Adding to the slushpile of ultra-realistic WWII fighting games, Blazing Angels: Squadrons Of WWII puts you behind the stick during 18 of the war's fiercest dogfights, from the Battle Of Britain to Pearl Harbor to Midway. The sepia-toned graphics recreate each locale as it looks through newsreel footage, and the action, in spite of its arcade elements, seems to be a reasonable facsimile of what history might have looked like from an Allied cockpit. It's when the realism ends that the game goes horribly awry: No doubt the Allies intercepted plenty of enemy communication during the war, but pilots weren't directly tapped into the radios of German and Japanese adversaries, who would use the system exclusively to taunt them… in English! Or Engrish, in the case of the offensively accented Japanese flyers, who repeatedly mock you for "frying like a woman." Add to that the unlimited fuel and ammo, and it feels like you're actually there—if by "there" you mean inside the rear projection of a bad B-movie from the '50s.

The single-player campaign takes you through the war's major air battles with several wingmen under your command, each with his own specialty, such as shielding you from attacks or making minor repairs to your plane in mid-air. Though the variety of plane changes, the missions generally boil down to one repetitive goal or the other: Either you're using your machine guns in a dogfight, or you're dropping bombs on targets. Outside of the occasional reconnaissance mission, only the beautifully rendered settings break up the monotonous grind of performing the same maneuvers over and over.

Beyond the gameplay: There are many reasons to forsake single-player mode for Xbox Live, not least of which is to give the taunts a little variety. While the Germans and Japanese pelt you with the same two or three insults, you never know what's going to come out of a 14-year-old jacked up on Red Bull.


Worth playing for: More than just the expected free-for-all dogfights, the Xbox Live mode is surprisingly varied, with clever games like Aces High, a form of tag where only the "ace" scores kills and you can only become the ace by shooting one down.

Frustration sets in when: If the sole wingman who repairs planes gets shredded during a fierce battle, it's kamikaze time.


Final judgment: Recommended only to Xbox Live subscribers or kids with half-assed history papers due tomorrow.