Wings of War

Wings of War

Written by Dave Gamble on 9/16/2004 for PC  

It's 1914. Sophisticated, peace-loving Europe is embroiled in another continent wide war. But this war is different. There is a new front, one having no tangible boundaries: the air. The new Knights of the Sky ride in frail wooden kites, and battle with each other over the trenches of France. By edict of the Kaiser, all laws of aerodynamics and physics have been repealed for the duration. While normally delicate, slow, and diffcult to manuever, aircraft of the era suddenly benefit from the new, laxer rules as evidenced by abilities that won't be seen again until much later in the century when jets rule the sky.

Ok, that last part is more demonstrably false that a 60 Minutes expose. The point is, anyone looking at Wings of War to be the latest, greatest WWI flight sim, ala Red Baron, will be sorely disappointed. Wings of War is a console game ported to the PC. There's nothing at all wrong with that. It's actually quite fun. You just need to know right up front that there is far more arcade than simulation here. In fact, if you have any real-world flying experience at all, you would be well served to just check that at the door. It will take you awhile to learn that your airplane can make moves that would blanch even the most daring air show performer. Once you realize that, it will become much easier to compete with the AI pilots.

Early evidence of the arcade/console aspect is the points system. You score points for shooting down planes, completing objectives, destroying ground targets, and for accomplishing bonus missions. I remain unclear as to the motivation for gathering points, though. They're just like the points in the Drew Carey show: they don't count for anything. Me, I just ignore them. Doing that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the game at all.

I would categorize Wings of War as Crimson Skies with more realistic looking airplanes. The planes themselves are beautiful, as is the underlying ground scenery. They are also really cool to shoot down. Depending one where you hit them, you may cause them to start trailing smoke in a very believable manner, knock pieces of wing or landing gear off, or blow them completely to pieces. As you shoot one down, the pilot will jump out and try to parachute to safety. They don't always make it, though. It's not uncommon to hear them scream in fear as their parachute is torn by your wing, or destroyed by what I assure you was accidental shooting. It's somewhat macabre to be flying along and hear a downed pilot go screaming by as he plunges towards the unforgiving ground.

One of the coolest things is how many airplanes there are flailing around in huge dog fights. At any time there could be 10 or more planes swirling around shooting at each other, and if you don't keep an eye out, at you. Fortunately, each plane is clearly marked to show friend vs. foe, and whether destroying a particular plane will count towards finishing your objective. In the early missions it can be pretty difficult to shoot them down since you are limited to a single machine gun and the hit area on the enemy planes is fairly small. In later missions you receive rockets and it becomes much easier to knock them down in droves.

The missions themselves are comprised of a collection of single objectives. This is good, because the mission briefings are very complex. They often have 8, 10, or more specific objectives. You can really ignore all of that, though, because the game will walk you through each objective in the mission. There are a few save points within each mission so you don't have to start completely over in the event of crashing or getting shot down. This is good, because you will soon learn that you are the only pilot in the sky that wants to avoid mid-air collisions. I was "killed" in far more mid-airs that I was by being shot down. If fact, it's pretty hard to get shot down. Being arcadey in nature, there are shields and health bonuses available. I found that when attacking ground targets that you can pretty safely simply ignore airborne threats. Just concentrate on the current objective and shoot down the enemy planes later when that becomes the objective.
Gathering has released Wings of War, their new World War I flying action game. While it won’t take any prizes for historical accuracy, it’s still quite a bit of fun.

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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