For all those PC enthusiasts out there who like nothing more than to take to the skies in a Supermarine Spitfire, and reign fiery death on their aggressors, then the last few years have seen flight simulator titles pretty much thin on the ground, and indeed the air too. So it is with great relief that we can bring to you all a title that should need no introduction for the devotees to the genre… I am of course, speaking of the rather excellent and life affirming flight sim, “Wings of Prey” from Iceberg Interactive.
Let’s get one thing understood right from the start of this article though, shall we? I am by no stretch of the imagination the long lost love-child descendant of The Red Baron. Meaning that my flight skills are more than somewhat limited. To put my flight simulation talents in perspective, if any of our readers out there have witnessed the sketch of the ‘self-inflating auto pilot’ in the Airplane movie then you will understand what I mean when I tell you that even he is more suited to flight than I. So with that in mind, ” To the skies with us, theres a good chap. A few rounds of jiggery pokery with Jerry and we’ll be back in time for egg’s sunny side up, what-what?”
First things first with Wings of Prey, as soon as you load the title, it is my betting that you will, as I did, sit and gawp like a dazed gibbon at the astounding panoramic views and graphics on offer throughout the games opening title sequences. It is now when you get the feeling that you are in for something that is just that little bit special. And for once, your feelings of intuition are correct.
It is with the memories of the title sequence firmly implanted into my psyche, that I began the title with more than a little apprehension due to the fact that I am notoriously unfamiliar with controls for flight simulator titles, however I am pleased to be able to inform you that with Iceberg Interactive’s cracker of a game, that there was no such need for me to panic at all, as even a novice at flight sim’s such as myslef can, with a little practice, quickly become so proficient at hunting down and destroying enemy aircraft, that we feel an invitation from Miramar is already being drawn up by the pilots at the Top Gun flight combat academy.
With three modes on offer to the player, we first decided to jump into the cockpit of the single payer Arcade Mode in an attempt to hone our skills further, before we set off on more challemging ‘sorties’ in the “Veteran Mode,” The third option in Wings of Prey which is entitled ‘Realistic’ being a sort of ‘in-betweener’ in terms of the skills required, and the game assists that are available.
So off we went ‘into the wild blue yonder’, as the lyrics go, to soar like an eagle and bring chaos and mayhem from our mounted machine guns. The good news for the amateurs in the squadron, such as myself, is that in Arcade Mode, you are given more flight tips in your HUD, as well as the added bonus of there being the sights crosshairs for you to take aim and blast your victims out of the skies, watching their futile attempts at pulling out of the fiery nose dive that sees them plummet to their demise. This leaves you to conduct a celebratory ‘victory roll’ before stalking the heavens in search of another target.
Flight controls and combat controls in Wings of Prey are, thankfully, far less ‘cluttered’ than the multitude of alternative flight simulators on the market, of which it seems that the developers expect that you have put in at least forty or fifty hours of actual real time flying lessons before you can even think of taking your virtual Hawker Hurricane for a quick juant around the English Channel? The purists and hardcore simulator pilots will no doubt be blockading Biggin Hill and burning their flight jackets in protest at the easing back on the games controls. The reason for this is so that it is more user friendly for the casual gamer to enjoy. This move is one that we here at GamesMediaPro see as a positive step in the right direction if PC gaming is to survive, as more and more gamers turn to the console for their gaming thrills. If the PC is to continue to be competitive it must shake off its ‘niche’ title image, and regain some of its past glories if it wants to remain on a competitive par with the gaming consoles out there? It is with titles such as Wings of Prey that this can be achieved, as this is definately one such game that will attract gamers from both the console and PC camps.
Don’t get us wrong here, one thing that Wings of Prey is not, is easy! Far from it, and if the hardcore gamers out there are up for a bit of a challenge, then why not alter the settings and go for a spot of ‘Veteran Mode’ combat? Just remember to pack a shovel for your underwear as you hear the familiar whine and drone of a Messerschmit engine racing at you from out of the sun, as you search frantically around in your cockpit window for your assailant as the enemy rounds shatter the very fuselage of your own aircraft. Veteran Mode, we feel, will give even the most proficient ‘Cyber Douglas Bader’ a good run for his money?
