Thoughts On: Heroes Over Europe

This week Ubisoft released Transmission Games’ new World War II arcade aircraft title, Heroes Over Europe, and I’ve been having a play. Some thoughts and aerial battle chatter below.

Arcade (as opposed to simulatory) flying games have always been a peculiar breed. And I always seem to end up playing them. They appear regularly on our gaming release schedules, and the appeal of them never seems to diminish, yet nor does it increase. These are games that land somewhere in the middle of our tastes: they seldom seize greatness, and seem content to be just good enough. Occasionally the designers of these games manage to bring the pace, challenge, and subject matter all into alignment, and create something that is outstanding, but it’s a rare conjunction indeed. Somehow the appeal of the flying-about-shooting-in-3D genre never seems to attain much complexity or depth – they’re just another manifestation of the shoot ’em gene, only this time in the air. So it is with Heroes Over Europe, which makes excellent propeller noises as it chugs over a not-particularly detailed Europe, and through rather-good clouds.

Mechanically the game is fine and more than enough to convey aerial dog-fights. Fortunately, it plays okay on keyboard, which it defaults to on PC. (Although it supports the 360 pad, other stuff seems to be lacking necessary config options – which is a problem for the game was a whole. Also: no mid-mission save.) The Heroes Over Europe campaign consists of a series of linear missions, each one directed via a series of waypoints, and instructions over the radio. Needless to say, this involves plenty of aerial acrobatics versus German aircraft – shooting down bombers, fighters, and so on – with the odd ground target thrown in.

The extra feature in all this is the “ace” mode, which allows you to target specific areas on an enemy aircraft when you get in close. A bar charges up, and when it tops out you can take stuff out. It’s an attempt to jazz up the standard tropes of aerial action with another mode of play, a kind of bullet-time for dog-fighting, except not quite. Heroes Over Europe is turned out beautifully, from the war-era poster menus and loading screens to the white cliffs of Dover, but I can’t help feeling that it’s a little too lightweight, given how sensible Transmission have been with the design. It doesn’t feel like it’s taking any creative risks, and it’s absolutely ripe for them. Anything could have been more creative, from the writing to that special shooty mode. There’s something so functional and basic about a reticle charging up that I just felt like it was thought up over coffee. “Oh we need a new feature…” “Will this do?” It’s an extra feature, sure, but like the crazy third-person stunt mode in HAWX, it seldom feels like a vital addition to the standard, perfunctory shooting-at-stuff that makes up the game as a whole. The addition seems like an admission that they didn’t have enough game in here, but it ends up being superfluous.

That said, it’s probably the result of days of agonising work, but it doesn’t feel like it.

All of which rather diminishes what is otherwise an entirely straightforward flying game, which isn’t without a modicum of fun and challenge. As I said, it’s competently constructed, it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough art or ambition in it. If they really wanted to make an impression then Heroes Over Europe needed to make some moves that were out of the ordinary. As it is, this is one of those game that will fade very quickly into the miasma of past experiences, to become indistinguishable from all those other flying, shooting, arcade 3D aircraft games that litters the rambling gaming history that lies in my wake.


  1. Paradukes says:

    I, for one, fell in love with Crimson Skies for the PC, after it was reccomended in an earlier RPS article. I’ve been following this one cautiously, trying not to get my hopes up, but can anyone who’s played it say how the two games compare? Granted this apparently doesn’t have the same sense of style, but how does the combat compare in general?

  2. Clovis says:

    You can play from cockpit view, right? I find it strange to fly a shooty airplane from 3rd person.

    The second picture reminded me of this. Sorry for crappy store link.

    I remember playing a lot of shooty flying games in my youth: Fokker, Red Baron, Sierra’s Aces over Europe (or something like that), and somewhat not related, Tie Fighter. This really doesn’t seem to offer anything new. That really is strange.

    Is the damage modelling any good? Does it give that, “I can’t believe I finished this mission. My plane is made of swiss cheese” feeling? I remember those older games did that.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    Yeah, the damage modeling is fun, although surviving direct crashes with other planes feels a bit weird.

  4. EaterOfCheese says:

    I agree, the gameplay really is quite fun. Multiplayer’s decent, gets pretty frantic with a few people on, is pretty well balanced and the energy / dive attack mechanic works well IMO.

    Not for hardcore sim dudes who want to adjust their fuel mix in the middle of a barrel roll, perhaps, but there’s some quality dogfighting to be had, and i like the cheesy stylings.

