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Secret Weapons Over Normandy
Reviewed by Joshua Griffin

This is an absolutely fantastic flight/action game. If you like Crimson Skies or own Air Force Delta - you're going to love this game. In short, the team that brought us the fantastic X-Wing and Tie-Fighter series for the PC has done it again, this time in a World War II setting and on Xbox (yes, PS2 and PC versions will appear shortly as well). The game features stunningly realistic graphics, a powerful soundtrack, decent control and a moving plot line. Well done, LucasArts, this truly is your banner year.

Jump in the cockpit, grab the controls and take to the skies in an attempt to crush the most diabolical plans of the Third Reich. Secret Weapons Over Normandy will put the controls in the hands of American pilot James Chase as he joins a secret Royal Air Force squadron with access to 23 of the most powerful aircraft of World War II. Reenact epic air battles and help the Allied forces defeat the Axis powers in the most devastating war of all time. Can you be trusted with the most dangerous secrets of WWII? This is your finest hour! For more information on Secret Weapons Over Normandy, visit the official product website at www.overnormandy.com.

This game is completely immersive, told in a narrative style like a personal journey through a fighter pilot's diary. The vintage photos look extraordinary, even if they are just the Totally Games and LucasArts staff dressed up with digital planes mapped in behind them. For a flight game, the missions make sense to the story, not just random excuses to get in an airplane and shoot stuff down. But hey, that is always fun, too.

There's a few things you need to do right off the start. First of all, take of the assisted shooting reticule that automatically targets the plane - calculating airspeed and direction. They didn't have that in WWII, and it detracts from the experience here. And it makes it far easier, which is part of the problem, never mind it is totally inauthentic, too. I'm not even sure if that is a word but you get what I mean. And take off subtitles as well, this voice acting is superb and the words pull you out of the movie style of storytelling of the game. And turn down the rumble to medium - you might also want to review the multiple camera angles for the one that is right for you since the bomb view was one of my gripes as well.

So now you're really ready to play.

The sound effects are great, with the terrifying screams of bombs falling through the air and rumbling bass as they hit their mark. The impact of the bullets leave a satisfying thwap and the sound of shells ripping through the enemy planes is music to my ears. The sound work here is very satisfying, especially since I was a kid I wanted to be a fighter pilot. But the soundtrack to the game leaves it all in the dust. The musical composer for this game should do the next Winter Olympic Games theme. This is truly some great work, I love the immersive quality to the music. It feels epic and sweeping, though the story is small and intimate. It implies a greater conflict and a perfect setup to the narrative about the German takeover of Europe and the pressure on the English to defend their homeland. I truly love this soundtrack, and with great voice acting as well you've got a great atmosphere for the game. Michael Giacchino, you are brilliant, just thought you should know that. We loved you in the Medal of Honor franchise, and we hope you to hear more from you soon - when are you making the jump to movies again? And yes, we were quite serious about that Olympics deal next time around. Sweet - why didn't LucasArts send me the soundtrack for the game as well. I'm serious that this is the first time I've ever really considered doing that - it is that good.

So atmosphere is one thing - but does the game look good? Absolutely. While the frame rate isn't sluggish, it lacks the polish of Crimson Skies but keeps the detail level very high. There is plenty of space to engage the enemies - the field of combat is impressively huge. Take out a bridge here, land at an airbase then travel literally miles to a second bridge all while engaging enemy fighters you come across. All in all the levels are very satisfying, with many scripted events and mission variety to keep you coming back for more in several dozen levels and challenges. There's tons of planes and lots of different environments and terrain for missions. Expect to fly at night, with huge spotlights scouring the sky for you. Expect to fly missions in captured and refitted enemy planes behind enemy lines. Expect to not be bored with the game after a few evenings of flight.

Are there any problems with the game? Yeah, but they are minor. The planes do control a bit loose at times, it seems as you work around to catch a fighter sometimes you'll actually over correct, meaning you have to regain control, fighting the forces pulling against the plane and put the cross hairs on the enemy again. The camera needs to be a bit more gentle and perhaps I would have changed the perspective on the ground attack view, since it seemed slightly out of place. Making that customizable would have been a nice touch. But these are minor squabbles, in what is nothing short of a fantastic game.

  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Great graphics
  • Nice polish like camera shake
  • Lots of variety and secondary missions
  • Very arcade style controls

  • Loose control on some planes
  • No LIVE or System Link capability
  • Camera is stiff

BOTTOM LINE: If I hadn't just run though Crimson Skies the last five evenings in a row SWON would have made a much bigger splash. But still you can aim high with Secret Weapons Over Normandy - certainly a great flight simulator and action title from LucasArts and Totally Games.

GRADE: A 91 out of 100
Overall: 9.3 / 10
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