Friday, August 28, 2009

Angle of Attack Review

Angle of Attack, developed and published by 3000AD.
The Good: Fun flight combat, online multiplayer, sixteen scenarios with four planes
The Not So Good: No scenario editor, nothing sets it apart from AAW
What say you? This is content that should have been included with All Aspect Warfare: 5/8

The strongest aspect (ha ha!) of All Aspect Warfare was the flight combat, where the combat was intense and the sky was the limit, with none of the limitations of the ground-based mode (AI, base design). Released concurrently was Angle of Attack, a stand-alone combat flight simulation that takes place in the same setting as All Aspect Warfare. Basically, it's a slightly-more-than-$20 mission pack for those who enjoy the planes more than the shooting. Does the content justify charging an additional sum for Angle of Attack, or should it have been included in All Aspect Warfare to begin with?

Graphics and sound in Angle of Attack are indistinguishable from those in All Aspect Warfare. This comes as no surprise, as the games were developed simultaneously and share common resources. I found performance to be quite better in the air than on the ground, so Angle of Attack should run smoothly on a wider range of machines than All Aspect Warfare did. Other than that, I can be lazy and just copy and paste my comments from my All Aspect Warfare review! Enjoy:
The graphics of All Aspect Warfare Angle of Attack are distinctly improved over previous 3000AD efforts, and parts of the game easily compete with any top-flight flight simulator. While the interiors of the buildings are bland, each vehicle and plane has a slightly different arrangement and the 3-D cockpits look good. The visual style is distinctive, creating a plausible space setting overall. The terrain of the planet changes with latitude, creating varied environments in which to blow stuff up. All Aspect Warfare also has dynamic weather and time-of-day effects to further increase the realism. Sound is slightly worse off, as in-game dialog is not voiced and the background music is repetitive (but effective at getting you PUMPED). Weapons and planes have appropriate effects, rounding out an effective presentation that exceeded expectations based on previous efforts.

Not surprisingly, most of Angle of Attack is identical to the flight simulation half of All Aspect Warfare, so really the only reason to get this over the other (since All Aspect Warfare also includes first person combat) is if the sixteen scenarios are good. But, there are not noticeably better or different from the aerial portion of All Aspect Warfare. There isn't a story mode, as all sixteen scenarios are unlocked from the beginning. Objectives are either intercepting incoming enemy aircraft or destroying land-based targets. You can change your loadout to fit the mission parameters, but you must memorize the role of each of the exotically named missiles and bombs (or print out the appropriate page in the user's manual). There are four planes to choose from that fly a bit differently, and you'll probably find one that fits your style the best. In addition to the sixteen missions, you can invade enemy air space in the sandbox mode; enemy units will never attack unless provoked by entering their airspace, so there is no real reason to play it. The lack of a scenario editor is quite disappointing, especially when you consider the large world Angle of Attack takes place in. You can jump online and undertake sixteen-player deathmatch and team-deathmatch modes, in addition to four-player cooperative play on any of the scenarios. The robust multiplayer options are quite the nice feature.

Controls in Angle of Attack are fairly intuitive for a flight simulator. Since the game lacks an interactive tutorial, you will have to consult the manual and print out the game keys document for easy reference (or read the PDF files in-game). All of the planes feature vertical take off and landing, which makes these events trivially easy. The HUD provides pertinent information on your aircraft: speed altitude, shields, and armor. The game has, like most combat flight sims, a damage model that disables semi-random systems for disconcerting crippled flight. Finding enemy targets is done by using the navigation map and radar display, and targets can be cycled using the keyboard or joystick. While you can target the closest enemy or attacker with a hotkey, going through a giant contact list could be easier. The use of crazy acronyms is thankfully at a minimum in Angle of Attack, which makes the game far more approachable than a hardcore flight sim.

Combat is a pleasingly chaotic affair, with warnings blaring (for launched missiles and being tracked by the enemy) and missiles flying. The weapons you can equip each has a specific role, either engaging air or ground targets, and firing these weapons is a straightforward affair. You can issue commands to wingmen to escort or attack, but the scenarios usually start with them already engaged in combat, so they can normally be left to their own devices for the most part. The AI is quite adept at flying, as they attempt to get into proper position for an attack and avoid incoming missiles effectively. It takes real skill to successfully take down enemy forces. Angle of Attack isn't difficult to learn or control, but it can be difficult to finish a mission successfully because of the competent and plentiful AI pilots.

Angle of Attack places itself in a tricky situation, as it offers a fraction of the gameplay of All Aspect Warfare and replaces it with more scenarios. Unfortunately, these scenarios are not enough to justify paying $20-plus, especially if you own All Aspect Warfare already, as they offer up the same type of combat we've experienced already. Those who enjoy flight simulations but not first person shooters might opt for getting Angle of Attack by itself, and in that case I would recommend it, as it does provide some exhilarating combat and controls that are intuitive enough (especially when compared against 3000AD's previous titles). As I stated in my review of All Aspect Warfare, the flight simulation aspects of that game were superior to the ground-based combat, so you are getting the best All Aspect Warfare has to offer. However, I can't help but feel that you're getting less than half the game. Multiplayer is a nice feature with cooperative and competitive play online, but the scenarios are nothing special. Frankly, Angle of Attack should have been either included in All Aspect Warfare, or offered as a $10 micro-expansion, rather than a $20-plus stand-alone title.