Dogfight 1942 review for XBLA, PSN

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Also On: PSN, PC
Publisher: City Interactive
Developer: City Interactive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Leaderboards, DLC

Dogfight 1942 was announced a while ago under the name Combat Wings way back in May of 2011. It promised cutting-edge flight dynamics with unprecedented arcade accessibility. Jump forward to September 2012 and Dogfight 1942 is here. City Interactive has created a very good but overall straight-forward experience that might be fun for some, but really does nothing new with the genre.

In Dogfight 1942, Players assume the role of one of four pilots taking on the Axis alliance during four different air campaigns, including the Battle of Britain, the war in Africa, the Pacific island-hopping campaign and the Eastern Front. The game features 20 different types of aircraft From the P-38 Lightning to the Messerschmidt 109 and others from both sides of the conflict. These planes are unlocked for use in other modes as you complete missions in the Campaign. In the Campaign, players take on missions as WWII pilots, ranging from full freedom dog fights, where you and your squadron go up against several enemies, to bombing runs where you have to protect aircraft carriers and airfields that are under attack.

You begin by selecting your mission and (in some cases) taking off from the ground. From there you are thrown into the fight and given your main objective, ranging from “Shoot down all enemy planes”, to “protect the carrier”. Controls are very arcade like, with the left stick controlling your plane and the right stick controlling your speed. The RT and RB control your firing and Y cycles through available weapons. The objectives are standard for this type of game and really do not add anything new or innovative. To add spice to the combat, occasionally the camera will zoom into a kill, showing you what damage you caused to the enemy. It’s a neat distraction to the otherwise simple game play. Some objectives within the missions will have you land your aircraft on a carrier or airfield after the battle. This instantly reminded me of the old NES classic Top Gun, and the landing sequence, while not as difficult as TG, did take a few tries to get it right.

Targeting is very simple. You simply shoot machine guns with the RT while lining up your reticle with the red target that appears when you are close enough to an enemy. You can also use rockets with RB for a quicker kill. Mainly you will be using the machine guns, they don’t run out of ammo, but can overheat leaving you open to attack for a short time. Holding down the B button when an enemy is in range will help your plane follow the target to give chase to an evasive foe, but since there is no lock on, lining up a shot is difficult while following. If you take heavy fire, you simply leave the area fast and remain far enough away until your plane recovers from damage. Once you clear all targets, you win and move on to the next mission and new objectives.

The game has 2 acts with several missions in each one, so it’s not terribly long. 2 more acts are available in the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800MSP each if you want more action. There is also Quick Play for those who need a quick fix and no story, and a survival mode where you don’t recover health between fights. Players of games like the Ace Combat series may get bored with the stale and uninspired missions, but the rest of us will enjoy the quick action and the accessible arcade controls. Overall Dogfight 1942 is very simple and easy to pick up and play. Unfortunately, there is no online mode, only leaderboards for score. So, if you were hoping to shoot your friends out of the sky, you’re out of luck.

The graphics in Dogfight 1942 are decent for a downloadable title. City Interactive did a fine job making a very eye-pleasing experience. The plane models look just like their real life counterparts, and the explosions (especially when zoomed) look fantastic. As you play, you can unlock and add custom artwork and decals to your planes for a little added cosmetic fun. The ground does have a few ugly textures here and there, but since nearly 99% of this game is spent in the air, most players won’t even notice.

Fans of games like Blazing Angels and Crimson Skies will feel right at home with Dogfight 1942, while players of more in depth simulations like Ace Combat or others with more involved controls might find it too easy. It does nothing new with the air combat genre, but it doesn’t do anything wrong either. If you are a fan of WWII plane shooters and want an easy to play distraction, this might be a good download for you. If flying and dog-fighting doesn’t appeal to you, then I cannot recommend it.

Grade: B-