As we stated earlier ‘Realistic Mode’ lies in-between Arcade and Veteran modes and offers the player a far more challenging method of conflict than Arcade, but staves off the full-on and distinctly more challenging Veteran Mode, until such time as the gamer feels proficient enough to enter the aerial battle with little more in the way of technical assistance than the fighter and bomber pilots of World War II were actually kitted out with. In other words, just get up there, find the enemy and kill him before he find and kills you!
It is from this description that we move nicely on to the gameplay. Now flying an aircraft is by no means an easy task on its own, but add to that the fact that you then have to locate and hunt down enemy bombers and targets, whilst avoiding being turned into Swiss cheese by enemy escort fighters, bomber gun turrets and scarily accurate Anti-Aircraft guns in the some 50 odd missions that are on offer to you in Wings of Prey, and you may get some new found respect for the young chaps who fought for our freedom some 70 years ago in this historically accurate title? Its hard enough to do it in a videogame , imagine this for real?
Beginning your campaign from Good Old Blighty, you will endure flight misions that will see you in literally dozens of Allied aircraft from the aforementioned Spitfires and Hurricanes. To the Russian ‘Coffee Grinder’ Sturmovik. There will be no Junkers or Me109’s for you to enjoy though, as Axis aircraft are unavailable. A point which I lost no sleep over due to the sheer quality an quantity of aeroplanes that were available for me to take to the skies in. The other thing to notice is that you will see plenty enough German aircraft, you just have to make sure that they are not the last aircraft that your character sees?
So from Britain you will begin the fight back to free the skies and ultimately Europe, from being trampled beneath the German stormtrooper’s jackboot. The gameplay is split into chapters that in turn are made up of a variety of crucial missions that must be successfully completed in order for the pilot to progress to the next chapter. From taking to the sky in a British ‘kite’, you will then move into the Russian Air Force, and fly your first sortie over the Hell on Earth that was Stalingrad. Success here sees the player move on to further chapters that see you fighting above Sicily, Korsun, The Battle of the Bulge and finally you will take the fight to the heart of the Nazi war machine as you attack the skies over Berlin itself.
The breathtaking scenery and views will, at times, almost have you forgetting that you are fighting for your very survival, such is the strength of the graphical content on display in Wings of Prey. Everything that could be thought of, has been thought of, and believe us when we tell you that Wings of Prey has the best ‘Dogfighting’ that we have ever witnessed in a flight simulator, on any format! The sense of realism that you get as you are chasing down an enemy 109 is truly exhilarating, especially as you watch the bursts from your cannon shatter his tail, wings and then eventually rip through the fuselage and turn the once proud Knight of the Sky into a burning fireball as it screams groundward, has to be seen and to be experienced before it can be truly believed.
To make a great game even better, the online multiplayer has also been designed much more with the emphasis on the player enjoying the experience. Instead of coming away from the game feeling like he has just spent the last three hours in a military flight simulator and getting chewed out by his Squadron Sargeant Major for not getting his arc of incline 100% corect as he climbed to avoid an obstacle. Once again, we understand that the hardcore sect that believe that flight simulators should be as close to the real experience as is humanly possible, want to remember that these are video-games. They are meant to convey a degree of realism certainly, but at the end of the day its all about having fun. Its commendable and to Iceberg Interactive’s credit that they have remembered that, and delivered a product that is so good that it is better than the ‘serious’ sims out there, and without a shadow of a doubt is the most fun that I have had on a PC flight simulator in…, well…, ever!
So to the conclusion we arrive, and it is with all things considered, and yes even the feelings of the hardcore flight sim pilots, that we here at GamesMediaPro have reached our decision.
Gameplay: as good as it gets, and fun 9
RePlay Value: this ones a ‘keeper’ 8.5
Presentation: the perfect blend of fun and realism for the first time in a flight sim 9.5
So it is with all things considered that WINGS OF PREY scores a mighty fine number 9.