Air Conflicts: Aces of World War II is an arcade flight sim for the PSP that aims for mediocrity, but a bevy of frustrating issues keep it from achieving even such a modest goal.
While it does have a few redeeming factors, the package as a whole feels largely uninspired, and at times, slapped together. Furthermore, it often sacrifices entertainment value in favor of an ill-conceived concept of ingenuity.
The first issue that presents itself is also the most prevalent – Conflicts suffers from excruciatingly long load times. It can often take greater than sixty seconds to load a single level – and then another twenty seconds to revert back to the menu once you’ve inevitably failed whatever arbitrary task you were sent out to accomplish in the first place. During my time with the game, it was not uncommon to spend less time playing a level than I did loading it, which is simply unacceptable.
Unfortunately, the missions that your UMD drive will so diligently whir into existence fail to offer much in the way of variety. Despite the availability of four separate campaigns, (USAAF, Luftwaffe, RAF, and USSR) most objectives range from “protect this” to “destroy that”, while others simply send you flying though a series of way-points with nary a foe in sight.
One mission in particular requires you to bomb three enemy buildings, which sounds like a straightforward task until you miss a target with one of your three bombs. The only way to re-arm is to land your aircraft at an airstrip (conveniently placed at the other end of the map) which is neigh impossible. Out of my ten landings attempts, I managed to succeed twice – all others resulted in crashes, and subsequent mission failures (each accompanied with another twenty second stroll back to the main menu.)
The upside to failing a mission is that you’re rarely required to repeat it. Conflicts‘ mission structure is presented in a chronological fashion, meaning when a mission is failed, you simply move on to the next. You’re hanger will be docked a plane -which is the equivalent of losing a “life” from the gaming days of yore- but there are no other notable penalties. While this approach alleviates the need to repeat frustrating missions like the one mentioned above, it also manages to extract any semblance of accomplishment you’d receive for success.
Graphically, Conflicts’ is acceptable. The plane models are appropriately detailed, and look attractive enough as they fly above cityscapes, forests, deserts, and snow-covered mountains. Missions set at dusk often look surprisingly majestic, and night missions are scattered with search-lights that illuminate the black sky. Unfortunately, the game suffers from significant frame-rate issues whenever more than a few appear objects on screen – this is especially apparent when dog-fighting above cities. The frame-rate often dipped so low that it was difficult to control my aircraft, detracting from the one aspect of gameplay that Conflicts’ does right: dog-fighting.
Despite all its issues, I managed to extract a fair bit of enjoyment from Conflicts’ air-to-air combat. The dog-fights are both engaging and challenging – both on account of the surprisingly adept AI and also a frustratingly inaccurate targeting ridicule that completely fails to represent your line of fire. On more than one occasion, I sent nearly a thousand bullets buzzing past an enemy plane before I was rewarded with its fiery death. This coupled with the aforementioned issue regarding limited ammunition, sends Conflicts‘ one redeeming quality down the drain.
Conflicts supports eight player multiplayer over WiFi, complete with a game sharing option so that each of your friends needn’t own their own copy in order to compete. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this functionality due to a lack of willing participants.
There is enjoyment to be found within Air Conflicts: Aces of World War II, but it’s buried deep beneath a massive pile of frustrating issues. Avoid this one unless you’re a hardcore fan of the genre.
Planes look decent. Evening and night backdrops are particularly pleasant. Unfortunately the frame-rate takes a significant dive when there are multiple objects on screen.
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Dogfighting can be enjoyable, but is often interrupted by frustrating targeting and frame-rate issues. Limited ammunition coupled with a need to land your plane to re-arm (nearly impossible) make some missions a chore. Fortunately, you don’t have to repeat them – though you’ll feel like you are, as most missions are carbon copies of each other.
The sound you’ll hear most often is the whir of your UMD drive as it loads the next level. Aside from that, the aircraft and weapons all sound realistic enough. There are very few music tracks however, and they (Like the missions) get very repetitive.
I had to force myself to continue playing after the first few missions. Multiplayer with gamesharing may provide a mild diversion, but this is unlikely considering it is built upon the same mechanics that make the Campaigns so frustrating.
I’d only recommend this game to a hardcore fan of the genre – and even then, I might feel bad.