|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cowboy Rodeo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Graffiti Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 14, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Air Conflict: Aces of World War II is an aerial fighting simulator that allows players to battle their way through perilous skies as a pilot for the Luftwaffe, RAF, USAAF, or USSR in WWII-era planes. While the game tries to provide players with a deep combat flight-sim on the go, it is so poorly put together it is nearly unplayable. From simple blunders such as illegible menu text to game-breaking loading times, the game exudes an unpolished aura that smacks of Alpha build. As much as I've enjoyed offerings from Graffiti Entertainment in the past, this is a true stinker of a title.
Upon firing up the UMD, players will be immediately taken aback by the teeny-tiny menu text that confronts them. I'm fortunate enough to have perfect vision, but anyone that has allowed their lens prescriptions to slide a bit won't be able to run through menu selections. This may sound like an exaggeration; I assure you it's not.
Once you successfully name your pilot (i.e. identify your save slot), you'll embark on the game's main mode: Campaign. Players can choose to tackle missions as a member of the German, British, American, or Russian air forces. This adds some replayability, as missions and planes are nation-specific. As such, whichever flag you choose to represent will come with its own hangar of aircraft that become available to you. In all, there are 17 accurately modeled planes with which you can play - this is perhaps the single-most compelling bit of the game.
In the campaign mode, players are tasked with flying missions in fairly open levels. Main missions must be accomplished to successfully pass the level. However, secondary optional missions are also available, which will net you commendations and medals and even improve your service record which can be accessed via the Pilot Info option on the main menu. As players progress, new country-specific planes become available for use during multiplayer sessions.
While flying through the skies with the different aircraft and letting loose your guns, rockets, and bombs is fun due to the reasonable controls, coming up against the enemy is anything but. That's because Air Conflicts is a challenging game made nearly impossible by poor hit detection. Despite the ability to curb the difficulty during the pilot creation phase, the enemy will constantly get the better of you even on the novice setting. As a result, players will constantly fail missions. While a gaming challenge is something I typically relish, starting this game's missions over is wholly prohibitive due to its shameful loading times.
Loading times in Air Conflicts are the worst I have ever seen. They are truly shambolic and utterly game-breaking. Upon entering a mission, players will have to wait through about a 30 second loading screen. Once the game finally loads, players can embark on their mission. Unfortunately, especially the first ten times or so a mission is attempted, you will find yourself crashing or getting shot down in the first 15 seconds. Inexcusably, rather than having the mission loop the player back to the start, you'll get kicked back to a mission results menu. Not only does it take 20 seconds to load this screen, but if you want to retry the mission, you'll have to wait another 30 seconds for it to load again; rinse and repeat several dozen times per level. In other words, the vast majority of time spent with Air Conflicts is done staring at loading screens - and you thought dial-up Internet was bad!