Chocks away eh what? Bandits at six o'clock and all that. Yep, it's time for another one of these combat flight games. This genre has already made a few appearances on the Xbox 360 with the enjoyable Blazing Angels games, the overly stuffy Il-2 Sturmovich, the emo-as-hell Ace Combat 6 (not to mention its soon-to-arrive, shitty-looking sequel) and a couple of no-mark efforts as well. The newest arrive is Air Conflicts: Secret Wars which is a World War 2-flavoured take on the genre that follows the story of DeeDee, a female French pilot adopted by an English WW1 veteran and friend of her dead father, as she takes part in secret battles while also finding out what happened to her old man.
The story is utterly forgetable and told via lengthy spoken dialogues that are rubbishly acted and more annoying than informative. There are also story panels inbetween missions that feature some poor cartoon art and deliver the story via text. However, it all comes down to the same thing: seven chapters featuring eight or so missions each that see you either destroying something or someone or smuggling something somewhere. The smuggling missions have a degree of stealth to them with the presumably owl-headed German pilots having a circle of vision around them that you have to avoid using the handy mini-radar on your screen.
If you do have to get into a battle, the lessons that could be learned from, say, Blazing Angels 2 (this game's closest comparison) are completely ignored. The battles are slow, awkward and utterly bland. There's no sense of drama or excitement in the gameplay and the game's visual presentation is so very bland that it feels like you're playing the whole thing after swigging a bottle of Night Nurse. With the shitty vintage planes lacking in speed and also manouvrability (including the game's incredibly low glass ceiling), battles are just a case of trying to get behind the other plane and pepper them machinegun fire or try to get lucky with the unguided missiles.
None of the game's many missions offer any real challenge or variation and there's not a whole lot to see either beyond the hills of France, the sand dunes of Egypt or the occasional European town. After flying over populated football grounds and taking on highly experimental enemies in Blazing Angels 2, this seems incredibly pedestrian. After the ten or so mindnumbing hours spent in campaign there's also the online mode to play with. Well, there would be but this game is utterly dead online already. The achievements for winning 50 games or finishing top in a six player battle are incredibly ambitious as there's no kind of community on this game beyond a few boosters trying to get things together via the various achievement whoring websites.
If you do get a game together, you'll find that the incredibly weak machine gun fire means that sky battles can take ages to settle. A little like Gears of War, this is the sort of game where you can be chipping away at an enemy's health for the best part of five minutes before he actually does you the courtesy of blowing up.
So all in all, there's very little to recommend when it comes to Air Conflicts. The only plus points are some of the visual flourishs, such as the occasional stunningly beautiful sunset or decent cloud/fog/smoke effects. However these are totally at odds with the primative graphics seen in the rest of the game. Slow, featureless and overly expensive even at a budget price. This is the Easyjet of air combat games.
An easy max in theory. All the single-player achievements can be done on Easy difficulty, effectively removing any challenge and the majority are automatically unlocked as you complete the story. The one tricky one is for shooting an enemy from distance with a rocket. Totally doable though, just wait until you get a jet fighter with four rockets and start firing them off.
Most of the multiplayer stuff can be done in 1v1 private games, so no problems there. Just make sure for the 'officer' achievements (where you pick an RAF/German/Russian plane) that you do these in Team Deathmatch or Capture The Flag as you won't get those achievements in regular deathmatch.
The bitches of the bunch are the two 'Good Show' achievements. These can only be earned in six player matches and right now this game is completely dead online. Good luck getting a boost party together.
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