Reviewed: December 23, 2003
Released: November 18, 2003
World War 2 has become without a doubt, one of the most used settings for video games in the last few years. Lucasarts and Totally Games have joined, or rather, rejoined the pack with Secret Weapons Over Normandy, a sequel to Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe.
As an American fighter pilot, you will fly a plethora of different aircraft, some of which the existence of is “Classified” at the highest levels, in missions against the axis forces with an elite squadron of international pilots. With the aid of your wing mates, you will destroy bridges, sink ships, engage enemy aircraft and raise merry hell in general across Europe and the Pacific. The battle rages through more than thirty airframe shredding missions, rife with secondary goals to complete, new aircraft to unlock and upgrade and plenty of bogies to splash.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy is an excellent air combat title that plays similarly to Star Wars Rogue Leader. The game’s controls are super-intuitive, the right shoulder buttons are the weapon controls and the left side controls the camera. The “X” and “square” keys allow you to cycle through air and ground targets respectively, “triangle” toggles up your bomb sight and the “circle” button activates “Reflex time,” this feature is used to speed up time in order to move quickly to the next objective on the battlefield.
Reflex time can also be used to slow time down in the middle of the game’s frequent, chaotic, dogfights. There is no limit to how often you can use reflex time, but once you get the hang of things, you will seldom find it necessary to slow time down.
The left stick controls the rudder and control surfaces and the right stick is the throttle, clicking it however will switch the camera to check your tail. You can also give basic orders to your wingmen with the D-pad, fire on my target, defend me, and fire at will.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy focuses more on action than recreating the actual WWII flight experience, so if you’re looking for a sim, stick to your PC. Most players will want to fly with the chase camera view, allowing them to take advantage of the lead indicator that shows where you need to point your gun sight in order to splash a “Zero” at 250 knots.
As you play, more planes, weapons and upgrades are unlocked for use in the Instant Action mode. In this mode you can setup and play through different combat scenearios by your self or with a friend. There is also a “Challenge” mode that offers both co-op and competitive play. The 2-player mode is in split screen and this does cause some framerate issues, but the game never became unplayable.
The single-player campaign is a white-knuckle, seat of your pants, thrill-ride, sending your fighter screaming over the French countryside to evade fire from pursuing Stukas, or skimming the waves in the South Pacific to get within range to drop a fish and sink a Japanese destroyer. Even simple babysitting missions often end up as complex, multi-objective engagements in target rich environments. You may start a mission escorting torpedo bombers and end it manning an AA turret on a carrier.
While you don’t notice it at first, the gameplay is layers and layers deep. Sure you can just go after the primary mission objective each time, but if you’re looking for a challenge, the secondary objectives will have you stretched transparent across the raging battlefields.
For a PS2 game Secret Weapons looks gooooood. The guys at Totally Games made some good calls when it came to striking a balance between pretty, and performance. The textures are high resolution and look terrific. Planes catch fire and come apart under fire, bombs blow mountains of debris high into the air and triple-A turns the blue yonder black in some missions.
All this does come at a slight performance cost, the framerate could ideally be a little faster but outside of split screen multiplayer, I didn’t encounter any point in the game where a choppy frame rate adversely affected play. Other developers need to take note that you don’t necessarily need to forsake looks to have a good gameplay experience, as Secret Weapons Over Normandy shows so well.
From the staccato chatter of 37mm cannons to the scream of experimental jet fighters to your compatriot’s frantic radio calls for help, the sounds of aerial warfare suck you in and don’t let go. It’s really pretty amazing to hear sound effects of this quality coupled with a beautifully orchestrated score in a PS2 title. When coupled with the excellent visual presentation, Secret Weapons delivers a gaming and entertainment experience that you really have to play to fully appreciate.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy is quite simply, the best action flight game released for the PS2 this year for sure and quite possibly the best that has ever graced the console. With loads of unlockable bonuses, 30 missions and a decent multiplayer mode, abet sans sweet, sweet network play; this is well worth dropping $50 of that Christmas cash on.
This is probably the best multiplatform title to hit the PS2 this year, do your self a favor and check it out. Secret Weapons Over Normandy Delivers in just about everyway you can reasonably expect, with tons of action and seat of your pants drama in the skies of a world at war and top notch production values. So kneel, kneel before the mighty game that is Secret Weapons Over Normandy.