"Flight Leader to base: I've got a problem here…" - Review By Ares
Amongst the onslaught of aircraft shoot 'em up games such as Air Force Delta and Ace Combat, Crave Entertainment tries to put a different spin the genre with Aerowings. Instead of flying past skyscrapers, firing missiles at bogies and getting into massive dog fights with other aircraft as you hear the screams of your wing mates falling to earth in a fiery tomb, you get to fly in formation with other aircraft for points. Hmm, sounds like fun…
Like most of the other Dreamcast games, Aerowings' graphics are great. While Aerowings doesn't have the sort of detail that will make you call grandma over to the TV, the lighting effects on your aircraft are especially impressive. Parts your plane will fall under shadows from the wings or tail fins as you do barrel rolls into the sunrise. Moreover, the volumetric effects for the smoke trails from your aircraft look very realistic; they're not just a series of bitmaps but actually have volume and look like fluffy clouds or even the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Fly the super-friendly skies in Aerowings
While you're not going to write Uncle Leo in New York to tell him about the graphics, Aerowings does sport very fast load times and comes filled to the brim with variety; in the amount of missions, type of climates, and the amount of aircraft you get to fly. Having to earn each aircraft can be rewarding instead of getting to jump into the fastest plane right away. It's nice to be able to return to a map in your shiny new F-15 and beat the time you set with the clunky training aircraft you start the game off in.
However, it's ironic that the most fun thing to do in Aerowings is not what the game's designers had in mind. I had the most fun trying and get my wing mates to crash, either into each other or into the ground. Because you're supposed to fly in formation, your wingmen are always no more than a few meters away from you. Whizzing through canyons all the while hearing explosions emanate from behind as the little blips on my radar disappeared was great! I'd make a game of it and select a six aircraft formation and try to beat my best time on each map! Ha, ha, die you pansy suckers! Not good enough for the Air Force are you?! Fun for the whole family; bring grandma, too!
Graphics-wise, there isn't anything new here. You've seen these smooth-shaded polygon models before and there's a major graphical anomaly in the anti-aliasing of the terrain. Since Aerowings draws terrain at such a great distance, you see "shimmering" of the ground on the horizon. This effect is also commonly called the "waterfall effect." A good example of this can be found during the first opening gameplay sequence of Sonic Adventure. Look how the lines of the buildings in the background are constantly moving to re-adjust themselves. While not detrimental to gameplay, it simply looks ugly.
The biggest problem with Aerowings is that it just isn't fun.
Speaking of gameplay, the game gets very old very fast. From mission to mission, you're more or less attempting to pull your aircraft up at the right time or going into a loop without pulling too many G's because you'll lose points. It's all about points and failure to get at least a certain rating doesn't let you move on. There's a free flight mode where you can fly around doing nothing ("Hey Grandma! Look at this!") and another mode where you have to fly through loops in the sky in the least amount of time to earn points. Excuse me, waiter, but I believe I ordered some 'fun' with this game.
You begin the mission mode by running through a tutorial with your Air Traffic Controller, Monica, who sounds like someone Crave pulled from the office cleaning staff at the last minute. She doesn't inject the game with any sense of urgency and her knowledge of basic flight commands is poor. Although Aerowings certainly isn't a realistic game by any means, she refers to what is properly called the air speed indicator as the speedometer and mispronounces "altimeter." This is an aircraft, lady, not a car! Get off the road!
On top of having to listen to her boring, monotonous voice, each mission's briefing takes place over a grid of squares as Monica shows you what you're supposed to do, but the camera doesn't rotate or zoom in and out. You're staring at a green grid over a black background listening to her and you can't fast forward to her next point without loading the mission. I constantly got fed up with her briefing and loaded the mission without knowing what to do, so of course I'd fail the mission and have to reload it and listen to her again! Inside the cockpit you'll hear the same sounds over and over again. Your cockpit collision warning, commonly known as "Bitch'n Betty," repeats herself with the same, "Pull up! Pull up!" over and over again. The other sound effects are both sparse and average at best.
While I admit, graphics are more important than sound effects, think of your favourite game of all-time. Probably has a great soundtrack doesn't it? Unfortunately, Aerowings is neither my favourite game of all time, nor does it have a good soundtrack. In fact, the music downright sucks. I think my old Apple II could reproduce these tinny, 80's induced music tracks. It may be nit-picky, but this game is such a turkey that, in a half-decent game, this kind of thing could be ignored. Aerowings amplifies these problems.
The Final Word
In the end, Aerowings made me want to put my controller down and turn off my Dreamcast after only a few minutes. Using what I'm sure the pilots would say if they could speak, I can sum up the game as a whole:
Flight Leader: "Okay, boys, we've got thousands of people watching us, so lets impress them! Form up!"
Maria, would you please shut up?
Wingman One: "But sir, I can't see you! The view I have from behind my aircraft doesn't let me see the rest of the flight! On top of that, this damn radar is useless!"
Flight Leader: "Okay, go to the second 'outside' view so that you can see where the rest of us are. I know everything is very tiny and hard to see this way, but it'll have to do."
Wingman Three: "Outside view? What are you talking about?"
Wingman One: "Sir! In this view, I can't see the Heads Up Display that tells me my speed, heading and status of my flaps or G-forces!"
Flight Leader: "Well, dammit, just try and maintain course with me, okay? Use The Force if you have to!"
Wingman One: "Will do, sir, but with this gamepad I can barely control this bird. I can't fly a plane with this!"
Wingman Three: "Hey guys, where's Larry?"
Flight Leader: "Ah, heck, this isn't working. I think we're losing points here."
Wingman One: "We're getting points for this?"
Flight Leader: "Yeah. We're getting scored on how close we fly when performing stunts. Weren't you listening to the boring Air Traffic Controller when she was briefing us?"
Wingman Three: "Where are the damn guns on this thing? I don't have any missiles either! This sucks! I need to shoot something! I wish I were in Air Force Delta!"
Flight Leader: "Where is Larry anyway? I selected a four aircraft flight from the poorly designed options menu."
Wingman Two: "Larry here, sir. I'm flying over a cornfield. Where are you guys?"
Flight Leader: "Corn field? Ah, shoot, Larry, we're over water. We're not going to get enough points to move on to the next mission at this rate. Wing three, break formation and go find Larry."
Wingman Three: "Yes sir. Pulling west now…"
Wingman One: "West? Noooooo!"
Flight Leader: "Mayday, mayday! Two of my wing mates just crashed into each other!"
Control Tower: "Okay, that's it, lead. You've lost."
Flight Leader: "Lost what? Two of my best friends?"
Control Tower: "Friends? You've lost the stunt competition - you didn't get enough points. Come back to base."
Flight Leader: "Ah, crap. This does suck."
Highs: Unique idea, fast load times, lots of levels and aircraft to fly.
Lows: Boring, repetitive mission objectives; lack of depth; poor interface; terrible voice acting and music.
Other: 1-4 players, VGA Cord Compatible, VMU Compatible (for saving), Jump Pack Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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