previews\ Aug 6, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Secret Weapons Over Normandy - PS2 - Preview 3

Secret Weapons Over Normandy is a stunning action game that takes gamers to the European and Pacific Theaters of World War II

The mission is a fairly simple one, protect torpedo ships that are attacking Japanese carriers in the Pacific Ocean. Anti-aircraft fire dots the sky, and to counter the attack, the Japanese launch (or try to) fighters to engage the opposition.

Welcome to the Battle of Midway.

Secret Weapons Over Normandy, at first, gives the impression of being a flight simulator, but that impression is completely off base. This game may incorporate elements of flight sims - such as the Battle of Midway - but LucasArts has created instead an action game that just happens to involve flying different styles of aircraft.

The game's timeline begins with the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 and progresses in missions to the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The maps span the breadth of World War II, taking players from northern Europe to the Pacific Theater.

GameZone was invited to strap into the cockpit for a preview of the PlayStation2 version of the game.

Graphically stunning, and with a great sound score, Secret Weapons Over Normandy may look like a flight sim, but it lacks the trappings of having to learn all that is necessary to pilot a plane. This is an intuitive game that is simple to jump into, but difficult to master.

Back to the Battle of Midway ....

The bombers are coming in from high altitude. The Japanese carriers have destroyer support and will launch their deadly and fast fighters to counter. Scream in low over the water (fire a burst into the ocean for fun and watch the water dance with the effect of bullets pounding it), then strafe the deck of the carrier. They can’t attack the bombers if they can’t take off.

One of the Japanese planes is hit as it tries to take off and a ball of fire scorches the deck of the carrier.

Well ... that was extremely satisfying! But there is no room to celebrate. Flak bounces you around like a ball on concrete, and some Japanese fighters have actually gotten airborne. Now the fun really starts.

Using 24 camera angles, and controls that will fix-focus the camera on the target, this game plays extremely well. There is little fumbling for controls; instead, players are allowed to immerse themselves in the rich textures of the game, wonderful soundtrack and exciting action.

The game features more than 20 planes. Successfully completing a mission will earn you rewards and help unlock another plane. There are more than 30 missions in the game, including stealing a German fighter and using it against them. You might also end up in the ball turret of a B-17 on a bombing run.

In addition to controlling the camera angles, you can also control game speed, and replay the last 15 seconds of battle with an instant replay mode.

Graphically, Secret Weapons is amazing. From using a guided missile on the Flying Pancake (an experimental slow-flying plane that was developed by the Americans but never used) to take out German weapons (ground units do a nice exploding leap and flop) to nailing a German fighter and watching flames erupt and smoke boil over the wings, to the environments that are wonderfully textured and distracting at times, this is a game that will bring smiles and wonder to the faces of gamers.

And don’t forget the soundtrack ... never forget the soundtrack. LucasArts has employed a 190-piece orchestra to score the game. Plane sounds are all authentic and the voice talents of Will Lyman (narrator of the PBS series Frontline) and noted Japanese actor Mako are incorporated into the game.

The game will be available on PC, PS2 and Xbox with the latter two versions offering single and multiplayer cooperative modes of play. The game is currently slated for release on November 3.

Secret Weapons Over Normandy is much more than a stunning visual exploration of the aerial-combat action of World War II. It entreats the gamer with an incredible soundtrack and intuitive, entertaining and challenging game play. This ‘secret’ is out - this game is destined to be a medal of honor winner.

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