing but a humdrum campaign that provides no challenge or fun. If you can get a group of friends to play the multiplayer with, you will undoubtedly have a good time with this game, but otherwise it’s nothing but another generic WWII game that does little to differentiate itself.

Pros: Plenty of planes to choose from, the simulation controls are amazing
Cons: Arcade mode plane handling feels stiff, enemies don’t pose much of a threat, missions lack variety

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.