Dogfight 1942 puts you in the cockpit of several allied planes during the second World War. As a fighter pilot, you’re tasked with shooting down enemy planes, destroying military targets, and most difficult of all, landing your plane.
The game opens with a cinematic that sets a very low bar for the game to follow. The graphics in the cinematic could pass for last generation, and the actual game looks even worse. When you’re flying high above the clouds, the views look detailed enough, but as you get closer to the ground, the environments are extremely low-res and empty. The overall presentation of the game feels lazy and undetailed.
The game takes no time at all to get you into the action as you take off from the landing pad and start fighting a Japanese strike team. Unfortunately, these first 15 seconds are the game’s climax, after which the game becomes dull. At no point throughout my entire play of the game did I come close to feeling anything that I would describe as excitement. Each level is a carbon copy of the last, featuring nearly identical situations, with one of a few different annoying characters chattering endlessly to you over the radio. The game seems to attempt “boss fights” with a few levels having cutscenes that introduce a “special” pilot who challenges you in some way. After the cutscene, you shoot the plane just as you would any other and the level ends. The game also features an astounding level of ease throughout. Even on hard mode the player is allowed to take a barrage of damage without any major threat. Enemies apparently have as hard a time as the player at understanding the controls, because they do not attempt to surround or ambush you. In fact, if you follow enemies around you’ll find that most of them don’t seem to have an objective; they just wait to be destroyed.
The basic controls aren’t terribly hard to figure out, but the game does a poor job of explaining them. It is possible, maybe even likely, that one will go through the entire game without knowing many of the controls including an “ace mode” functionality, which equates to a win button, as it allows you to instantly lock onto targets and destroy them. I mentioned earlier that the game was easy, but if I had to identify the greatest challenge the game presents, it is understanding and incorporating the game’s controls. Along with minor strange control choices, like having the right stick control your speed alone, many of the controls don’t seem to work as they should. Oftentimes you’ll get locked out of moving the direction you want to fire while trying to shoot down an opponent. The mechanics for landing are difficult to do correctly each time. If you tap any of the nearby objects at any time during the landing process or don’t land at the correct angle, you will immediately explode and need to start the last section of the level over. Sometimes the landing process is easy, and other times you’ll touch something just as you’re near a complete stop and die.
The thing that stood out to me most about this game was the unnecessary use of racial slurs. At first I accepted the occasional use as an attempt at historical accuracy, but eventually any tolerant person’s patience wears thin as the barrage of racism goes on-and-on throughout the game. Almost every other sentence sounds like something my grandma might say that would interrupt Thanksgiving dinner with an awkward pause. Which brings me to the characters who are saying these things.
If Dogfight 1942 has a story, I can’t give you an overview of it. It loosely follows a World War II timeline, but the characters you play as or work with are wacky, bare, and annoying. To call the characters one dimensional is to give too much credit, because they aren’t really characters. They’re voices shouting at you to do things and then adding something racist or bizarre like, “squealin’ piglets.”
Dogfight 1942 is a better experience when muted. The game has a few uninspired musical snippets, but most of the time it’s just the sound of propellers, bullets, and kooky characters to keep you company. The game also features a splitscreen co-op mode that makes the entire game even easier, but playing the game is more bearable with a friend.
Probably the worst thing about Dogfight 1942 is that it costs $15. Many downloadable games cost far less and have far more to offer than this sub-par flight simulator. The entirety of the game is no more than three hours and has zero re-playability. In fact, I had to push myself to complete the game, which becomes dull well before concluding the first of its two acts. The flight simulator genre is not new to the current generation of gaming, so you would do well to look elsewhere for a cheaper, more beneficial experience.