Air Conflicts: Secret Wars Review
Posted by James Newton
Fly by night
Move has helped gamers conquer the wastelands of Helghan, don the famous green jacket and even solve a murder or two, but it's about to achieve its biggest accolade yet: you can now use it to win World War II. Air Conflicts: Secret Wars puts you behind the controls of 16 planes from the first and second World War, with optional PlayStation Move controls letting you bank, climb and dive with the best of them. While the game has plenty going for it, though, it never quite reaches the heights you'd hope for.
The campaign mode is a lengthy affair, taking you through seven sets of operations featuring real life battles and aircraft. We assume the story that threads it all together isn't quite so true to life, however, full of drunken Australian engineers and feisty French female fighter pilots as it is, but it's a decent yarn at least.
Once you're up in the air you'll find Move a more than capable control method. For best results we recommend resting the controller on your knee or a stable surface and tilting it accordingly, as it provides a reasonable estimation of taking on a real flight stick. There are even two setups: arcade keeps your plane steady and horizontal when needed, whereas pro gives you full control over roll, pitch and yaw, resulting in an initially bewildering experience.
Arcade controls will prove more than adequate for most players, and certainly enough to conquer missions, with Move proving responsive, engaging and enjoyable to use. In fact, you don't even need a Navigation or DualShock 3 to play: Move is enough on its own, though some planes include a tail gunner mode for which a secondary controller is necessary. Still, the feeling of flight when using Move — particularly in the cockpit view — is very well realised, and support for 3DTVs is the icing on the cake.
There's a nice variety to missions in the campaign mode as well. It's not all dogfights and chases through inexplicably tight ravines; some involve stealth, with you avoiding patrols using your radar, while in others you must locate an object or location with a mysterious "hot or cold"-like device. Some levels even offer bonus objectives, activated by heading towards a hovering golden star waypoint. While optional, these are good ways to make progress towards unlocking planes, and as the waypoints aren't marked on your radar they make a welcome incentive to explore.
There's still plenty of action in there, though. Bombing runs and aerial combat keep things moving along, and you can set the difficulty of each mission individually, which even alters the level of aim assist available. If you're really struggling you can skip some missions altogether, though you can't use this feature that often.
If you're not a solo flier, you might want to take on one of the multiplayer options, available for LAN or PlayStation Network play. You can choose a map, a game type — including Capture the Flag, though we're not sure how that would work with planes in real life — and earn plenty of Trophies from this mode too. You might struggle to find a huge number of players online as it's obviously such a niche title, but the ability for LAN connections is welcome at least.
It all sounds good so far, and indeed Air Conflicts has a lot going for it, but there are plenty of low points too. Loading times are extremely long, taking ages to pull up missions that sometimes only last for two or three minutes. While we understand the stages themselves are expansive, they're not exactly Liberty City, with the odd windmill, farm or forest about proving as interesting a sight as you'll see. It's in fact quite a dull-looking game, except for the many missions that take place at sunset, when the overwhelming solar bloom makes it tough to see where you're going.
The rest of the presentation isn't quite up to par either: voiceovers are poor, with some very shaky accents, and while the cut scene illustrations look nice, they're only single still images, the camera zooming in on a different piece of the same picture each time and failing to convey any sense of action or interest. The most heinous offence occurs when characters start talking during a mission, as the subtitles remove all your heads-up display: you'll fly with no radar, no stealth indicator and no altimeter for as long as it takes your colleagues to stop chewing the fat. Considering this happens every single mission, you'll soon get fed up.
Air Conflicts: Secret Wars nails what we thought would be its biggest problem, turning Move into a capable and intuitive flight method. Climbing, banking and heading in for bombing runs over targets is certainly gratifying, but the lengthy wait for the game to load and some lacklustre overall presentation undeniably dampens the experience. One for the biggest flight fans only, we fear.