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Secret Weapons Over Normandy

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Secret Weapons Over Normandy (SWON) is an arcade styled WW2 aircraft game. The world revolves around you in the position of a pilot. I will say it's obscure only because in the last 10 years, I have heard NO-ONE talk about this game, despite its selling an estimated 500,000 copies. Although that might indicate that it's not memorable, it is like a dead relic of the early 2000s and I haven't forgotten this game. That might be perhaps due to me having played this game relentlessly on the PS2, though. There will be some spoilers in here now and then, but I won't try to get into too much detail anyways.



The story goes like this: You are an American pilot (James Chase) who goes to Britain to serve with the RAF, assumedly in 1940. The game doesn't really explain why you do it, but it's most likely because you're young and you want to explore the world, or some equally grandiose purpose. You are assigned to France, at Dunkirk. You are trained with an aircraft, the Hawker Hurricane, in the encirclement leading to the evacuation at Dunkirk. When the evacuation commences, you are guarding the city while everyone evacuates when your main antagonist, a German ace pilot, known as Krieger, shows up, along with the rest of his squadron, named "Nemesis". You somehow manage to shoot him AND his squadron down (if you don't rely on the AI teammates that are trying to help. Trying being the key word.) This leads to your wingman -who is actually a pilot in a top secret squadron- recommending you to join his squadron, named "Battlehawks", and help fight against Nemesis. This leads to you encountering Nemesis repeatedly, fitting the namesake. You're also more generally fighting the German army/airforce, and as well you get to do some fighting in the Pacific. This is a theater of war entirely stumbled upon because the squadron has secret information stating that the Germans are exchanging technology with the Japanese on the coast of Saipan. And then you somehow get involved in the Battle of Midway. Also you go to the Cliffs of Dover, Africa, Denmark, and Russia because you're fighting the entire Wehrmacht/Luftwaffe and/or its secret projects, no matter the location.

I can't say that the game is inherently racist, but it does feel like it feeds into stereotypes a little bit more than it probably should. This is despite the lengths of hiring voice actors from countries depicted who know the language, or at least someone convincing enough otherwise. For some reason the Soviet Union doesn't follow this pattern though, given a stereotypical Russian accent rather than proper language. It's probably nitpicking, but in reality only about 30% of Russians in modern times know English of some form, and I assume that this was far lower during the 1930s-40s, particularly due to the rare interaction of most of Europe and the Soviet Union by that time anyways.



Now let's dig into the quality of the game. The voice acting isn't too bad, but some things do obviously show. It was made when WW2 was a popular theme, so you can definitely feel some saturation. However, the publishing company, LucasArts, did publish another few flight games before the main saturation, except it felt less arcade-y, so they had at least some experience before the theme was saturated. Now, I will say this right now, the game isn't perfect, and it has some issues. it doesn't like modern computers quite as much, and is only available on CD. Not to mention that to install it you have to put 4 different disks in the slot, in order. There were also console ports for the PS2 and Xbox, although they didn't HAVE that issue. I'm not sure exactly why this is? Did they think that having 3 disks to install things then having a 4th to execute it would be faster? Maybe it's a storage issue involving the different settings? Regardless, the graphics still sort of hold up, albeit it is very polygonal and has its obvious edges. It was made in the early 2000s, so I can't say anything points out too horrendously when I played it.



Considering LucasArts is a Disney company subsidiary as of writing (and years later, editing), it really puts the game in a weird abandon-ware area. Disney just keeps it afloat with only a few people to retain licensing powers and to publish games. The company which actually developed this, Totally Games, is defunct as of 2015. So I'd think it's pretty firmly in abandon-ware, although I also think that Disney probably still has some rights to it in some form via Lucasfilm Games, the rebranding of LucasArts. In short, this kind of makes it a can of worms.



There is also a BEAUTIFUL orchestral soundtrack (It all is rather gung-ho sounding though, definitely very few emotional pieces) composed by Michael Giacchino. The guy has done MOVIE soundtracks, even some soundtracks for the TV show Lost. He's done some for Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, The Incredibles I & II, and even Rogue One. If it was a big movie, and it was done in the last 20ish years, there's a pretty good chance this guy might have composed for it. At least if it wasn't Hans Zimmer or John Williams.



