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Combat Wings: The Great Battles of WWII Preview

Nick_Tan By:
GENRE Action 
PUBLISHER City Interactive 
DEVELOPER City Interactive 
RP What do these ratings mean?

Not just Nazis, but their silly planes too.

Combat Wings: The Great Battles of World War II follows the aerial traces of its titular franchise, particularly Combat Wings: Battle of Britain way back in 2006, and attempts to package the arcade simulation in the familiar setting of Allied and Axis forces. As it is with most video game interpretations of World War II, the games focuses on the war efforts of the Allies, taking a part in the Battle of Britain with Big Ben looming in the distance, the oft-unmentioned campaign in Africa, the stalwart defense of Russia, and the dogfights over the Pacific Ocean against kamikaze Japanese pilots.

Some people might grumble at the thought of yet another World War II title, be this in the flight genre or not, but aerial technology in modern times doesn't exactly make for thrilling action. There's not much excitement in remotely controlling a stealth bomber over Desert Blotch #3892, and that's not even mentioning whether it's on auto-pilot or navigated by satellite. The game also isn't a strict flight simulator, where players have to learn a manual full of knobs, doodads, and procedures just to get off the ground, though there is incredible attention to detail and realism to the real-life missions and authentic planes.

Not only are the animations and the physics of each WWII aircraft presented well, but the game takes a cinematic approach to the field of view and the display. Planes don't have health bars near their wing tips, so players will have to recognize how badly damaged their planes are to tell how many more direct hits they can withstand. Currently, no map or mini-map is present either, which means players can't abuse a radar to pick off all the red triangles that blip on the screen.

Instead, they'll actually have to tail an enemy plane, select it with the target cursor, move the reticle over it, and then use a healthy helping of Ace Combat mode to slow time down and even turn automatically before shooting. Of course, Ace mode is limited, to little more than a five-second burst, so it needs to be managed with efficient timing. Meanwhile, players need to bob and weave around enemy bullets—that is, not whizzing over to a target in a predictable straight line—and avoid the ground at all costs. That's Piloting 101, really.

Thankfully during the demo, the developer on board activated the journalist-friendly respawn system, so that I could see myself spiral to my death multiple times get through the available missions. Beyond the usual "destroy all enemy planes" objective, that sometimes means landing safely for a refuel or destroying turrets, submarines, and ground troops with bombs and missiles. This, spread over four campaigns and over thirty missions, is a significant improvement over the lack of mission variety in Battle for Britain.

City Interactive may include multiplayer of some kind in the final build, but it's still uncertain. What's certain, though, is that the PS3 version will even come with Move support, which pushes the technology in surprising ways. Combat Wings: The Great Battles of World War II looks to be a formidable retail entry on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC when it dives into stores this November.

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