  5. EaterOfCheese says:

    I should say that I’ve played on 360 & that i’ve read the PC version has joystick issues, but apparently a patch is ‘imminent’.

  6. Optimaximal says:

    I loved H.A.W.X.

    The plot was guff, the swoopy magic skiddy plane shooter mode was rubbish & tacked on and the difficulty was obscenely low, but I enjoyed feeling like Tom Cruise/Topper Harley/Jack Ryan shooting down bad guys in my hyper-plane with its nigh-on unlimited ammo.

    Pure unadulterated funnage.

    • Dominic White says:

      You’d love the Ace Combat series even more, then, of which HAWX is a pale imitation.

    • pepper says:

      HAWX can be fun online, although its not really balanced. I still think the games shines best with a couple of bears and some friends in COOP! Especially versus.

  7. Alaric says:

    This damned game LOST MY PROGRESS TWICE!!! And I was pretty damn far into the missions both times. It also lost my custom settings, which isn’t that big of a deal comparatively. Overall the game is so-so, but this sort off buggy bullshit (combined with the lack of “save anywhere” feature) is completely unacceptable.

    Anyway, I’ve managed to beat the entire game last night. Had to do it in one sitting, because I was afraid to exit it again. This weekend I’ll be writing a review for Avault. Maybe I’ll give them one star since they did after all manage to not format my hard drive.

  8. Vitamin Powered says:

    I initially believed that those cliffs in the last screenshot were in fact waves.

    I am now disappointed, as would anyone who initially thought they were being promised an arcade game taking place in the ever moving troughs of a tsunami.

  9. Roosterfeet says:

    I’ve been into hardcore simulations for years, but I don’t really have the time for them anymore. Sometimes I just want something light and fun with good gameplay and lots of explosions. I’m jealous of console owners and their Ace Combatieness and IL-2 Birds of Preyedness. What’s currently the best of the genre on PC?

    • Dominic White says:

      Well, as others have mentioned, there’s Tom Clancy’s HAWX, which is basically Ace Combat but not as good, and more serious. While the Ace Combat games always did take themselves seriously in terms of plot, the gameplay escalated into deathstar trench runs, battling superweapons and fighting gigantic aerial battleships. HAWX has nothing you’d not find in your average Clancy story.

      Alternatively, there’s Battlestations Pacific, which is more focused on the naval combat than anything (it’s an action/RTS hybrid), but there’s plenty of arcadey flying and shooting if that’s your thing.

    • EaterOfCheese says:

      @ Dominic White

      I like Battlestations Pacific, but compared to HoE it does a poor job of fun arcade dogfighting, IMO.

  10. Roland says:

    I picked this up myself on PC and I love it.
    It is fun without being too hard, and I have no issue with not being able to save during missions because the missions aren’t overly long anyway. Haven’t had any crashes or other problems either.

    Money well spent IMHO.

  11. iSoLateD1 says:

    This game is terrible, you can’t even change the resolution and it looks like trash running in lo res on a 24″ monitor. H.A.W.X. at least went up to 1920×1200 and used the hardware.

    • Alaric says:

      Actually you can. I too was a bit confused initially, because these settings are inaccessible from the game itself. However, if you look closely, you will find a shortcut to called “Graphics Settings” in your start menu. There you can change the resolution and a few other things. I played at 2560×1600 on full screen.

  12. Ziv says:

    is it a sequel to herpes of the pacific? heroes of the pacific was an AWESOME game that I played a couple of years back and never actually finished (got to a very hard mission and eventually bailed). it’s a great time now w/ batman, majesty 2 and now this coming out

  13. MD says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    herpes of the pacific

    I suspect this may have been an intentio-typo, but choose to assume instead that it was a freudian slip!

    • MD says:

      Sorry about the ‘anonymous coward’ thing by the way, it seems to do that automatically when quoting an unregistered user via the forum.

    • EaterOfCheese says:

      HoE (Heroes Over Europe) is indeed a sequel to HotP (Herpes of the ….

      Wait, where’s that rubber chicken.

      It really is the sequel though :)

  14. EaterOfCheese says:

    *bump* Heroes Over Europe joystick patch download link here: link to

  15. AfricanWarhead says:

    the second mission is plain stupid. Shoot mines so that the doofus ships don’t run into them? Just stop them DOH! singleplayer vote to skip that mission… and what’s this stuff about no joystick compatibility? How incredibly stupid of these developers to publish a flying game with out complete joystick compatibility!!!!!!!!