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Aces of the Luftwaffe


Aces of the Luftwaffe


By Kath Brice

18 July 2008

What is war good for? For making video games out of, that's what. As proven by the hundreds of games out there based on wars past and potentially future. And World War II is the most popular of the lot - because it had a bit of everything. Air combat and ground combat. And, of course, those indisputable bad guys, the Nazis. How considerate of them to make it so exciting.

Aces of the Luftwaffe concentrates on that air part of the war - putting you in control of a merry bunch of English fighter pilots going up against the German invasion.
It's simple stuff on the surface. The game is a third-person, top-down shooter with a neat cartoon style in which your plane moves relentlessly forward and enemies equally as relentlessly pour towards you from the top and sides of the screen. Pressing fire triggers a few seconds of machine gun fire, and moving left and right sets the enemies in your sights and hopefully sends them spiralling groundwards. However, being a fighter pilot isn't quite that straightforward, and Aces of the Luftwaffe has a few more guns tucked in its armoury.

Firstly there are the power-ups scattered throughout the levels. These can give you anything from dual machine gun fire and rockets to a repair kit and even a power transmitter which lets you call in supporting wingmen. Very handy for when the fighting starts to get a bit more full on.

Better than the bog standard power-ups though are plane manoeuvres. There are five different ones in total and all require you to save up enough skill points through accurate gunning before you can use them. But it's worth it - because rolling and nosediving your way through battles is a lot more fun, not to mention a lot easier, than simply flying straight through them.

So the roll manoeuvre lets you nip left or right quickly to evade enemy fire, by pressing left or right twice quickly. The nosedive lets you fly low - useful for avoiding enemies and picking up some power-ups (and even fallen pilots in the rescue missions).

The looping manoeuvre meanwhile lets you loop backwards a few seconds, so you can pick off enemies you might have missed first time.

None of these tricks is included just for effect - you'll struggle to get past more than the first few levels without them - especially on the harder difficulty levels. They're very satisfying to use too - and introduce a degree of strategy seeing as you can't use them too often.

More strategy comes into play in the game's boss battles - which pop along every few levels and give you a variety of screen-filling planes and other airborne machines to polish off. These can be replayed Dog Fight mode too, if you fancy revisiting them.

There are also various mission types in the main story game. Air Battles are simple shooting fights where you need to take down a certain number of enemies in the level in order to claim victory. But there are more inventive missions - such as Rescue ones where you need to nosedive on pilots to rescue them, and Ground Defence where you shoot down bombers before they reach their ground targets - indicated by red arrows.

With so much to it, Aces of the Luftwaffe is brilliantly playable. The action is well-paced, the controls are as intuitive as any console game's and there's enough variety to keep things fresh. In fact, with the humorous dialogue between characters and the numerous objectives that go with the game's story mode, it's easily as polished as your average handheld game. It's one very sharp shooter.

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