Air Conflicts: Secret Wars – Review

Release Date: Out Now! (UK)
Developer: Games Farm
Publisher: Deep Silver
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: System Link 2-8 Players
Multiplayer: Yes 2-8 Players
PEGI: 12+

(Title provided free of charge by the publishers for review)

Throughout the years games have tough us many things about World War II: never stand next to red barrels for insteance, orthat the Germans should have won through sheers numbers but we always had one lone hero that could slaugher countless legions on his own. Now, through the wisdom of Air Conflicts: Secret Wars, we now know that a Spitfire handled almost exactly like a Sopworth Camel from the first World War. Wait, that’s not right, is it?

Secret Wars presents the tale of one DeeDee Derbec, a smuggler and pilot who becomes an integral part of the resistance in Europe. She’s joined by Tommy, an old friend of her father, and several other badly voiced characters over the course of the game. While most of the game takes place during World War II, you’ll also get to fly planes from World War 1 as you uncover the story of DeeDee’s father through the flashbacks of people she meets along the way. While the story is mostly a jumbled mess there is moments of interest to be had, and slowly uncovering the story of DeeDee’s father is quite enjoyable, but the poor voice acting ( what’s up with DeeDee’s accent?) keeps you from ever taking it too seriously. While some parts of the story are told by Diary entries, a good chunk of it is told via hand-drawn cartoon-esque sequences of still pictures, and while this are certainly quite pretty, they don’t fit in with the overall tone of the game giving it a rather stitched together feeling.

The game describes itself as an “arcade flight simulator” which seems to be at complete odds with itself, but during your time with the game you’ll quickly see that this is definately an Arcade game rather than a realistic simulator. Planes can be thrown around with fairly reckless abandon with all but the most ludicrous of stunts resulting in your losing control. They’re easy to keep in the sky and to fly, though if you do find Sim mode a bit tricky (really?) there is an Arcade option as well. During your career as a pilot you’ll shoot down the vast majority of the enemy airforce by yourself, almost making a mockery of the fact that DeeDee learns her father was a Flying Ace. During these tight dogfights you’ll have an over enthuastic auto-aim to help you out: simply aiming in the general direction of an enemy plane is usually enough to activate the aid, at which point your gunfire will miracously direct itself toward the plane. At normal difficulty levels it’s just too good, often making it feel like you’re really not doing anything yourself, and it can only be completely turned off by ramping the difficulty up as high as it will go. Despite some problems the flying is  quite fun, though it never hits the highs of Sturmovik or H.A.W.X 2. However, you’ll quickly realise that the flying is fairly shallow stuff thanks to simplistic enemy AI making the whole thing feel more like shooting fish in a barrel rather than an epic dogfight. Another flaw comes when you get the opportunity to get into the seat of some classic planes from the first World War during flashbacks: what should be a massive change of piloting style turns out to be….exactly the same.. The Spitfires, Stukas and ME109s that you normally fly feel exactly like the World War 1 planes and vice versa. That helps you realise that almost every plane in the game feels exactly the same as the next one with the only real differences coming in the form of the bombers. Now, I’ve never had the pleasure of flying a Spitfire or an ME109, but I am fairly certain that they’d handle very differently from the old Bi-planes.

The ability to upgrade some of your stats also randomaly turns up after a certain level. This new-found element of the game arrives with no warning or fan-fare: you simply complete a mission like normal and suddenly get greeted with the ability to stick a point into stats like Endurance, Agility and Luck. It feels rather superflous, though, as these stat upgrades never feel like they have any actual impact on your plane or character apart from the Luck stats giving you the occasional extra insta-kill headshot/fuel tank shot.

To its credit, Air Conflicts does try and mix things up a little with stealth missions, bombing runs and other things thrown in. These are generally pleasing little distractions, but do become quite repetitive as they generally all feel exactly the same as the last time. Sadly you won’t even get to land or take off properly during your excursions as landing is handled by flying through  a few rings whereupon the screen will black out and then return with your plane magically on the ground. Take -offs just require to ramp up the throttle to max with everything else being handled by the game itself and the shortest ever take off space. Still, the game does at least make the effort to keep things interesting. That’s got to count for something, right? But, given that there isn’t actually that much room to add variety in a flight sim, it’s not that surprising that the game does become tiresome after a short time.

Secret Wars doesn’t impress visually, either. Environments are vast expanses of bleak, featureless terrain with terrible texture and detail. Flying over a mountain range isn’t the breathtaking view it should be, but rather it’s a view of a bland, big blob in the middle of the map. The planes themselves are slightly better with some decent detail, but are still lacking any real graphical oomph.

It does make up for it with some suitably dramatic, if fairly generic, backing music. The music soars to provide a great backdrop for the action, and your plane’s guns sound nice and meaty. There was a slight imbalance between the sound of the planes engines vs the background music, but a quick visit to the options menu will remedy this, though the engine still sounds rather quiet.

Air Conflicts: Secret Wars feels, plays, and looks like a budget game, but that’s not surprising as this is a low budget game, and at a argain price then it’s certainly worth your time. But at  full price, Secret Wars just doesn’t do anything well enough to justify a purchase.

The Good:
+ Unleashing a rocket barrage on the enemy tank force.
+ The slow motion Adrenaline!
+ Flying Classic Planes…..

The Bad:
– ….. Shame they feel the same.
–  Visually unimpressive.
– Enemy AI makes for little challenge.

The Scores:

Graphics: 6
Decent plane detail doesn’t make up for terrible environments.

Sound: 6
The music is nice and dramatic, though quite generic, and gunfire sounds good enough, but the voice acting is very poor.

Story: 6
Actually interesting at points, but it’s just not very well told and the characters are uninteresting.

Gameplay: 6
Fun but shallow. Dogfight lack the feeling of being a tense dance of death, instead feeling like a duck shoot.

Lifespan: 7
The singleplayer should last you around 8-10 hours, and theres multiplayer thrown in for good measure.

Overall: 6
Summary: Air Conflicts: Secret Wars is the perfect game to pick up when seen in the bargain bin, but otherwise it fails to impress with its flying, visuals or story. it doesn’t do anything bad, it just doesn’t do it right, either.


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