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Wings of Prey (PC) artwork

Wings of Prey (PC) review

"Itís not an easy task to please everyone, but Wings of Prey tries to do just that and, in a lot of ways, actually manages to succeed. "

IL-2: Bird of Prey allowed me to straddle the uneasy line between arcade and pure sim. Based in the ever-popular theatre of World War II, it strode onto consoles with an air of confidence and managed to provide a flight sim with a little something for everyone. It could hold your hand in varying degrees, letting you lock on to enemy targets or showing you where to direct your stream of bullets, allowing for the constant movement of yourself and your target. It could let you jump right into the raging dogfights held above the besieged shores of England or the burning villages of Russia. Or it could strap you into a cockpit of a cunningly-shaped hunk of metal whoís engine stalls every time you dip the nose enough to disturb the fuel flow, and make keeping your plane airborne just as (if not more) of a danger to your health than the German fighters zipping towards you.

Wings of Prey is pretty much the PC version of this game, changing the titles slightly but keeping more or less everything else. As such, it would be wrong to call it a hardcore flight sim; you donít use every key on the keyboard to perform some obscure action, but it would be equally wrong to call it a straight-up arcade shooter. You canít start spinning your plane like a top or execute handbrake turns. Thereís a heavy, reliable physics engine behind Gaijinís little project that makes gravity just as big an enemy as whoeverís shooting at you, as well as realistic damage effects that could cumulate in one-hit kills should a bullet pierce the canopy or the fuel tank, or just make flying in a straight line a bitch if your wings or tail gets shot up.

Piloting, then, isnít something you can just turn up and excel at effortlessly. Luckily, this is catered for in a tight learning curve that starts you out with baby steps and dials up the challenge so gradually that when itís time to jump into one of the countless frenzied dogfights, you can handle the basics of flight competently. These fights will start off disorientating at first; even if your first scattering of targets are German bombers that slide across the skies with the grace of an oil tanker, theyíre understandably not keen on being blown up. Theyíll use their limited mobility to make life hard for you, and arenít shy to throw their own bullets back your way. Itís in the midst of battle where things will finally click and youíll learn to weave a jagged path towards your target, dodging the worst of their offence while trying to line them up in your crosshairs. By the time you have this down, the bombers are a secondary worry and itís the Nazi fighter planes that accompany them that become the real threat. These planes can match your pace and aggression, arenít afraid to pull off little stunts of their own to escape your ill intents and arenít bound to a set path. Their only goal is to blow you up before you do any damage to their convoy.

These fights are exhilarating. Do some light damage to your targets and youíll see their ability to fly deteriorate radically. Oil will drip from wounds, fuselages will shudder with effort when trying to bank hard making a limping fighter plane much easier prey to hunt. This, of course, extends to you; take enough damage and your plane stops being a dream to control and slips into nightmare territory. Gaijin deserves props for many things, but perhaps the best thing theyíve done is tie in the physics engine with the planes. Control issues equalled with damage taken makes sense, while cosmetic damage remains just that. Even the little details like machine gun recoil are undertaken with a sense of unbridled seriousness; a parked plane with its brakes off can fire a few rounds into nothing and find the kickback from it rolling the craft backwards slowly.

When tied in to some, frankly, gorgeous graphics that make simply flying around the well-defined English countryside a joy, thereís little to complain about in Wings of Prey. But as itís my job to complain about games, I suppose Iíll have to anyway. The gameís idealistic goal of bridging the gap between sim and arcade is noble, but itís bound to draw negativity from many. As such, for those of you out there who demand a fully realistic accounting of their WWII aircrafts, youíll end up being mostly disappointed. Some obligatory genre expectations are met, like being able to land your plane in a complex (though, it has to be noted, mainly arcadeish) fashion are included, but being able to take off from scratch is not. You still can do things like counteract the balance with fiddling, or enrich the fuel mix should you feel like it, and, if you fly in the cockpit view, all these actions are brilliantly recorded on the dashboardís instruments, but not on all of the planes available to fly. But with some patches and extra missions already available to download, unlike its console cousin, Wings of Prey is a title that could be used as a foundation to build upon.

I like it how it is. Itís not an easy task to please everyone, but Wings of Prey tries to do just that and, in a lot of ways, actually manages to succeed.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 30, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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wolfqueen001 posted June 13, 2010:

Hm... I personally think this review is better for the niche who would actually appreciate it. While it's not as technical (especially with terminology and explanations of mechanics and the like) as your review of the console version, it's still a little too heavy for me to get completely into. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it just means it didn't do a whole lot for me, though I can say that I do get a good picture of what the game looks like. I am left wondering, though, that if this is basically the same as the console version (with perhaps even more features, as you mention patches), why you scored it slightly lower. That's just a curiosity thing more than anything else, though; I don't want to start an unnecessary debate about the relevancy of scores and the like.

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