Flight simulators are not exactly burning up the charts on consoles, even more so when they feature the days of WWII. Still, it is hard not to appreciate a solid game when one comes along. Air Conflicts: Secret Wars is precisely one of these types of occurrences. Throughout my entire playtime, I never once had an issue with the controls, in fact they were surprisingly responsive and well done, but the game just never hooked me with an interesting reason to move forward. If you enjoy the genre, though, Air Conflicts is definitely a title you should consider.
There is a narrative here, just not one that will really leave a lasting impact. You play as DeeDee Derbec, a young female smuggler, who just happens to end up fighting during the big war. There is an ample amount of dialogue, although the cut scenes are simply flat images with camera panning. There is always a reason for what you are doing in each of the 40+ missions, but none you will likely care too much about. Needless to say, the story is forgettable and serves mostly as an excuse to move from one type of plan or mission, to the next.
The game is broken up into numerous missions ranging from stealth runs to bombing runs to standard dog fighting. None of them last very long, which is actually a plus in my book. You get to constantly move from one thing to the next, so the mechanics never get stale. It also helps that the game plays extremely well. The controls are fluid, and if you take time to learn the ins and outs of the simulation mode, you are rewarded with some of the best the genre has to offer on console.
While the campaign is decent, the online mode would have easily provided hours of entertainment thanks to a nice selection of modes. Sadly, in my attempts to find online games, I was greeted with meager offerings. My first attempt landed me in a room with two guys flying off the edges, and further attempts were met with about as much enthusiasm. Once you do manage to get a game going though, it is really a blast. Capture modes and dog fights are intense and remind me of the fun I used to have with Crimson Skies. Sadly, the population online is petite at best, so these experiences will likely be few and far between.
Visually, the game looks decent enough with a solid frame rate, but the overuse of dated effects really mars the overall feel. Bland environments are met with excruciating load times for missions that last less than five to ten minutes. The voice work is also bland on most accounts, and the music is just sort of there. The biggest offender, though, is that turning on subtitles actually hinders gameplay. During scenes where characters are talking, their dialogue removes your HUD making important information invisible until they stop. This becomes annoying, especially for someone who prefers to play with subtitles on.
Air Conflicts: Secret Wars is far from a bad game, but it doesn’t stand out among the current slew of titles. Not to mention it is a genre that console gamers have all but forgotten. Still, if you have a love for classic dog fighting, then there may be something here for you. The campaign is packed with variety, and if you have friends who own the game, the multiplayer offerings are stellar. Just be sure you know what you are getting into before laying down the cash.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.