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Review: Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron (Xbox One)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 04.08.2018 17:26

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Although the shmup genre has undergone many changes and evolutions over the years, the basic fundamentals remain the same. Players take control of a rickety ship that's always one bullet away from oblivion. They must navigate through thousands of these tiny glowing orbs of destruction, while taking down any tank or warship that gets in their way. It usually takes an arcade-goer's mentality to appreciate the replay-value, as it involves playing over and over again in the chase for a high-score. Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron attempts to shake things up a bit, but mostly falls flat.

The game is divided into five acts, with five missions apiece. Each mission typically has some sort of objective, such as "destroy all of the enemies," or "protect allied ships." They are not too difficult to figure out, leaving players more time to deal with other concerns, such as the constant waves of planes and artillery-fire. Massive bosses await at the end of each act. These adversaries are unique in the sense that they are not just some overly large target that fires more bullets than the other, much smaller targets.

In order to survive these deadly situations, it's important to learn how The Squadron works. There are four pilots, each with their own unique abilities. Whichever pilot the player decides to take control of is considered the leader. The other three pilots will fly alongside in formation. It's probably best to think of this support as options, not unlike the orbs that follow the Vic Viper around in Gradius. Keep in mind that there is a catch. The other pilots can be temporarily knocked out of action if they take too much damage. Depending on the difficulty setting, the leader can have up to four lives. If every life is lost, then the mission has to be retried.

The abilities tie into what can be considered a level-up system. Skill coins, which are earned through experience or found off of certain enemy ships, can be spent to unlock various abilities. Typically, these abilities boost basic parameters, such as armour or damage; although there are also active abilities, which are tied to a button press and can affect the battle in numerous ways. Located throughout each mission are power-up crates that strengthen the leader's arsenal. These special weapons are said to have limited ammo, but it seems to function more as a time limit. In other words, there's really no reason not to hold the fire button down all of the time.

One of the quirks of this game is that each of the four pilots has some sort of problem. One of the pilots is a narcoleptic. On certain missions he will doze off, prompting the rest of the squad to protect him. Another pilot has severe anger management issues, and will sometimes fly into a rage. Once he goes berserk, it's best to stay out of his way. It's an interesting gimmick, but doesn't really make a serious impact on how the mission plays out.

When it comes to shmups, controls and good hit-detection are essential, and this is where Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron really struggles. The movement has a very analogue feel to it. The longer the stick is held in a direction, the faster the squadron will fly. There's also a bit of inertia. In a way, it almost feels like the pilots are being controlled via touchscreen. Weaving in-between bullets just isn't satisfying. Unlike most other games in the genre, the leader's hit-box is their entire ship. Even the slightest contact with a bullet is enough to do damage, which makes dodging even more unsatisfying.

Altogether, the game just doesn't feel fun to play. It's not terribly difficult or frustrating, but there's really not a whole lot to keep the player involved. They might stick around to see the story to its conclusion, or try to acquire all of the abilities. Otherwise, there's simply no reason to keep playing. Each mission is just a series of unexciting gimmicks.

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Really, there's not much else to say here. [i]Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron[/i] tries to go its own way in a crowded genre, but it fails to light that proverbial fire. Surviving a constant barrage of enemy fire is supposed to be thrilling, but it's just not the case here. Even during the most intense shoot-outs, some will find it hard to stay awake. All in all, this shmup is tough to connect with, let alone enjoy.



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