Air combat games tend to fall into one of two categories -- those that are hardcore simulations and those that are not. While it may look like the former with more than 40 real era-specific planes and missions that draw inspiration from actual World War II encounters, City Interactive's "Dogfight 1942" falls into the latter group.
With bite-sized missions that often pit players against overwhelming odds and an easy-to-learn control scheme, "Dogfight 1942" is a true arcade experience. And while it doesn't last long, this flight is well worth the price of admission.
"Dogfight 1942" spans all major theaters of World War II. You'll go toe-to-toe against Japanese Zeros over the Pacific, shoot down German bombers over the skies of London and sink Japanese battleships in the Battle of Midway. Missions offer a nice variety and many feature multiple objectives, but the majority of your time will be spent engaging enemy fighters in heated dogfights.
It's these aerial encounters that showcase the best of "Dogfight 1942." Controlling your plane is simple and an optional aim-assist button helps keep you focused on your target. Connecting with missiles, a secondary-fire option on most planes, takes as much luck as skill, and it can be difficult to keep track of all of the immediate threats buzzing around you, but this hectic nature served to keep me on edge and forced me to keep my head on a swivel looking for my next target. And I loved being rewarded with a cool kill-cam view of bogeys bursting into flames for my successful efforts.
Campaign missions, of which there are nearly two dozen split between multiple acts, take only a few minutes to complete and the entire game can be finished in around five hours. In addition to the campaign, "Dogfight 1942" offers split-screen co-op play in multiple modes - versus (1 vs. 1), survival (two players vs. waves of enemies) and campaign co-op (not all campaign missions allow for two players). Split-screen battles were fun, but I enjoyed survival mode as much as anything the game had to offer.
As someone who grew up fascinated by World War II aircraft, I got a real kick out of being able to pilot some of my favorites in "Dogfight 1942," but I would have liked to have seen some more information included about each plane beyond the simple stats you're shown at the select screen. I also encountered problems with an autosave feature that occasionally failed to record my progress and forced me to restart missions from the beginning.
Graphically the planes look sharp and the frame rate remains constant even when the action heats up. Weather effects are a nice touch, too, though the lack of detail in the environment was disappointing. The audio presentation was likewise solid, though the chatter from Allied pilots was downright offensive at times.
"Dogfight 1942" doesn't revolutionize the air combat genre, but it does provide an entertaining alternative to the hardcore flight sims on the market. Gamers looking to take quick spin in some classic WWII aircraft, or simply take to the not-so-friendly skies with a friend, should look no further.
Developer: City Interactive
Publisher: City Interactive
Available for: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network ($15)
Rating: T for teen