Heroes Over Europe  Review
I don’t really know where to start with this. Air combat games are really hit and miss, especially WWII games because they’re so overdone, and with IL-2 knocking the socks off anything I’d seen on the 360 and PS3, it was always going to be a hard act to follow.Ubisoft isn’t new to this genre of game, but it’s certainly not the authority and with only Blazing Angels as any real foundation to precede this it’s very apparent. Although HAWX was released earlier this year, it was a modern day arcade combat game within the Clancy universe, focused at a specific audience and didn’t do too badly. But we all know Heroes Over Europe isn’t the first of the Heroes games. Four years ago Codemasters published Transmission Games’ first offering, Heroes of the Pacific, on the PS2, Xbox and PC, but didn’t bother to back this, something that Ubisoft should probably have paid attention to.You see, Heroes Over Europe does nothing particularly well. There are numerous niggles with the mechanics, each aircraft feels exactly the same, scale-wise everything is out of proportion and you just don’t really feel at one with the aircraft. You’re also afforded a gimmick in the way of Ace Kills, a bonus (an extremely unrealistic and failed attempt at making the game more fun) which lets you take down the enemy with one single bullet. Tail your enemy for enough time, keep him in your cross hairs, and a meter will fill around the crosshairs which allows you to hit the LB button, slowing time down and highlighting in yellow where the sweet spot is. You can take out engines, gunners or even the pilot with this manoeuvre; and fill the bar to the max and you’ll be able to carry this bonus onto any other aircraft immediately without having to wait for the meter to fill. The only problem here is that it’s too easy to do, too easy to take out the enemy and the novelty wears off immediately.And speaking of unrealistic, the game is peppered with ludicrous missions such as clearing mines from the paths of ships and flying below building height, and effectively in the streets, to avoid flak fire. Now the latter would make sense if it were consistent with the rest of the game, but just because you’re able to avoid the flak fire in one mission flying ridiculously low, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid it on another, very similar mission.But it doesn’t stop there. Flying the aircraft in Heroes is great fun because it laughs in the face of physics. There are things that I have done with a Spitfire, Mustang and Hurricane in this game which could only really be done in space. To begin with throttle has no bearing really, unless you’re chasing someone down. You can fly missions without ever having to adjust your speed. Your aircraft will not stall. The Germans, unless they have similar powers over the forces of physics, never stood a chance.The other major problem, and one of the biggest sins in aerial combat games, is the forced view. Not only do you have a slightly off-centre camera, but you can’t change your view. I understand rendering cockpits accurately can be hard work, and it might not really be something that the dev team had time to do, but not offering a HUD view is unforgivable and extremely lazy. Not having any other view causes problems, but not as much as the lack of control over the camera you have. Anyone who plays any kind of aerial combat game will know that being able to effectively look around in the air is vital to track your enemies and plan combat manoeuvres. The only way to do this from your third person, out-of-aircraft view, is to press the back button which will enable you to look around your aircraft. One problem: you surrender control of your aircraft, so you might be able to see around you for a moment or two, but you can’t move at all. You have to hit the back button again on order to regain control.I can’t help but think that the button mapping was the last thing the developers were thinking about when putting this game together. Like IL-2, rudder and throttle is mapped to the right analogue stick, while the right trigger fires the cannons. Left trigger deploys the secondary weapon, while the face buttons don’t really take advantage of the shortfalls of the game. I never used the X button, which is used to cycle through secondary weapons, I never used the B button, which is assigned to looking behind you (I’m not driving a car), I hardly used the Y button, which is zoom, and never used the A button which flicks through your objective waypoints and cycles through the nearest enemies; purely because I was able to shoot them down without needing to target them. You see, the Ace Kills feature becomes available for any aircraft within your sights, even if you’ve not got them targeted, which is why it becomes tedious.But sometimes there are outstanding achievements in a game that can be undermined by gameplay, such as the look of the game, the soundtrack, the story, the accuracy. Unfortunately, Heroes doesn’t offer anything of the sort, and you’re left with a game that is extremely disappointing. Although the scenery is ok, it’s nothing special. The white cliffs of Dover, a major landmark, are dull. Nearly all of Europe looks samey. Even with the hundreds of aircraft that populate the sky, there doesn’t really seem to be any sense of urgency or threat, something you would hope to find in an aerial combat game. There are good points, however, despite all of that, but it really is to do with the progression. You’re forever unlocking aircraft (which you can play with unlike IL-2), pretty much after every mission. But that’s about it. Even the campaigns, which are supposed to vary, don’t really, and you find that you’re doing the same thing over and over, in repetitive missions which soon begin to feel like a chore.And it’s this lack of imagination that sadly defines Heroes Over Europe. It’s tediously repetitive, frustrating to play and unfortunately fails to provide the fun, accessibility, authenticity and depth that a decent aerial combat title should offer. As it stands, it’s a franchise that should not be allowed to continue without having a massive overhaul.