Anyways, SWON is lacking in some areas, such as it being rather short, as I 100% completed it in about 10-12 hours of work. But, to be fair, I DID play the game a lot in the past on the PS2, so I had an idea of what to expect. It might be more like 18 hours for a normal person, but that's for the 100% run. To actually complete it any% would probably take you only 8 hours, if that. And there could have been more missions too. Why not fly over Europe, escorting bombers to Germany instead of just being a ball-gunner? I'd love to have that as a mission. Let's have to intercept some more secret weapons! I want to fight a flight of Ho-229s over the battle of the bulge! And while the tie-in to the pacific theater was a nice touch, it could have had some of the beach invasions from that. Why not have that as a training mission so you know what to expect in Normandy, if you really wanted to end it there? What about Italy?


I feel there could even be a remake of this game so it doesn't feel so dated. The addition of some more missions would generally just beef up the gameplay, and nothing says that you have to be limited to just the one character. Let us have some variety like it's World At War. Although, some things definitely needed to be adjusted both in the gameplay, and dialogue, because a bit felt cheesy. That, and there are some difficulty spikes if you're going for a 100% run. (I'M LOOKING AT YOU MIDWAY. Which is also conveniently mid-way through the game.) Although as far as I know you don't get a completion bonus besides a few "Instant Action" vehicles. I mean sure, one could argue that there are spiritual successors that are more modern, such as the Blazing Angels series, but each game has its perks, and I happen to like a lot of the perks in SWON. I guess maybe you could attempt to remake these in War Thunder or IL-2 but that may be difficult or outright impossible, and wouldn't do the game justice.





A flying pancake.





I'm not sure where or why Lockheed Martin endorsed this? Maybe they gave the developers a P-38 to model? Maybe they gave the developers some blueprints to follow? I don't know. There's little to no mention of this anywhere online, but I'd have to say that a major flight company slapping their brand on the back of a case is pretty important.






An all-black plane paired with yellow lightning bolts going down the sides of the fuselage? That's a pretty unique paint job, and you will see it very often. Although I can't say that Nemesis is very hard to kill all the time, especially not when they are fighting with generic unspecified variant BF109s while you are in a P-51 or even a ME-262. And I don't have much reason to believe these are ever upgraded later-war variants.



The gameplay is about as much as you can expect of an arcade WW2 airplane themed game. It handles about as well as trying to drive a smart car around a corner while on ice. Not the slippery ice you usually see on platformers, mind you. That's just lazy ice. But that might just be on the PC. You could try using a joystick though, as it has support for it. And alternatively you could just rebind everything to a PS4 controller like I did, although I recommend adjusting the sensitivity of it. It also just felt better on consoles. The planes are rather well designed, and you can tell that Totally Games really cared about the product. They even had interviews of actual veterans as bonuses in it. Some of the bonuses were how the plane sounds were recorded and generally just behind the scenes stuff. Everything is (somewhat) accurate to their real life counterparts, and the only regret I have with the game, is that they couldn't fit in more planes... or secondary weapons, come to think of it.



I will say this, the maps you fly over are BEAUTIFUL, and if you can remake the game/maps in a modern engine, I would love to see it. But just seeing a overview of the maps would be great too. I would say that the developers of the game probably just drew out a rough outline of most of the geographic locations and added things to make it more interesting, but it's doubtful how much was realistically depicted, especially with it being a simple arcade title.
I'm sure if I tried to line things up with real-life counterparts they would look either nothing like their real counterpart, or similar enough to pass.



Anyways, the Xbox version had some DLC with it. Anyone know how they could mod that into the PC version? I don't think the PC had DLC for it and yet the Xbox did.




(originally from hooked gamers, saving for posterity in case)





"Check out this content download for Secret Weapons Over Normandy! New Plane: Ki-61 The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (‘Swallow’) was the only Japanese fighter powered by an inline liquid-cooled engine and could threaten any U.S. fighter with its two .50 cal machine guns and two 20mm cannons. New Single Player Mission: Last Chance! A small American carrier task force has wandered within reach of Japanese ground-based aircraft. This single-player mission challenges Ace pilots to fly Japan’s latest fighter, the Ki-61 ‘Tony,’ and clear the skies of deadly American Corsairs to give the fragile G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers a chance to hit the carrier. This download also includes an updated camouflage pattern for the Betty."


