Secret Weapons Over Normandy is a World War II aerial combat game developed for LucasArts by Totally Games, a studio best known for producing the acclaimed X-Wing and TIE Fighter games. Before working on the Star Wars series, however, Totally Games was also responsible for producing a trilogy of WWII flight simulator games: Battlehawks 1942, Their Finest Hour, and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, also published by LucasArts. Secret Weapons Over Normandy is a spiritual successor to this ten-year-old dogfighting series and contains a number of homages to Totally Games' previous works, including unlockable X-Wing and TIE fighter aircraft.
The game's development was headed by Totally Games veteran Lawrence Holland and LucasArts director of development Randy Breen. In an interview right before E3 2003, when the game was to debut, Holland disclosed that unlike many other air combat games, which feature anonymous fighter combat, Secret Weapons Over Normandy was designed to focus on a story built around a single character. Holland also confirmed that the game is not intended to be neither an accurate flight simulator nor a true arcade game, but simply a recreation of aerial set-pieces from World War II.
A series of unlockable bonus video content detail a series of interviews of actual WWII fighter and bomber veterans detailing the actual travails of aerial warfare in WWII. The bonus featurettes also detail aspects of the game development, including the sound design. To ensure accuracy in the plane sound effects, the team recorded sound bytes from the engines of historically restored aircraft from the period and in some instances took the aircraft in flight for the purpose of recording the noise generated by the planes while in the air. The X-Wing and TIE fighter in the game use authentic sound files provided by LucasArts' Skywalker Sound studio.
For the game's music, composer Michael Giacchino authored the score, assembling a full 110-piece orchestra to record the game's soundtrack. The music features a number of motifs for different themes; for example, a recurring motif is the "Nemesis" theme, with a recurring note intended to remind the player of a machine gun in order to convey a sense of danger. The main theme of the game is meant to convey the sense of action and bravado of an old war movie.
The main campaign of Secret Weapons Over Normandy is a fifteen-mission long story mode that details the actions of the Battlehawks, a fictional squadron of Allied fighter pilots whose exploits take them around the various theaters of World War II. Many of the missions in the campaign are based off of actual, famous battles that took place in WWII; others are focused on destroying various superweapons prototyped or developed by the Axis during the war. In addition to primary objectives, missions also feature a number of secondary objectives such as destroying optional targets, that upon completion will unlock bonus featurettes and additional points to use for upgrades.
The game incorporates a number of flight model settings; an "arcade" option allows exaggerated air combat maneuvers and reduces the chance of stalling, while a "realistic" setting allows a simulation model similar to the original Secret Weapons series. Regardless of flight model, Secret Weapons Over Normandy features a number of gameplay assists to make the game more approachable. The player can lock on to target craft to ensure he can continue to track an enemy even it is not within the player's field of view, and is given a targeting reticule on the HUD directing the player where to shoot in order to properly lead an aircraft to compensate for bullet drop and latency.
The game features an instant replay feature that allows the player to immediately review the last few seconds of a battle, though the game lacks a way to save and view a replay spanning the entire length of a mission. The player is also given the ability to manipulate the game speed, either to increase the pace in order to traverse long bombing runs faster, or decrease the speed during dogfights achieving a sort of bullet time effect. The player has unlimited ability to change the game speed in this manner and is not penalized in score for this, so he may exercise this option anytime desired. The player also has some limited control over his fellow squadron-mates through the use of the basic commands "attack my target," "target at will," and "defend me."
