Review: Air Conflicts: Secret Wars
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AC:SW is a console title, and it really shows in the graphic department, as it really does not make the most of the PC. The graphics are probably one of the strongest points of the title and for consoles they are of an "ok" standard, in that there's nothing remarkable but they work well. Other console titles such as the H.A.W.X series and the Ace Combat titles do look far better than this game. The landscape and buildings do whiz by fairly effectively, but the textures are quite a low-resolution from what flight sim players would expect in 2011. FRAPS shows an average of about 120 FPS on an average PC.
Explosions look nice (there are many, many of them) and the damage models of the planes goes in the predictable Hollywood steps of "Very Shiny" to "Flaming Ball of Death" in short order. The flight model is not impacted by damage, although various holes do appear in your aircraft as you play. The missions always tend to end with the comical display of your Spitfire looking like swiss cheese, despite it flying like an F-22 Raptor.
Keep killing until the red bar goes down.
The play area maps are very small, in that you often get a "Turn Around!" message if you stray off the mission path — they aren't exactly postage-stamp sized, but more towards the "envelope sized" end of the spectrum. Exploration really isn't encouraged, although some maps do rely on a curious "stealth mission" style, which you use your radar (regardless of plane or era) to avoid The Enemy.
There is an external and internal view for the aircraft you fly, with external being the one that the game feels more natural in. The cockpits look how someone in 2005 would feel disappointed in how a cockpit graphic would look. Neither TrackIR nor rudders work in the game, and really any decent PC will run this game well.
In game color saturation. Say when...
All through the missions there plays suitably dramatic music as you turn left and shoot. The sound effects are in general quite average and repetitive. On your 138th bombing mission you will hear that "Aaarrgggh, Vee Die" sample in your sleep. The aircraft don't sound like real aircraft, but that's at least in keeping with how they look.
The voice acting was a high point for me, in that I haven't laughed so hard in years despite the game taking itself quite seriously. I particularly enjoyed the terrible rendition of a "Drunken Australian" (was the cliché shop out of Scotsmen that day?) from someone who had clearly never been there, let alone could point to it out on a map. A particularly sphincter-tightening performance was where the same poor voice actress had to try talking to herself back-and-forth using a campy French accent and her awful faux-Russian. I know it sounds cruel, but if people are paying for a story-driven adventure flight sim then having four actors doing at least twelve different parts then it is always going to end in tears of laughter.
There are none.
Actually, there are (as evidenced by the image at right), but I only found them after searching the executables and happening across one that opened a dialog with some settings — there was no in-game way to change screen resolution for example. The maximum I could get the game to run was at 1440x1050 which looked like a kid with crayons on my normal 1980x1050 display.
Unless you run on a laptop you found in a yard sale then you'll be able to tick everything with "High" next to it. This is not a title that pushes your PC.
The game offers 8 player peer-hosted Internet or LAN multiplayer modes. I only played for about an hour, after so much turning left started to make me queasy and I got tired of everyone choosing the game's only jet to launch rockets at me. Of all the things in the game, the multiplayer was actually fine and I could see it being some fun. It did work without problems, so there's that.
AC:SW is a lightweight arcade game that is maybe marginally acceptable on consoles where flight sim's are rare. If you know what a pitot is, or perhaps even an aileron, then you're not going to get much out of this other than as a distraction for a few hours. If you don't know what those things are then go look them up as it's probably more interesting than this game. While this review may make me sound like a "Sim Snob" (I think you can buy that actually, they seem to have everything else) I actually very much enjoy arcade flight games, so in multiple ways AC:SW has missed the mark for me. Some more varied missions and better dogfighting would have dragged this over and beyond the hammy story.
As a budget title you can squeeze some fun out of it but there are too many compromises overall. Disappointing.
- It's not too short (?)
- Runs well on low-spec machines
- Tries to awaken the "story flight sim" genre
Could Be Better
- Bland missions
- Point and shoot combat
- Hilariously bad story and voice-acting
Reviewer's System Specs
- Intel Q6600 quad-core processor
- 8GB DDR2 RAM
- 1GB 4890 ATI graphics card
- Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
- Various flight sim peripherals the game ignored
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