You know what? I like it when games don’t try to pretend to be something they’re not. I don’t need a fighting game to masquerade as something with a story (though the last Mortal Kombat actually did fairly well) and I don’t need Kinect games to pretend they work (ooohhhh snap! Also, just kidding (mostly)). And you know what? City Interactive’s Dogfight 1942 operates under no pretenses and never presents itself as anything other than what it is.
So what is Dogfight 1942? In a word, a game, but in slightly more words, it’s an arcade plane combat game set during World War II. And for the most part, City Interactive nails it from what I got to play. There are landing and takeoff procedures but they don’t seem all that taxing; there are difficulty settings, but they don’t suddenly turn it into a physics simulator; and you can’t even run out of ammo.
There are definitely some nice touches that don’t just improve the arcade nature of the game but rather the game as a whole. For instance, along with your aiming reticle, you get a leading reticle that shows you exactly where you should be aiming in front of a moving target to hit it. You also get recharging health which, in the grand scheme of things, is completely nonsensical (moreso than even in personable shooters) but definitely makes it more fun.
There are also some era-appropriate, largely inoffensive racial slurs included that seem to fight back against the arcadey feel of the game as a whole, but that may not bother other people.
The game also felt fairly easy. I was on the middling difficulty and I was still fairly resilient to perforated wings and flaming engines while enemies went down with roughly half a second of hailing fire. And given how often you down these foes, the seemingly erratically timed killcam got quickly tiresome. The killcam reference also feels especially appropriate given the FPS-ish controls with a left trigger zoom and a right trigger fire.
And while I regularly got updated objectives to defend bases or take out enemy installations, they never seemed that important to me. All I saw were red-ringed planes and a need for them to burst into flames. But then again, maybe that’s a good thing. The map I played seemed a bit on the small side, but at least it looked pretty good. The requisite low-ground flyover showed off a rather good-looking surface with enough detail to provide a bit a flavor to all the action going on up in the air.
I guess what I’m saying is that Dogfight 1942 felt like exactly what it was: a (probably) budget arcade air combat title that is coming to XBLA and PSN. It still feels thrilling to have someone coming up on your six, rounds whizzing by the tips of your ostensibly (but not really) delicate wings, as you bear down on his airborne compatriot. It’s just that it was only then did I feel anything playing Dogfight 1942. Look for it later this summer on 360, PS3, and PC.