The flight genre has never been considered a mainstream attraction, despite the success of franchises like Ace Combat. Even so, we continue to get a few flight efforts each generation that turn out to be both solid and entertaining, so perhaps you should pay attention to Air Conflicts: Aces of World War II for the PSP. Scheduled to release next month, this hybrid arcade-based/simulator allows you to experiment with 17 different planes and tackle over 240 missions; you can choose to fly for the British Royal Air Force, the German Air Force, or the U.S. Air Force. Hell, you can even sign on with the Russians if you so choose, and take to the skies as a rookie pilot, desperate to learn the ropes before you meet your fiery end. Although such games will always benefit from the advanced technology of home consoles, we figure this could make for a really fun handheld adventure. Let’s just hope the developers implement an accessible control scheme for the handheld user.
We heard whispers about this promising title some weeks ago, but thanks to new information from several sources, including a recent hands-on session by IGN, we now have the pertinent details necessary for a helpful preview. Perhaps the most intriguing part about these flight quests is that, if you fail, that doesn’t mean you have to keep retrying until you pass the mission. During IGN’s play time, the tester crashed and burned and instead of automatically restarting the mission (as you would typically expect), you’re returned to your country’s headquarters and the war continues. Basically, it just labels your attempt as a loss – very embarrassing, but it’s the truth – and you move on. Now, you could always just turn off the system before it has a chance to save, and then reload to try the same mission again, but it doesn’t appear to be necessary. This is a nod to the simulated, realistic aspect of this production, and it begs the question: is there a “fail limit?” In other words, if you just keep getting shot down, will the game simply end at some point? How many planes are they willing to sacrifice?
As another aspect of the game’s authenticity, your ammunition, from the machine guns to the missiles to the bombs, are appropriately limited. As a quick side note, you will use the X button for the guns, the Triangle button for the rockets/missiles, and the Square button for the bombs (after you switch to a belly view of your plane and pick out your targets). But as easy as this sounds, you need to keep an eye on your available arsenal, as you could quickly run out of the necessities. Depending on the mission, you will have a set number of things that go boom, which means you’re going to have to be sure of your shot before unleashing a potentially deadly barrage. There’s nothing worse than winging around the dangerous skies of WWII without any ammo. The only aspect of this pseudo-simulator that doesn’t ring true is the fact that if you collide with another plane, it won’t mean instant death. Obviously, this is where the relaxed, more arcade-based style factors in, and it should help to make the game a touch more lenient.
You can embark on a several single-player campaigns for each country, which immediately gives the game a longevity boost, and let’s not forget about the multiplayer that supports up to eight pilots. The screenshots aren’t overly impressive but provided the act of flying around, taking down scores of enemy planes is entertaining, the rest of the production should fall into place. Air Conflicts: Aces of World War II should fly onto store shelves in less than a month, and for PSP owners, it could be one of the first top-notch titles of the year.
2/17/2009 Ben Dutka