City Interactive’s Dogfight 1942 is creeping onto the Xbox LIVE Arcade later today with far less attention than many of its peers. Whether it’s because of the less commonly critiqued publisher, the uninspired title or simply the subject matter not being to everyone’s tastes, overlooking Dogfight 1942 is a decision that simply should not be made casually. So very few flight combat titles manage to deliver an experience that is suitable for even the most casual action gamer, and yet Dogfight 1942 does exactly that.
Before the player even picks-up the pad, Dogfight 1942 delivers the setting of the action through an impressive cutscene filled with danger, loss and heroics. This is a videogame born of a Hollywood romanticism that cynical players will instantly dismiss, but those gamers willing to open their eyes to a little bit of Michael Bay every now-and-then will find that Dogfight 1942 is a rather captivating experience. It’s never going to win any awards for its plot, but by the same regard it’s never so clichéd as to cause any genuine offence.
Dogfight 1942 is an action videogame through-and-through, and as such your missions are rarely more complicated than ‘find the bad guys, shoot the bad guys,’ however much the story may dress them up. This is certainly no bad thing however, as Dogfight 1942 is much more open to player interpretation than most flight combat videogames: finding yourself plummeting uncontrollably into the drink is as unlikely here as finding yourself outsmarted by a grunt in Gears of War. Even the typically frustratingly demanding act of landing your plane has been given the brush of arcade magic, with speed and the height of your nose being the only factors to take into account when lining up two inches above the runway.
The action orientated gameplay is made much more immediate by the inclusion of a focus mode which lies somewhere between Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder sights aiming and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon’s dogfighting mode. When lining-up with a target perfectly the game will automatically shift to a viewpoint that allows for better accuracy (players can initiate this themselves by holding the B button) but when a chase is at hand, holding the L trigger will put you aircraft on autopilot, immediately navigating in the direction of the closest enemy. It’s then the player’s job to adjust the height and angle of the nose in order to score hits on the target without letting them evade your artificial lock-on. Two simple mechanics you might think – and they most certainly are – but in that which is designed to be a fast-paced adrenaline rush style flight combat videogame, they add considerably to the overall impact of Dogfight 1942. You are an ace pilot, and you are here to take down the enemy forces no matter what.
As is becoming common for flight combat titles on console, Dogfight 1942 features both an arcade and simulation mode. Unlike Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII however, there is a significant number of differences between the two. It should go without saying that the arcade gameplay feels more suited to Dogfight 1942’s action-orientated gameplay, but it’s still worthy of note that the developers should take the time to include the simulation option for those gamers who demand it. The co-operative mode included is also a very nice touch, especially given that it’s playable in split-screen mode.
Dogfight 1942 looks gorgeous, easily equal to Mad Catz’s Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII retail release. The water looks stunningly realistic and the ground-level detail is simply wonderful, including some instantly recognisable landmarks. Bar the opening cutscene the animated sequences are a little rough around the edges – it’s rare that you can honestly state that a videogame looks better during play than when setting the scene for the action – but on the whole Dogfight 1942 is of a noteworthy visual standard. The voice acting is also of a reasonable quality, though in truth there’s unlikely to be any characters you’ll quickly warm to featured in the campaign; no one in Dogfight 1942 is as charismatic as Maverick nor as memorable as Slippy.
As a brand new Xbox LIVE Arcade title competing against some of the most creative experiences available on current-generation systems, Dogfight 1942 could easily fade into the background without a second thought. To do so however would be to ignore a landmark release of its given genre; just as Ace Combat: Assault Horizon pushed flight combat into new territory, so too does Dogfight 1942 make the genre more accessible and more appealing to causal action gaming enthusiasts. This is a videogame where the combat-action makes itself known more regularly than the ordeal of keeping your giant metal tin can in the sky – a feat that so few flight combat videogames achieve – and should Dogfight 1942 get the recognition it deserves, Electronic Theatre can see the future of the genre owing a lot to City Interactive’s efforts.