|Ubisoft (Xbox 360; also PS2, Xbox)
Don't judge a book - or a videogame - by its cover. Get past the ugly box art of Blazing Angels, and you'll be wowed by what's inside. This aerial combat simulator sends you soaring through the skies and into some of history's most intense conflicts, including the Battle of Britain, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the bombing of Berlin. Most flight sims make you feel like you actually need a pilot's license to play. But here, anyone can assume the role of a World War II flying ace, thanks to the game's easy-to-grasp, arcade-style controls.
From the accurately rendered fighter planes (rivets and all) to the awe-inspiring cities (which include landmarks like Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower), Blazing Angels boasts a remarkable level of detail. Dynamic lighting and motion-blur effects add to the realism. Unfortunately, dialogue repeated ad nauseam by your wingmen and enemy pilots is downright irritating - and Madonna's faux British accent is more authentic than the voice work here, which was seemingly provided by a high-school drama club. Still, the rest of the audio effects are top-notch, such as the fearful sounds of a sputtering engine and enemy fighters closing in around you that further the feeling of you are there (and you're in deep doo-doo). And with online support for up to 16 players, your head will be in the clouds for months to come.
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