Flying can be a very unique experience. As someone who has spent time as both a passenger and a pilot in the air, it’s fair to say that one is most definitely more relaxing than the other.
But for many, flying is usually a means of travelling vast distances in a shorter amount of time, a simple A to B journey, and very rarely do you come across anyone who has spent the majority of their time on the more daring side of flight – or even anyone who knows about the excitement aerobatic flight can bring. For me though, one early morning lesson in particular, in the seat of a Robin 2160, was proof enough that I was unlikely to become the next member of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (a.k.a The Red Arrows) after my instructor almost got a face full of Shreddies after an unexpected inverted loop. Whilst that was certainly one dream killed, it wasn’t the end of my love for aerobatics, but nowadays with limited time and life generally requiring my attention more, I had to settle with jumping in to one of the latest games to arrive on Xbox One, in the hope of experiencing the thrills once more.
Blue Angels Aerobatic Flight Simulator is the official game based on none other than The Blue Angels, who are the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. With aviators coming from the best of both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines, it’s fair to say these are a bunch of fellas who are pretty skilled in the skies.
The point of the game is fairly straightforward. You take on the role of one of the Blue Angels’ finest, performing in manoeuvres and generally nailing the role to perfection. There are five different locations throughout the game, each with 10-15 different missions full of new stunts for you to master, with a full air show in which you can choose the manoeuvres to perform making up the final mission of each location.
After arriving at the first menu, players have two options; you can either get straight down to business with the ‘Become an Elite Pilot’ option, casually known as Play, or you can take in some general info about the legendary team you’re about to join with a brief about the team, a section with info on each and every member and a schedule of upcoming real life Aerobatic displays they will be performing in. Although at the time of this review, it’s fair to say things are a little outdated with the calendar starting in 2016 and the final show that was performed taking us to November 12th 2017. But hey, at least you’ll know where they’ve been.
From the Play option, players are given five different starting points, each known as locations. The first is probably one that fans of The Blue Angels will know all to well as the place they are stationed for their annual winter training, NAF El Centro, California. The other locations available include the Naval Air Station – NAS Key West, Elmendorf AFB, Reno (a popular spot for Aerobatics and Air Races) and finally Baltimore.
Despite having different locations to play through, it’s hard to find much difference to each one. Sure, you may have a runway facing in a different direction, and the general colour of the surroundings is at least slightly different, but with very little focus given to the detail in each location, and the floor looking like nothing more than a pre-school paint palette from up in the sky, it doesn’t really matter which location you’re playing in and certainly doesn’t represent a realistic showing of the real-life counterparts. The only real way I was able to tell which area I was in was by completing the one before it and seeing the name pop up on the menu screen as I progressed. Whilst this wasn’t something I was bothered about when flying, the missions in which you are required to take off would have been much more engaging if they actually looked the part, especially in a game that intends to give a simulated vision into such a unique experience.
Onto the actual missions then and unfortunately Blue Angels Aerobatic Flight Simulator fails to impress. In each mission there are three stars that can be earned, with the number earnt tied to the score you manage to attain through the manoeuvres performed. All-in-all there are 37 different manoeuvres to master, but it’s only ever one or two that you ever perform in one mission.
Depending on the difficulty you choose, things can become either way too easy, or near impossible. Easy difficulty is pretty much included for those just wanting to view the manoeuvres, with very little effort required to actually perfect them as the plane is guided by the A.I. – unless you deliberately force it off its path, you’re pretty guaranteed to at least be passing the mission. Medium is a little harder, with the A.I. guide dramatically toned down and the green path that highlights the route on easy also disappearing for the majority of the time. But a keen observation of the pre-mission briefing video will be enough to make sure you get things right.
Simulation on the other hand is quite possibly too much. Whilst I’m rarely one to dismiss a game for its difficulty, it’s fair to say that unless you’re an expert in the aerobatic field or at least have an impeccable understanding of each manoeuvre and the timings, then you’re highly unlikely to do too well. Of course, practice is probably the best place to start, but with the amount of practice required to perfect each performance in the simulation difficulty, you’d likely be better off going to your local flight school to book some real lessons.
Unfortunately, other than mastering each of the missions and their difficulties, there is very little else left to do within Blue Angels Aerobatic Flight Simulator. There are some missions that allow free flight options along the way, and there’s an XP bar with your current level attached, but neither really mean much in the overall scheme of things and generally feel like pointless additions.
The only real comfort is the fact that the controls are rather simple to pick up, but even then, with the actual flight of the planes feeling all to unrealistic in the way they handle, it’s hard to find a good reason to recommend this game to anyone – even to a fan of The Blue Angels.
Blue Angels Aerobatic Flight Simulator may give the correct appearance for each of the planes in the squadron, but very little else has been faithfully recreated. Unrealistic handling, a lack of detail and a severe lack of content sees the whole experience provide nothing more than a couple of hours of disappointment and is a poor showing for a game tied to the official Blue Angels U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.