Review: Air Conflicts: Secret Wars

Flying games are a niche market on consoles; let’s get that out in the open now. I can honestly say that and yet still recommend certain games to the average open-minded gamer. After playing Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (review here), my love for the genre re-emerged and I feel like it’s time to open the floodgates and hopefully introduce flight games to a new audience. Air Conflicts: Secret Wars brings a more casual, arcade experience to the masses, and offers a very entertaining story to keep you along for the ride.

Taking place mostly during World War II, you fly as DeeDee, the daughter of a great fighter pilot in World War I. Alongside Tommy, her deceased fathers friend who raised her, DeeDee joins various members of the Allied Forces to take on the Nazi’s across Europe. Spanning seven campaigns, each with half a dozen or so missions, you’ll learn more about not only DeeDee, but the people she meets as well; all put together with a combination of decent voice-acting and still-frame, colorful slides between dogfights.

At the end of each campaign, a flashback mission will take place, giving you a little more back story on DeeDee’s father. You don’t get to pick your place and there is significantly more narrative during these missions than the standard level. The best part of these missions is if you mess up, or die, it simply puts you back in the air with a snarky remark along the lines of “No, no, it didn’t happen like that.”

Mission types vary extensively. Some have you escorting a group of bombers, others have you bombing certain points of interest. Most missions are relatively short, and have some character banter along the way. A few missions went out of their way to be unique; such as a mission in which you need to shoot down 12% or more of the soldiers parachuting while your wingmen fly around and try to shoot down the planes dropping them. In theory, this breaks up the mission flow of dogfight/bombing run/dogfight, but when I spent 10 minutes flying around dropping parachutes like flies and my companions were taking their sweet time shooting down the planes, I took it upon myself to shoot the planes down. Therefore, turning it into a quasi-dogfight. That aside, the flow of missions kept me from setting down the controller too soon, and it was a perfect flow for sitting down and playing a campaign without wanting to stop and play something else.

As you progress through the game, you earn stars for completing objectives and getting kills. Stars earn you more planes to choose from. They all feel very fresh and different from one another. Some trade agility for sheer speed, or trade speed for endurance so you can take more punishment. My personal favorite was the Stuka, as it handled great, was fast, and a good amount of rockets and bombs. On the downside, it didn’t have as much armor to it, so you really have to watch yourself.

The controls are much easier than Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, making it perfect for anyone who has been interested in a flight game to pick up. I started playing with the Move, and it is hands down easier and just more natural feeling than the Dualshock. Anyone that has a Move and is interested in a serious, non-FPS, non-casual game to play, Air Conflicts is a game to look into. As far as the Dualshock, while I didn’t like it as much at first, once I finally got used to it (about a Campaign’s worth of playtime, which would have been shorter had I not of kept bouncing back and forth to the Move) and stuck with it, it handled itself well. For those that want a challenge, or a little more control, you can adjust the controller setting to Sim, and you’ll gain access to a broader control scheme that will allow you to fly more like a professional. Still, on the Sim setting, I didn’t find it as hard to control as Ace Combat.

Some of the bombing missions were a pain, but it could have been me mistiming things, because by the end, I seemed to of been doing better. But it was a steep curve (for me, at least) to get a handle on bombing runs. I had to be flying super-close to the ground in order to hit my mark, even though there is a large circle for you to aim your drops at.

Probably the single most disappointing part of Air Conflicts is the locales. While you travel across Europe from campaign to campaign, outside of one flashback setting and the city at the end, most of the locations for these missions simply looked like the last. They look great, don’t get me wrong, but it simply feels like playing in the same small sandbox over and over again.

Back to the story for a moment before we wrap things up; the character development of the game is surprisingly more deep than some AAA-titles. DeeDee starts as an innocent young adult looking for money, and by the end of the game she is a hardened, war-hero. The transformation happens gradually as the game progresses (I don’t want to spoil anything, as I encourage you to go play the game yourself to see), and the choice you are given at the end of the game reflects on both you, DeeDee, and her father. You have three options, and personally, I was in the mindset of the character I was playing by this point so seeing the conclusion to what I chose unfold was satisfying.

Like every other game that is not Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3, the online is non-existent. Every night, for a week, I tried to find an online match before I started and after I was done. Nothing. Not a glimpse of life. I tried hosting my own game and sat there for 10 minutes, and again, nothing. So if you have hopes of playing online, make sure a friend has it or find some people online [Note: Or, you can add me on PSN- GCSobaer] to play with. Half of the trophies are online related, as well.

For a $40 budget title, this is definitely a game to check out if you are looking for a great story, intuitive controls, and great Move implementation. If you haven’t strapped into a flying game yet, this should give you a great first impression of what the genre is capable of, and hopefully, other flight games will take note of the campaign structure and storytelling.

Pros:

  • Great story
  • Easy-to-grasp controls
  • Move is top notch

Cons:

  • AI can be disappointing 
  • Bombing runs were frustrating at times 
  • No one is playing online
  • Levels look the same, outside of a small few

Score: 4*/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.