Secret Weapons Over Normandy
Coming from a long line of successful flight simulators such as Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, X-Wing, and Tie Fighter, Totally Games and LucasArts has shifted their strategy. Instead of creating a detailed first person flight sim that would probably only be successful on the PC, an arcade style of gameplay was designed that's easier to control and more popular on consoles. That may be disappointing for some but Secret Weapons Over Normandy puts together a solid experience by taking full advantage of its World War II setting and delivering engaging gameplay.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy takes you through the story of a gifted American pilot who joins an elite Royal Air Force multinational squad. Although the story line is on the thin side with most missions independent of each other, each mission is well designed with primary, secondary, and bonus objectives, including a diverse selection of objectives. The gameplay during those missions meets expectations with an easy to pick up control system and an AI that allows for challenging dogfights. In addition, once missions are finished upgrades become available allowing the ability to increase different aspects of the planes.
The graphics give a good portrayal of World War II battlefields with detailed planes and reasonable texturing. Other effects such as planes receiving damage with smoke trails and engine fires also help to enhance the overall experience. Even with these effects however, Secret Weapons Over Normandy isn't cutting edge visually but offers enough to keep them at least above average. The audio is a similar story to the graphics with realistic engine sounds and weapons fire. The music also fits the era appropriately and helps to immerse into the game.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy puts together a solid arcade flight sim. Although the story is slightly fragmented, the missions help pick up the slack with well balanced gameplay and easy to learn controls. Without competition like Crimson Skies on the Xbox, Secret Weapons Over Normandy has the ability to make a bigger impact on the Playstation 2 and flight sim fans will want to check it out.
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Take EA's Medal of Honor-shooter series, bolt wings on it, and set it soaring high in the sky, and you have Secret Weapons Over Normandy. It has the same ultraslick presentation, with premission pseudohistorical footage, a rousing orchestrated score, and visuals as pretty as the wild blue yonder. And, for the most part, the gameplay here is just as thrilling. You'll barnstorm prisoner-of-war camps, sink Japanese carriers, and fly cover for ground-based friendlies--with lots of dogfighting in between, of course. Just don't expect to tangle with many crafty opponents; enemy squadrons rely on sheer numbers rather than ace pilotry to chew up your six. And if the bogeys get uppity, you can slip into slow-mo aerial bullet time and pepper them at your leisure--an ability that makes the game a bit of a cinch. Still, unlike Shawn, I never thought the sorties got blah, although the lack of targeting and view options makes for confusing moments. But ultimately, why must you wait so long to fly secret experimental planes in a game with the words "secret weapons" in its title?
Secret Weapons sacrifices authenticity for fun. Historians will scoff at the impossible payloads, and accomplished flyboys will wonder where gravity went, but I'd rather outmaneuver enemy aces and dive-bomb Axis depots than actually learn to fly. Vast environments and vibrant effects capture the magnitude of air combat, and, for the first half of the game, varied missions keep the action interesting. After a dozen sorties, however it gets old, and all but the most patient pilots will want to pop the canopy.
Secret's bullet-time clock manipulation is a marginally cool idea, but I still found myself using it primarily to speed up my flight, which only meant enemies were blowing up my allies several times faster than normal. This is definitely not one for hardcore flight fans--the graphics are subpar, the physics nonexistent, and the missions pretty pedestrian. I could see flight newbies glomming on to Secret's "lite" war-sim approach, but you'll find better dogfighting elsewhere.