Five years ago IR Gurus and Ubisoft brought us Heroes of the Pacific, an arcade-oriented flight sim. It seemed to be the first legitimate competitor to Crimson Skies, a title that had dominated the genre throughout the life of the Xbox. The game was released at the end of the lifecycle of the system but met generally favorable reviews and sold well enough to warrant a sequel.
Heroes over Europe, though having very little to do with its predecessor other than time period, takes the battle to the other side of the world and arguably the most overused setting in the history of video games. But does Heroes over Europe fly high or does it crash and burn?
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Heroes over Europe occurs over the course of four different campaigns between the beginnings of the war in 1940 and the bombing raids on Berlin in January of 1945. During that timeframe you play as one of three different pilots. One of them is a American pilot who joins the Royal Air Force – a force composed of volunteers from the US, Britain, and Poland – to show up his father. The various campaigns range in size from up to six levels to an abysmal two. The single player experience jumps across the various campaigns and gives you the chance to try out a bunch of different types of planes but therein lays one of the first problems players will come to notice: a lack of cohesiveness. When playing the game and jumping from campaign to campaign you will notice that, up until the very end of the game, none of them have anything to do with the other.
Each campaign takes you through a tour of service of four different flight groups whose missions concern different phases of the war. The first campaign – and longest of the game – covers the defense of Britain in 1940. From there the game branches out and covers different sections of the war with levels that are based in and out of reality. Players get to experience battles like the Battle of the Bulge, escort bombing raids across the English Channel, and even participate in several raids within Germany itself. Some of the levels play out with some sense of reality but most of them reside more on the fictitious side than anything else. Call me crazy, but I don’t recall a raid into 1942 Berlin to interrupt a Nazi war rally, do you? If you are looking for historic authenticity then it would probably be best to look elsewhere.
Two strong omissions must be mentioned when considering the overall breath of the single player campaign: the lack of a Russian or Italian campaign. The entirety of the game covers the American and British war effort in northern Europe and doesn’t concern itself with the Eastern Front. Or the invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy, two significant events in the history of the war that could have had some great battles to fight. The Russian campaign could have given us a much more edgy take on the war effort and could have concluded the war with the invasion of Berlin in April 1945 but instead the game ends in January of that year which is nothing more than a tease for what could have been an epic battle.
The only other issue players will run into story wise is that the characters in the game are faceless and really don’t attach any meaningful relationship to the player. Because of this you don’t really care who dies and who survives. They do share some witty banter between them but otherwise lack anything that makes them standout from the crowd as interesting characters.
Unfortunately the game’s multiplayer segment was not reviewable at this time as multiple attempts to play online lead to empty lobbies with no one to play against.
Flight sims occur few and far between on consoles these days with the last major flight title being Tom Clancy’s HAWX this past March. Obviously as a World War II game you are looking at a different dog fighting experience than when you play in a modern fighter scenario. The game has a strong arrangement of planes that are unlocked based on campaign progression and the completion of objectives therein. Heroes over Europe’s selection is also arraigned in chronological as well so don’t look to be flying a P-51 Mustang during the Battle of Britain on your first go-around, though you can fly unlocked planes in earlier missions of the game. You will quickly find yourself sticking to one model or another to do most of your missions, though several of them require you to fly one particular aircraft.
The level arrangement of the game is designed to fit the campaign you are playing in. For example, during the first campaign in the Battle of Britain players will be defending British positions and taking out German bombers making a run on London itself. The majority of the offensive levels involve either escort missions, defending allied positions against onslaughts of German air and ground vehicles, and light raids into enemy territory. As previously stated many of the levels venture into the realm of fantasy more than anything which offers a good breakup in the monotony of ending the Axis threat. The final campaign of the game primarily consists of escort missions for bombing raids into the heart of Germany itself and can get tedious at times but overall it is an enjoyable experience.
Fun arcade-oriented gameplay
Nonexistent multiplayer community, convoluted singleplayer experience