STAFF REVIEW of Secret Weapons Over Normandy (Xbox)

Thursday, December 18, 2003.
by kitt

Secret Weapons Over Normandy Box art It only makes sense, World War II replayed at home on the video game console. It provides today's savvy game players the perfect blend of violence, action and history. For you slackers who slept through history class in high school, these games allow you to learn about and to some degree experience the events of WWII, and Secret Weapons Over Normandy (SWON) is no exception.

Medal of Honour meets X-Wing is the best way to sum up Secrets Weapons Over Normandy. LucusArts has delivered a fast-paced, entertaining arcade style air-borne fighter in this title.

Lets face it, there are a handful of WWII themed games already in stores with more on the way, not to mention all of the other military based games out there. So what makes SWON so different? Well, let me state the obvious, this game plays out in the air. Fans of WWII themed games will find this style of game to be a great compliment to the other ground based games out there. This war didnt only play out on the ground. Together it allows you to experience all the elements of WWII.

This game is not a boring flight sim, it's fun right away. With its arcade style game play, you will be blowing up Nazis in no time. The on- screen controls are pretty straightforward after some instruction (except for the radar which takes a little getting used to) and maneuverability can be easily mastered after a period of disorientation.

Third person is the default perspective in SWON, but this can be changed to first-person if you wish. Third person gives you great visual range of your plane, which is very beneficial in case you are ever hit and are on fire. In real life you would never see this much of your plane, but this doesnt really apply here considering this is an arcade style game. The problem with these types of games using these perspectives is that the plane feels motionless creating a feeling you are hanging from a string. Slowly your background becomes your foreground. Now I know this is not an easy problem to solve without having wind shoot out of the screen, but SWON really has a problem trying to replicate motion and speed.

This game shares many of the design and story telling elements of the Medal of Honour series. The menus almost look identical to that of a Medal of Honour game. SWON is not just a mindless shooting game, it attempts to build and develop a story throughout.

In SWON you assume the role of American pilot James Chase. German forces are invading Europe and you have joined Britain's Royal Air Force. Soon after you are assigned to the Blackhawks, an elite air fighting unit. The story unfolds through a combination of cut scenes, narration, journal entries and a creative presentation of historical photos.

As mentioned before the action is fast and furious. This game moves along at a break-neck speed. Missions include escorting ground units, protecting Allie communication posts, destroying Axis installations, bombing bridges, even manning ground gunners to shoot down enemy planes above.

After successfully completing your missions as well as any secondary missions you are rewarded with upgrade points which can be used to power-up your planes. After enough upgrade points, your plane basically becomes a flying tank and nothing can shoot you down.

This leads me into a discussion about some of the major disappointments of SWON. Without very little instruction you can easily complete many of the missions, easy being the operative word here. This game lacks challenge. After becoming comfortable with the controls and enough upgrade points you become unstoppable. If you ever do find yourself in trouble there is always an airstrip nearby ready to make repairs. Confrontation is good, we need to be challenged, plus it would also add longevity to the game.

Another beef I have with this game is online play. Even though it says Xbox live on the box, online playability is non-existent. Xbox Live owners can download content, but thats it.

There is an offline multiplayer split-screen option that lets players, along with computer-controlled wingmen, fight each other over the game's different environments.

This game is about the planes and lots of them. SWON has a great selection of planes from the era. Military and history buffs I am sure will appreciate the variety. The best part is that each of the planes has unique characteristics. The bomber is slow moving and hard to maneuver where as some of the small planes are a lot more agile.

The planes and environments all look good, but nothing really standouts. Many of the buildings and elements on the ground could use a little more detail, but seeing a swarm of dog fights in the distance and then flying right into it is pretty cool. Secret Weapons Over Normandy looks very good, but just not the best. Standard fare more or less.

The audio in SWON is very strong, by far the best aspect of this game. In the cockpit you constantly hear instructions from your wingmen and allies, some applicable to the missions at hand, some not. Most of the time you wont pay attention to what is being said, but it adds an element of realism that works really well in this game. At times you can even hear transmissions from your enemys in their appropriate accents of course. Not only is the voice work fantastic and entertaining but the sound effects are great as well. The music creates an atmosphere similar to that found in the movies and Medal of Honor games.

Overall: 7.4 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.4 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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