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Platform

Xbox


Genre

Shooter / Action


Publisher

Gathering


Developer

Silver Wish Games


ESRB

T (Teen)


Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Excellent flying controls
- Revisits a war that hasnít seen much play in the gaming market in a while
- Arcade-style gameplay and forgiving physics keeps plenty of action coming your way with a minimal level of frustration

 

 

- No online play for Xbox version even though PC version does
- Dull and low-end graphics
- May be too arcade-oriented for gamers that may be interested in a WWI warplane flight simulation instead
- Cut-scenes donít make any sense or serve any real purpose
- Missions get repetitive

 

 

Review: Crimson Skies - Highroad to Revenge (XB)

Review: Secret Weapons Over Normandy (XB)

Review: Star Wars Starfighter Special Edition (XB)

 

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Wings of War

Score: 7.0 / 10

World War II-based games have been unbelievably popular the last few years, and the upcoming game release calendar is highlighted by a plethora of titles focusing on Vietnam, so itís strange indeed to see a title using WWI as its war of choice. Even stranger is that the game Iím referring to, Wings of War (WoW), is a budget-priced ($20US) plane-fighting title. Whereas WWI happened in the infancy of the airplane when biplanes were the machines of flying combat, WWII was the first war where the evolving plane technology created a full-scale theater of war in the skies above Europe and the Pacific.

 

wings of war review          wings of war review


Thatís why there have been plenty of WWII games that take advantage of WWII aircraft battles. WWI flight warfare has had its share of titles in the early days of gaming, especially on the PC, but the developers of WoW took a bit of a risk trying to reach a mass audience today with a WWI title that strictly adheres to WWI aircraft melees (featuring slower-moving aircraft compared to their WWII counterparts). But WoW is largely a good effort, and the cheap price, stellar plane controls, and using a seemingly-forgotten-by-the-gaming-realm war as its backdrop make WoW at the very least interesting if not downright enjoyable at times. Just donít expect WoW to come close to either Crimson Skies or Secret Weapons Over Normandy, two similar but much better titles.

WoW places you in the cockpit as a WWI fighter pilot. You go through 70 missions over the course of 13 levels. There is a story, if it could be called that, leading you from level to level. But thereís never a serious attempt to engross the gamer in an involved storyline. The cut-scenes that play during ending sequences of the mission, which you would assume were designed to tie together a story, seemingly were edited by 12-year-olds, because thereís no rhyme or reason to them and no story ever unfolds while watching.

 

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Instead, the focus of the game is hot-and-heavy dogfighting using WWI aircraft. Now, WWI aircraft certainly werenít the most sophisticated flying crafts ever designed. After all, aviation was in its formative years.

But anybody enamored with soaring in authentic WWI planes in a simulation-style game should be warned: WoW is definitely not a simulation game, sharing more in common with Crimson Skies than a truer simulation game 

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such as Secret Weapons Over Normandy. This is arcade flying fighting at its finest, complete with bonus power-ups and an unrealistically never-ending supply of on-board machine-gun ammo. (Itís also an impossibility that these planes could have carried the overwhelming arsenal of both rockets and bombs that are supplied.)

Fortunately, like Crimson Skies, the arcade-style action is very entertaining, although the mission requirements are repetitive on each level. Each level requires basically the same goals: you must shoot down enemy planes; destroy tanks, other personnel-carrying vehicles, boats, and trains; take reconnaissance photos; and a few other minor but repeating tasks, some which are timed. A very few mission objectives require you to land and occupy ground-based fixed gun positions to shoot enemy planes out of the sky you just had been airborne in. The photo-taking missions are particularly (and unintentionally) funny. You have to jump from your plane, do a back-flip, land in another plane that has a camera, and take photos of key enemy installments. Then, after taking the required photos, you jump in same back-flip fashion back into your plane, which somehow has managed to stay in perfect flying synchronization with the photoreconnaissance plane. Yeah, like that could happen.

But again, Iíll go back to WoWís saving grace: despite some inane gameplay features, the arcade-style flying and fighting is very good. Youíll face wave after wave of German enemy planes (and zeppelins) in various points throughout the mission. And you need to have top-flight shooting skills to zap the constantly moving targets that are your enemy.

WoWís controls really impressed me. Due to a well-designed control schematic, there was never any disorienting physics that occur in simulation-style games where authentic flying controls become frustrating because itís easy to get upside down or topsy-turvy and crash into terra firma. Youíll be doing a lot of climbing and diving while chasing and escaping planes, and having intuitive controls that always keep you even keel helps eliminate battling not only the enemy but the gameís controls.

 

wings of war review          wings of war review


In tandem with the great controls is the easy-access mapping system, which allows you with a press of the right thumbstick to pull up the mission map and immediately see each planeís placement in the vicinity as well as other enemy targets and mission objective points.

The biggest letdown of WoW is that there is no Xbox Live gameplay. This is in light of the fact that the PC version of WoW has online-enabled features. Xbox Live support could have made this a perfect bargain bin pickup if for nothing else but the opportunity to dogfight the online skies.

 

Another weak area is the dull and low-end visuals. This is a very less-than-ordinary looking title graphically and clearly doesnít use any of the graphical potential of the Xbox at all. However, the sound elements fare much better. The differentiating sounds when the plane is flying steady compared to diving rapidly are noticeable and the pseudo-orchestral soundtrack and music fit perfectly with the early 20th Century setting of WoW.

WoW doesnít compare to the quality of either Crimson Skies and Secret Weapons over Normandy. Still, gamers who are captivated with flying shooters and need a respite from the other two more prominent Xbox offerings will want to give WoW a test flight, especially considering its bargain price. There are enough intense plane battles to keep you playing through the entire mission docket. And with all the WWII and Vietnam War games on the market, all of us gamers could stand a little reintroduction to the history of WWI.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(October 6, 2004)

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