When it comes to flight simulators, there aren’t too many titles that stand out. In fact, over the past few years the PC hasn’t really seen a memorable simulator in years. But for those who are itching to take to the skies, Gaijin Entertainment has delivered a visual spectacle with an in-depth control scheme that delivers a historical account of World War II from Ally fighter pilots.
Before I begin, there’s a need to tell you that, as the reviewer, you should know I’m covering Wings of Prey from the perspective of someone who isn’t familiar with flight simulators. But I’ve learned that whether you’re a rookie or a veteran pilot, that doesn’t mean this game won’t appeal to those who are interested.
And if that doesn’t bother you, then come away with me as we explore the skies over Europe.
As a newcomer to the genre, one of the most intimidating things about Wings of Prey is the control scheme. Everything you’ve ever learned in a real time strategy, first-person shooter, role-playing game, etc. gets thrown right out the window.
In Wings of Prey, I really didn’t see any need for the mouse, except for panning the camera and using the secondary gunner. And even then I wished I had another set of hands; this game requires extreme finger dexterity, as well as equal strengths in the right and left hemispheres of your brain. Just controlling your rudder, balancing your plane, managing your speed and shooting down enemies is an extremely difficult challenge.
Thankfully, Gaijin Entertainment has implemented a comprehensive tutorial that assists both trainees and seasoned veterans. It does a masterful job of transitioning players from simple flight control to life-like pilots.
The premise of the narrative follows a handful of pilots from the Russian and American Air Forces during World War II. Set up across the European continent, the player journeys through some of history’s most famous battles.
What makes the presentation so interesting is that the game does a fine job of balancing gameplay, historical war footage, and primary recitations of pilots’ diaries. Also, as you progress through the story, players will unlock character biographies and aviation strategies from the 1940s. For those who are interested in WWII air combat, you will thoroughly enjoy the historical aspect.
On the other hand, the gameplay feels a bit shallow at times. The player is thrust into a game where s/he has to bomb a target, take out an enemy, or escort an ally. While the scenarios are presented differently throughout, the gameplay is redundant. For example, on one mission I had to sink a couple of ships by dropping bombs on them, a few missions later I had to take out a tank fleet by dropping bombs on them, etc.
While redundant, every once in a while the game will have an outlier objective that is quite fun. For example, in one objective, I had to land my plane, pick up a stranded ally, take off, and fly to safety. It was pretty enjoyable because the player was exploring a different aspect of the game that didn’t involve tracking and shooting.
Similarly, as the game progresses, you’re granted control over a squad and have to dictate orders to your flight team. The drawback is that you’re often quicker just doing the mission yourself rather than waiting for them to help you. As a result, while there is fun to be found, the missions rarely feel like a primary aspect of the gameplay; you just want to finish the objective as quickly as possible and play the next one.
Single player aside, Wings of Prey incorporates online play. Online seems like a lot of fun (Dogfights, Capture the Airfield, Strike, and Team Battle), but the truth of the matter is that there is rarely anyone ever to play with. And when there is, it’s only about four or five people at most who just play Dogfight. It’s a real shame because, in theory, this game has a ton of potential to be a fantastic online game.
While the mission objects lack the center stage, and online play is a bust, the real fun lies in pushing yourself through the difficulties (Arcade, Realistic, and Simulation). When you up the difficulty, you lose a bit of control over your plane and have to learn how to compensate for that. Rather than giving the enemies more life, or some other cheap difficulty trick, there’s actually a learning curve players have to master before they feel comfortable enough to move to the next difficulty. It’s quite brilliant, and many other developers can learn from this.
Graphically, it’s hard to review this game and not mention the landscape. Because this game requires a top tier graphics card, the game takes advantage of nearly every ounce of it. The overall quality of the ground and water provides a realistic experience that easily enhances every gamer’s experience.
The most fantastic experience, in my opinion is when you’re in the cockpit view, tracking an enemy plane through a cloud, and all of a sudden the precipitation distorts your vision. You lose complete sight of the enemy and have to regain your focus. Similarly, when you finally get that first kill at a close distance, the enemy’s engine grease and debris flies into your windshield providing a resounding confirmation. It’s the subtle details like these that bring the game to life.
There are many things Gaijin Entertainment did correctly with this game that will appeal to those who are new and interested in the genre, as well as those veterans looking for the next best flight simulator. This game definitely has the potential to be a great online game but, until the community is bolstered, that remains to be seen. As for those who are interested, but are a bit hesitant about dropping $50 on a low key title, I recommend it. You’ll learn a lot about aviation and get a ton of play out of it.
The eye-gawking landscapes combined with the historical immersion is a treat for anyone with an interest in WWII history.
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The combat becomes repetitive after a while, and the online play is yet to prove itself, but much of the joy is found in pushing yourself through the different difficulty settings to become a realistic combat ace.
The subtle symphony in the background, the radio banter, and the drumming of the plane engine provide a historical feel to the game.
With each difficulty, players are granted more freedom, but have to compensate by learning more in-depth aviation techniques and strategies.
Wings of Prey ingeniously combines the skies over Europe with the WWII stage to bring players a gift that will please both rookies and fighter aces.