WWII Aces (2008)

Hi all, Nate here. Just trying something new on this steamy, muggy July afternoon in the cornfields of Indiana, a day that just screams for hugging the air conditioner vent and playing some video games until the sun goes down and the werezombies come out. I like airplanes. I don't particularly like flying video games, however, but I thought I'd poke around in the clearance bins of my local Best Buy and see what's out there in the flying genre for my Wii U. Turns out not much. WTF Nintendo? WWII Aces is from the dinosaur era of 2008 and seems to be a High School art project that somehow got a Wii liscence and a source port. That said, it kinda grows on you.

The basic idea is flying around the poorly rendered battlefields of WWII in a variety of choppy pixilated planes, shooting shit down and blowing shit up. You follow the "career path" of either a British, German, or Rooskie pilot across continents and years, gaining new planes and abilities as you progress. Not bad.

Yes, yes, I just stole pics from Google. Sue me.

The variety of planes you can choose from is meh-to-decent, though I detect very little differences in the actual abilities from one type to the next. You can dogfight with a multi-engine bomber as well as with a spritly one-man fighter, and vice versa, the different plane types are just cosmetic changes to a standard flight model as far as I can tell. With one notable (and annoyingly game-changing) exception, the British Spitfire has four wing guns, twice those of the Me-109 and the La-5, and is as such able to murderize its way through enemy formations with a devastating spray of bullets like the world has never seen. Conversely, while playing as the German side (the Spit doesn't show up in the Rooskie path), your undergunned Me-109 has to work extra hard to survive against the AI Spitfires and the raging ocean of bullets that proceeds them.

Simple colors and shapes.

Flight dynamics for all plane types can best be described as "flouncy", like white hipster kids trying to dance at a Prince concert without the benefit of self-awareness or Molly. The Wii's overly arcade-y motion controls do make for some fun dogfights but in real life nothing would survive a single one of those twisting, 40-g, brain-hemoraging, wing-wrenching, high-energy turns. I'm okay with this, though, I don't want to mess with adjusting flaps and throttle speeds all the time, I just want to fly around and blow some shit up for a few hours until the kids get home from school.

Don't crash or you'll die.

Ground targets are a mix of tanks and trucks and buildings, with the odd flak gun on certain missions. The flak is insane in this game, it's not just for show, not just background flavoring, if you fly straight and level over a flak gun you are going to get hit and hit hard. This can work in you favor, of course, as in some missions you have AI-controlled flak guns on your side, which can often take out enemy planes without you even knowing it. There's this one mission where you are tasked to escort some warships and their AA defenses are so smothering that you can just lure the enemy bombers in close and let the ships' gunners do the work for you, you don't even need to fire a single bullet of your own (kinda fun!).

So much explodie.

While the AI flak is Chuck Norris lethal, the AI for the enemy fighters is mediocre at best. Once you master the turn-and-shoot dogfighting style, you should breeze through most every mission with no trouble. You often have some friendly fighters flying with you, but their AI is universally miserable and the best they can do is draw a few bad guys away for a few minutes before dying (I guess that's helpful at times). I got so mad at my shitty, worthless wingmen some times that I'd chase them around for hours after the mission was over, futilely drilling them with bullets as blood rage-spurted from my eyes. I could never actually friendly-kill them, but it gave me some comforting satisfaction to imagine that I could.

Sunlight effects, neat-o.

The British and German paths are basically 1939 throught to 1945, starting in Poland and going through the Blitz and North Africa to D-Day and on to the fall of Berlin, pretty standard fare. The Rookie path, however, takes a long, long detour into the obscure Winter War with Finland, something that surprised me as no one in America outside of that one guy who always sits in the front row of his Western Civ class knows anything about it. Also somewhat surprising (and refreshing) is that there are no American or Japanese path/planes, this is strictly a European affair from a European perspective.

Shoot down all those markers!

The main problem with WWII Aces, in my opinion, is that 85% of the missions are exactly the same. Fly over here and blow up some tanks, then fly over there and shoot down some fighters, then shoot down some more dumbasses and then the mission is over. There are maybe only 4 or 5 missions out of all paths (a total of about 50 slogging missions in all) that are in any way unique or memorable. While it does pad out your stats and your running/gaming time, they really could have condensed each path down to 5 unique missions each, the rest are just time-burning filler. The low-polygon terrain effects don't help, you can only look at the exact same monochrome stretch of desert floor for so many missions before you get angry and start strafing innocent palm trees out of rage.

Oceans are boring.

Let's see, what else did I notice about this game? There is no repairing/healing on the fly, so to speak. Once you start to accrue damage (and you will) you have to keep one eye on the damage gauge at all times. I got shot down a lot, especially in later missions. The very last mission of the German path is especially brutal, I must have been shot to tatters twenty times before I finally beat it.

You can fly bombers, but why?

There are some jets to be unlocked in the final few missions, one for each path, and these are just about worthless. The Nazi Horten Flying Wing looks cool and has a lot of firepower, but I still prefer the Spitfire in most situations. I would have prefered some more variety in plane types, but I should be happy with the ones I got, I guess. It does get old (very old) after a while seeing virtually nothing but the same three fighter types 90% of the time. The Brits always come at you with Spitfires, the Krauts always fly the Messerschmitds, and the Commies seem to have been mass producing La-5s like Lada sedans and vodka bottles.

Blow it up!

In many missions you are either defending or attacking warships at sea and these are fun to sink with bombs (if you can avoid the flak long enough), you can even sink your own ships, watching with treasonous glee as they slowly slip beneath the waves. The digital models for the ships are excellent, much better than for anything else in the game, including the planes, and I wonder if they were origianlly for something else that got cancelled?

Ok, that's about all I can think of to write on this little game. WWII Aces is worth a few days of play for the price (I paid $5 on clearance) but the mindnumbingly repetitious missions and the lack of any real meaningful differences in planes means that your replayability is limited.

The End.

Written in July 2016 by Nathan Decker.

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