"Yet another content download for Secret Weapons Over Normandy! He162 Volksjager Plane This rocket-powered plane was designed to be cheap and easy to produce. It could very well have become the jet-powered workhorse of the Luftwafee. Furious Engel Mission This two-player mission pits Axis versus Allies and allows gamer to fly any plane – including the new Volksjager. That’s not enough for you? Well, you’re in luck because this download also includes two new camo schemes."


"Download a new plane plus a new mission! The Macchi 202 is the first Italian fighter plane for Secret Weapons Over Normandy. It combines Italian design skills with a German inline engine. Plus, in the exciting new ‘Escape from Tripoli’ single player mission, you play the role of an Axis pilot taking on Allied invaders. That’s not enough for you? Well, you’re in luck because this download also includes an alternative camo scheme for the JU-87 Stuka."


"Download a new plane, the F4U Corsair, in our final Secret Weapons Over Normandy package."


"They are on these OXM discs: 33, 34, 35


Secret Weapons Over Normandy

Corsair F4U Package - 35

He-162 and Furious Engel - 33

Ki-61 and Last Chance - 33

Mc202 and Tripoli - 34"




Did I mention there is a program called SLED so you can make your own missions?

Edited by Kraken
ancient, needed some rework (see edit history)

"I believe in a universe that doesn't care and people who do." - Night In The Woods

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I have replayed it with a PS4 controller and the experience was far more enjoyable. However, I should note that you will need to rebind the buttons in the menu to the controller of choice. As well it should be noted that it doesn't specifically state which buttons are which when you rebind the buttons, so good luck figuring that somewhat cryptic part out whenever you come back to look at it after a while of not playing. I had the blessing of having a manual showing what the buttons were for the PS2, so I will list these so anyone else can get a bit more of an authentic PS2 experience. (I mean you can use the Xbox controls if you want, but I have no idea what they are.)


I think we know what a PS2 controller looks like but I want to just be extremely clear. (Transparent, even.)

L2 = Target Track (Left lower bumper)
L1 = Zoom (Left top bumper)
R2 = Fire Secondary (Right lower bumper)
R1 = Fire Primary (Right top bumper)
Left Stick (L3) = Movement of plane.
Right Stick (R3) = Up/Down is throttle. Left/Right does nothing in basic flight control. Roll is an option for Full Flight Controls, but I couldn't tell if it was actually working or not.
R3 Press = Rear View. There's no camera movement aside from this.
Triangle = Camera/Bomb Sight
Circle = Reflex Time.*
X = Air Target
Square = Ground Target


*Reflex Time (Can also be known as bullet time, or speedy time. Depends on if you tap or hold, respectively.) is your best friend. Use liberally.
Note: Speeding up time will cause dialogue to stop playing. Recommendation: Keep subtitles on.

Also unrelated, the screen resolution is capped at 1280x920. In fullscreen. Gotta love CD-ROM.

Personal experiences with bugs (Unsure if result of use of Windows 10 or not. Previous experience (Windows 7) dictates it might just be like that for anything newer than Vista or XP.):
-The ME-262 you pilot has no engine sound. Could just be me. Will update if I notice the issue with other ME-262s.
-Crashes happen. Both into obstacles with a plane, and in terms of the program. Save between missions. (Be prepared for a restart or user log-out. When the program crashes, it crashes spectacularly.)
-Unsure if it's an issue pertaining to the gamepad programming or not, but square is the accept button and triangle is the back button for menus. Also I have no idea how you access the menu with the PS4 controller, as it has no binding stating it. So be ready with Esc while playing.
-Performance issues will happen, I almost guarantee it. Just be prepared for a bit of lag. (Especially in Fjords... good god.)
-The Fjords are glitchy. Texture-wise. Physically they're fine. Most of the time. (Refer to crashes.)
-Be sure to check your volume. The movies are ungodly loud.

Edited by Kraken (see edit history)

"I believe in a universe that doesn't care and people who do." - Night In The Woods

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Sounds like you'd be better off playing in a VM...

Don't insult me. I have trained professionals to do that.

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27 minutes ago, BTGBullseye said:

Sounds like you'd be better off playing in a VM...

I don't think I'm quite at that point of dedication to run it in a VM. It works for the most part as-is, and I can pretty much live with it, flaws and all. Mostly because I know nothing about VMs, and then there's the obvious issues of using a PS4 controller for it, and also whether or not it'd even accept the disc(s). But I might be wrong. But still, not quite to the point of figuring out VMs for it.

"I believe in a universe that doesn't care and people who do." - Night In The Woods

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