The player's main weapons are machine guns, effective against most planes but unable to damage armored targets such as tanks and ships. For this task planes can also be equipped with secondary weapons including the following:
|Unguided bomb||Comes in the 250lb (small), 500lb(medium), and 2000lb(large) varieties. Larger bombs cause more damage, but fewer of them may be carried at once. Bombing requires the player to place a bombsight on the target; approaching the target in a dive (dive bombing) reduces the size of the bombsight and greatly increases accuracy.|
|Torpedo||Anti-ship weapon that must be dropped at speeds of less than 150 mph from an altitude of less than 250 feet. The weapon must also be dropped at least 250 feet away from the target or else the warhead will not arm, and in the case of moving vessels the player must lead the target.|
|Rocket||Dumb-fire propelled warhead. Small, medium, and large varieties; similar to the bomb but can be aimed directly at the target.|
|Cannon||High-caliber armor-piercing gun, available in 37mm and 57mm assortments. 57mm slugs have higher stopping power but fewer rounds may be loaded at once.|
|Fritz X||German-developed freefall bomb with a high payload and radio guidance capabilities, enabling a pilot to steer it to its target after being dropped.|
|Highball||Also known as the "bouncing bomb," used by the British to destroy German dams. Deployed similarly to a torpedo except that it bounces along the surface of the water instead of underwater, allowing it to be used in shallow water environments.|
|Henschel 294||German rocket-propelled flying torpedo. Deploys similarly to a rocket, except it is then steered manually by the pilot into the water where it then behaves like a normal torpedo.|
|Henschel 293||German air-to-ground missile designed equipped with a camera and radio controls allowing a pilot to direct it to its intended target.|
|X-4||German-developed air-to-air missile designed to be employed against American level bombers. It is equipped with a camera and radio guidance system allowing a pilot to guide it to its target.|
Only unguided bombs are available at first, but the radio-controlled guided versions of these weapons become unlockable in the late game. If the player runs low on ammo and/or is damaged he can resupply and repair his aircraft at friendly airfields based throughout the mission area at no cost. The player may manually land at airfields if desired, but there is no reward for preferring this over the automatic landing option. In between missions the player may go the in-game hangar and upgrade his planes' armor, engine, maneuverability, and primary or secondary weapon capacity. Each upgrade requires the player to spend upgrade requisitions, which are earned by completing both primary and optional objectives in both the campaign and challenge missions.
The campaign features dogfights, dive bombing and torpedo runs, escort missions, and occasion fixed-gun turret sequences. In addition to the campaign, twenty bonus "challenge" missions are unlocked through progress in the campaign; these are typically shorter than the main missions and feature variants of the objectives in the campaign. Various statistics including the number of upgrade requisitions earned are recorded at the end of a mission; the player is given the option of replaying a mission later to complete overlooked objectives and thus earn missed upgrade points.
The game also has an instant action mode in which the player can participate in simple custom dogfight scenarios against bots using planes unlocked from the campaign. Although there is no online multiplayer, the console versions feature local two-player multiplayer modes. These include a versus instant action mode, as well as two-player challenge missions of both the competitive and cooperative variety. The Xbox version, despite lacking online gameplay, has Live support in the form of additional downloadable planes and missions. There is no multiplayer at all in the PC version; instead, the PC edition shipped with a level editor.
The aircraft in this game are based off of real aircraft designs from WWII (except the bonus Star Wars starfighters); although many are experimental designs that never made it beyond the prototype phase in real life, these are still based off planes designed for use in World War II. This is the list of aircraft playable in the instant action mode; not all of these are made available in the campaign.
Hawker Hurricane - British aircraft that accounted for most of the German aircraft downed during the Battle of Britain Supermarine Spitfire - British aircraft that played a key role in the defense of Britain; more firepower and maneuverability than the Hurricane Messerschmidt Bf-109 - most widely produced Luftwaffe aircraft, agile but with limited armor Fairey Swordfish - old British biplane with low top speed and dogfighting ability, used primarily for torpedo bombing missions Lockheed P-38 Lightning - heavily armored American twin-engine fighter-bomber
