Dogfighting games have fallen out of fashion, with the likes of "Ace Combat" being relegated to sporadic releases and just about every other ongoing series having stopped for good. Now that technology has caught up to developers' visions, the time is right for a full-scale redefinition of what's possible in the genre.
The indie dev Ace Maddox effort "Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China" may not be that reinvention that dogfighting fans long for, but it's a step in that direction. With fluid controls, killer visuals and a tight mission structure, the World War II-set game spotlights a little-remembered secret squadron of American fighter pilots who defended China from Japanese invaders before the U.S. was officially involved in the conflict.
Once you take to the skies in early tutorial missions, you get a feel for how much freedom you get as a fighter pilot in this arena. With autocorrective flight aids disabled, you are free to throw the torque down on your aircraft, making daredevil dives to take out targets and precarious barrel rolls to elude locks from bogeys.
Although extended sessions can wear the game's welcome thin, quick strikes through missions are satisfying to keep you wanting to come back for more. Multiple difficulty levels make it worthwhile to come back and take on tougher competition once you've mastered your techniques. Overcome occasional frustrations with cookie-cutter design and cheap attacks and you will feel the excitement of soaring into the treacherous Chinese skies.
Publisher provided review copy.