Gamestyle Archive intro: we always had a soft spot for flying games. Fond memories of the Gamestyle crew playing as a group on the Xbox title Crimson Skies – another review sadly not within the current archives.
Published: March 2001
VERSION: US DC
PUBLISHER: Xicat Interactive
GENRE: Flight Simulation
ACCESSORIES: Rumble, VMU.
RELEASE: Europe TBA
Flight games on consoles just haven’t work in the past and even arcade efforts such as the Air Combat series or Aerowings have been hollow affairs. Console games are very pick up and play by nature, rather than involving an instruction booklet that weighs the same as your weekly shopping and the necessary keyboard/mouse combination. Iron Aces takes a different approach as it combines the accessibility of an arcade title while having some basis in simulation whilst not being too realistic. Of course if you want to increase the realism upping the difficulty level can easily do this or limiting the number of bullets or bombs you can carry.
The game itself is set around a fictional conflict around a group of islands in the Pacific Theatre. This allows the developer to include aircraft from all the main countries from World War II i.e. Germany (Blocken), Japan (Yamato), America (Valiant) and Britain (Trincer) except that the countries are renamed as to avoid complaints, possibly. The conflict between the nations is well explained by the introduction, which combines 1940’s style footage in a Dads Army style. The variety of aircraft on offer from all sides is impressive; you would expect such stalwarts as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Zero and Wildcat to be included but not the more obscure craft such as the Japanese Shinden, American PBJ Mitchell and the German Messerschmitt Me262 for instance. In total there are over twenty craft on offer but apart from the visual and speed characteristics they handle and sound much the same. The missions all form part of the same ongoing conflict and as you progress through the game, the missions become harder and more complicated. Briefings are well worth watching before a mission starts as they do cover every aspect. Your squadron leader is also on hand to offer advice and criticism when needed plus you can check the number of kills you have compiled. Over the seventeen levels you will find yourself involved in a wide range missions that can vary from normal patrols to dog fighting and bombing runs.
The developers have chosen not include restrictive elements such as having to land, take off, stalling etc and this adds to the overall enjoyment. They still have included footage of your take-off and landing for each mission that adds to the realism yet as good as the intros are, by Dreamcast standards they do seem plain and empty. The game is far from easy as previous console games have included such wonderful weaponry as heat seeking missiles – all you have in Iron aces to rely on are your machine guns and your wits. Hitting your bombing target is very tricky and I would recommend that anyone playing for the first time uses the Training Mode before embarking on the main game. Although not an exact simulation, the physics are good and you will need to watch your speed, target distance and altitude when dropping your payload.
The graphics on offer are very average and as with most console games in this genre the backgrounds and landscapes can be fairly flat and devoid of detail. The game moves at a steady rate but with the level of detail I would have expected 60fps although there is no slow down in the fun two-player mode. Dogfights can be exciting with the sky full of allied and enemy fighters battling it out over vast areas. The AI here isn’t the best ever but your targets will try to dodge your machine guns adding to the length of time it takes to shoot one down. Detail on other planes and targets is basic but one feature that is spectacular are the replays of your missions – not GT3 standard but good viewing nevertheless.
Unlike most other simulations you won’t need the keyboard to play Iron Aces or a mouse as neither are supported. Instead the developers have managed to combine everything that you require onto the Dreamcast Pad and while certain actions require a combination of buttons (dropping bombs for instance) the control method isn’t restrictive. During the game you can access several different viewpoints and even look front, left, right and backwards from your cockpit adding to the realism.
Worth a look for those wanting something a bit different. 5/10