Mitsubishi A6M Zero "Zeke" - highly maneuverable Japanese fighter aircraft but less armor than the P-38 Douglas TBD Devastator - United States Navy torpedo bomber, limited anti-air capability de Havilland Mosquito - British fighter-bomber with low maneuverability but high top speed and armor Douglas SBD Dauntless - United States Navy dive bomber, played a great role in sinking Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender - experimental American prototype aircraft with swept wings and a pusher engine Focke-Wulf Fw-190 - one of the most effective Luftwaffe fighter craft, has low armor but good speed and handling Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik - heavily armored but immobile anti-tank aircraft employed by the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake" - prototype American aircraft with a "flying wing" design enabling a very low stall speed Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet - experimental American fighter plane with a pusher engine and flying wing design Messerschmidt Me-262 - world's first operational jet fighter, fast and heavily armed, used by the Germans against U.S. bombers North American P-51 Mustang - long range American escort fighter with superior handling and armor Gloster Meteor - first Allied jet fighter, primarily used to intercept German V1 "buzz bombs" Messerschmitt Me 163 "Komet" - incredibly fast but dangerous German experimental rocket fighter Dornier Do 335 - Luftwaffe heavy fighter designed with both forward and backward engines Junkers Ju-88 - Lufwaffe level bomber employed during the battle of Britain with very low maneuverability Grumman F4F Wildcat - American carrier-based fighter employed in the Pacific theatre, more armored but less maneuverable than the Zero Junkers Ju-87 Stuka- German dive bomber that appears often during the early missions in the war Curtiss P-40 Warhawk - United States fighter-bomber with limited air superiority capabilities Heinkel He-P1078a - experimental German aircraft used in game as escort for a prototype German airborne carrier Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair - very capable U.S. carrier-based fighter craft, available as DLC through Xbox Live X-Wing - bonus unlockable Rebel Alliance starfighter
TIE Fighter - bonus unlockable Imperial starfighter
The campaign is centered around James Chase, an American fighter pilot who joins the war effort before the United States' official entry into the war after the Battle of Pearl Harbor. The storyline is primarily told through journal entries made by Chase prior to each mission, while the history (real or otherwise) of each conflict is detailed in a series of between-mission History Channel-esque shorts. After completing a set of training missions, Chase is assigned to assist in defending British troops evacuating France at Dunkirk. At Dunkirk, Chase shoots down Oberst Krieger, leader of a group of German aces known as Nemesis. After his victory, Chase is drafted into the Battlehawks, a secret group of Allied airmen devoted to thwarting Nemesis and assisting the war effort by performing specialized covert ops missions. After defending the 'Hawks base during an air raid in the Battle of Britain, Chase delays the impending Operation Sea Lion, a German seaborne invasion of Britain, by destroying the enemy transport flotilla.
Chase is then sent to the Pacific theater after the bombing of Pearl and participates in several operations including the Battle of Midway. With the course of war now turning against Imperial Japan, Chase is sent back to the western front to deal with the Axis siege of Stalingrad. There the Battlehawks discover an experimental German bomber, the Junkers Ju-390. Although the Ju-390 was never moved past the planning stage in the actual war, in the game the 390 becomes a threat for German long-range bombing runs into North America. The Battlehawks are sent to neutralize the Ju-390 production facilities and destroy the planes before they can be used in battle.
As the war draws closer to an end, the Germans in desperation develop a series of experimental weapons designed to forestall an Allied seaborne landing on continental Europe. These weapons include the Me-262, a jet-powered fighter designed to intercept Allied level bomber attacks, as well as the V1 and V2 long-range rockets, intended to bombard the British coastline from far range. The Battlehawks are sent to neutralize these experimental weapons before the Allied mainland invasion. At the Battle of Normandy, Nemesis makes a final stand against the coastal landing force by fielding a final Ju-390, escorted by a prototype airborne fortress piloted by Krieger. However, Chase manages to defeat both aircraft before they can reach the advancing Allied lines. The game ends with a montage detailing the Allied advance to Berlin and the defeat of Axis forces in World War II.
The game was greeted with mixed reception, earning a score of 77 on Metacritic. Gamespotcalled the game "competent, but not very compelling," complimenting the game's presentation but criticizing its lack of challenge and bland graphics. IGN hailed the game's visual effects, but criticized its stereotypical characterization and stiff camera. Eurogamer enjoyed the game much more, hailing the game's controls and mission design. In all cases a common commendation for the game was its strong sound design, while a common criticism was the title's lack of online multiplayer.
PC System Requirements
Minimum System Requirements
- OS: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP
- CPU: Intel Pentium III 850MHz or AMD Athlon 900MHz Processor
- RAM: 256MB
- Video: 32MB Direct3D Accelerated Video Card
- Sound: DirectX compatible Sound Card
- 4X CD-ROM Drive
- DirectX 9.0b
Recommended System Requirements
- CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2200 Processor
- RAM: 512MB
- Video: 64MB Direct3D Accelerated Video Card