Secret Weapons Over Normandy Xbox
Developed by Totally Games
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
It's not often that you can get excited about a game by simply looking at who has developed it but when the developers are Totally Games it's difficult not to be excited. Everyone knows of their success with X-Wing Alliance and X-Wing vs Tie Fighter. They also gave us a good Star Trek game in the shape of Bridge Commander. This time though Totally Games have taken a break from spacecraft and have gone back in time with Secret Weapons Over Normandy.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy puts you in some of the most famous cockpits in World War II. What we must make clear though is that this isn't a simulation by any stretch of the imagination. I've read on countless forums that a lot of people have bought the game thinking it was going to a 'realistic' combat flight simulator. Secret Weapons Over Normandy is a pure arcade experience, like Crimson Skies High Road to Revenge, that doesn't attempt to be realistic but rather to be easy to use and easy to get into and it certainly succeeds on both accounts. You'll be able to slow the action down (black button) and speed it up (white button) in order to gain a temporary advantage against your enemies. To relive that special moment you can press the back button which will give you an instant 15 second replay. This is actually a fun addition although it's a mystery that you can't record these replays especially with the hard drive at your disposal.
The game features a campaign, tutorial, bonus missions, instant action and two player modes. The campaign is the heart of the game and you'll visit several locations, not just Normandy. What makes the campaign interesting though is that you can earn upgrade requisitions for your performance. These requisitions can be used to upgrade the armour, engine and airframe as well as allowing you to carry extra amounts of bombs and ammo. Instant action allows you to get straight into a bit of dogfighting with you setting the limits for score and time. You also get to pick the environment that you fly over. There are various two player modes such as a versus instant action and two player challenge missions which can either be co-operative or competitive. You'll be pleased to learn that Secret Weapons Over Normandy contains over 20 aircraft including the Hawker Hurricane Mk.1, De Havilland Mosquito Mk.IV and the Messerschmitt Me-262 A-la which should please the World War II enthusiast out there.
Control is everything in a game of this nature and Secret Weapons Over Normandy does not disappoint. The left analogue stick controls the direction of the aircraft whilst the right analogue stick controls the throttle (up) and brake (down). The directional pad is used to issue commands (left, up, right) and to initialise your landing gear (down). The primary buttons are used to locate your air targets (A), zoom (B), locate your ground targets (X) and secondary fire (Y). The right trigger is your primary fire and the left trigger is a target lock and can also be held down to turn your view towards the enemy. I found the controls very comfortable indeed and my only real complaint was that I found bombing rather awkward. If you like the way Crimson Skies handled you'll certainly be happy with the controls in Secret Weapons Over Normandy.
Perhaps the major downfall of Secret Weapons Over Normandy is the lack of an Xbox Live mode. When we looked at Crimson Skies a while back we noted that the Xbox Live mode was superb, better even than the single player mode. Secret Weapons Over Normandy has the potential to be just as good, or a least it would have if a Xbox Live mode had been included. You can download additional content through Xbox Live though and currently you can download two extra aircraft (Mc202 and Ki-61) and two custom missions (Evacuation of Tripoli and Last Chance). If you want a multiplayer experience though you'll have to make do with the two-player modes that are on offer.
As you can see from the screenshots, Secret Weapons Over Normandy certainly looks good. The various aircraft all look good and are instantly recognisable and the sky detail also looks good. It's not all visually pleasing though and the buildings and other objects such as the blimps in the tutorial for instance, look quite poor. This comes as quite a shock next to the beautiful Crimson Skies but I suppose that is the difference between a game that is designed for the lowest common denominator and a game that is specifically tailored to the Xbox hardware. The bottom line though is that visually it suffices and the framerate is constant throughout, which is good to see.
Secret Weapons Over Normandy is fairly deaf gamer friendly but it's not perfect. The introduction to the campaign isn't subtitled which was disappointing but the tutorials and the dialogue you receive whilst in flight are shown in text, which is good to see, although it can be difficult to read and concentrate on the enemies at the same time. Mission briefings are shown in text with an open notebook and you can read these at your own pace. The commands you give to wingmen are also shown in text. The voice that informs you that you can perform any upgrades you want is not subtitled. Your objectives are shown in text and you can press the start button at any time during a mission to remind yourself of what needs to be done. As with most games of this nature pointers will show you the location of the enemy. I liked the way the triangular pointers would reduce in size to highlight the proximity of the enemies though. This is a nice touch as hearing gamers can often judge the proximity of an enemy by the sound, which of course is useless to deaf gamers but this method gives you a visual clue of just how far away an enemy is.
Essentially Secret Weapons Over Normandy is an enjoyable arcade flight experience. The single player campaign is enjoyable and the two player modes can be fun too. What hurts the game though is the lack of Xbox Live mode because this would have added a tremendous amount of replay value to the game. It's great that extra missions are available to download but how useful this is going to be is difficult to say and it depends on how many are made available. Secret Weapons Over Normandy's greatest strength is it's accessibility and although fans of hardcore flight simulations might be upset by the arcade nature of the game, the majority of console gamers will appreciate that you can jump in and have fun right from the word go. If you enjoyed Crimson Skies and fancy a World War II variant then you'll certainly enjoy Secret Weapons Over Normandy.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
As long as you're not expecting a simulation and enjoy an arcade flight experience with plenty of dogfighting action, you'll appreciate what Secret Weapons Over Normandy has to offer.
A few omissions but essentially it's OK for deaf gamers.