August 10, 2007 - The pilot's vision begins to shudder as his engine purrs into life. Slowly, as if building to a grand crescendo, the engine begins to roar, drowning out the cries of the crowd assembled to watch the forthcoming spectacle. Blades spin in a shimmering haze as the plane inches cautiously forward, gaining speed as its pilot urges it forward, faster and faster until it leaps into the air, leaving everything on the ground farther and father behind. Red and blue streams of smoke mix with the clouds to form a patriotic haze of smog as the plane dips through smoke stacks and skirts overtop hot air balloons in an effort to amaze the dots of citizenry below.
Believe it or not, it is this idyllic scene that opens Old Secrets, the first mission in [Register or Login to view links]. As astute players will glean from the mission's title, Old Secrets is indeed the beginning of Blazing Angels 2, but it is not the beginning of the character which players control during the course of the game. The pilot performing simple stunts begins to reminisce about his experiences as a dogfighter in WWII, and it is here that the game becomes interesting.
After performing ten stunts, the scene morphs from tranquility to calamity: white clouds become fade to gray from smoke and gunfire; blue sky becomes copper-colored and echoes with the sounds of whistling rockets and explosions. Enemies outnumber allies as I scramble with the controller, following onscreen instructions to target, fire my primary weapon--a mounted rapid-fire gun--and barrel roll to avoid incoming attacks.
The targeting system aims to provide players with a cinematic camera view in addition to, obviously, locking on to enemy planes. By pressing the appropriate button, the camera pans to the enemy plane while the player turns his craft in the proper direction. Ensuing views show the player's craft twisting through the air, intent on its target, as the camera slowly rotates to keep the enemy in sight.
Players will have to collaborate with the targeting system by following the game's instructions for tricks such as turning faster. Pressing the right analog stick forward increases the player's acceleration, while holding it back puts on the brakes. By braking and turning via the left analog stick, the player's craft will rotate slightly faster, especially important when going up against speedy fighter planes.
After completing Old Secrets, I was returned to the level selection screen to determine which other mission I'd like to attempt. I decided on City Under Siege, a mission centered around the former capital city of Myanmar, known as Burma prior to 1989. Before setting off to save the fair city, I had the chance to check out aesthetic and mechanical upgrades to my different planes.
Feeling that my ships needed some sleek new looks before heading back into the fray, I headed into the Hangar to peruse all available paintjobs and decals. I coated the body of my plane in black before lathering both winds with thick strips of blue. After placing an American flag sticker on the top of each wing, I proceeded to browse through a nice selection of upgrades in order to give my hot looking ride an edge where it matters most--combat. Over the course Blazing Angels 2's missions, players will earn Prestige Points, which act as currency for purchasing upgrades. My eyes glazed over as I dreamed about equipping my ship with a new scope via the Aiming Assistance upgrade, better armor through a Structure promotion, a better aerodynamics system, quicker reload....
All of the above sounded most excellent, so I bought each of them. Why not?
Confident in my plane's new customization, I proceeded into Rangoon. My newfound confidence was not to last, as the mission opens with my fuel meter dangerously low. Objective #1: land safely on a nearby runway in order to refuel. Sounds easy enough, except that Rangoon is, of course, under siege, and not only by the enemy, but by a storm content with sending lightning streaking across the brooding sky. A constant barrage of rain also served to impede my view as a I drunkenly danced toward the runway, landing safely and breathing a sigh of relief--for about two seconds total.
Shouts of a sneak attack crackled through my radio as the airstrip fell under enemy gunfire. In the midst of complete chaos, my objectives were updated: get airborne before the runway is destroyed. Good idea. Pumping the gas, I raced through a hail of bullets and missiles, breaking through a screen of smoke and fire before lifting safely into the air.
Well, relatively safely. Enemy pilots were on top of me before I could start to think about retaliation. Fortunately, such situations don't require much thinking, as instincts tend to take over when one has spent one's entire life fighting the good fight. I, for one, have not, so I was immediately shot down and prompted to try, try again. This time, equipped with my wits in addition to all my fancy upgrades, I again took to the enemy-filled skies, intent on revenge for both myself and all my fallen comrades lying in piles of wreckage strewn across the city of Rangoon.
Success. I turned back the tide, only to be informed that despite our best efforts, the Japanese were still advancing, and it fell into my lap to slow them down. Making the job somewhat easier was the revelation that the troops were advancing on foot, not through the air. Spinning my plane to the east toward a distant British base, I focused my attention on destroying two key bridges leading into Rangoon. Finally, as if this mission required any more stress, I was ordered to provide cover for the British retreat. My attention was directed toward enemy units attacking a convoy, as well as a blockade standing in the way of the safety of the west.
Teeth clenched, sweaty thumbs quivering as I performed a breaking turn toward my latest objective, I clamped a finger down on my primary fire button with no plans to release the trigger for quite some time. The duties of a fighter pilot simply never end.
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