Publisher: Gaijin Entertainment
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
System requirements: Windows XP SP3\Vista SP1\Win 7, Pentium 4 3.2 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 10 GB hard-drive space, Nvidia GeForce 7600 or better graphics card, DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card, Internet connection
Genre: Combat Flight Sim
Release date: Available now
One genre that has been badly neglected on the PC in recent years is the flight sim. Or, to be more specific, realistic military flight sims. Sure, Microsoft Flight Simulator has mods that let you fly military aircraft, but at its core it’s a civilian flight sim. Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. has more than 50 modern aircraft that you can fly, and it’s a lot of fun (at least I think so), but it’s definitely not “realistic” by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s just say that when I served in the US Air Force, I would have loved to have had 120 missiles on my F-16, but I had to settle for just six. And most of the few flight sims in recent years have focused on modern, jet-powered aircraft.
That’s why it was a pleasure to be asked to review Wings of Luftwaffe, which is an expansion of the already impressive Wings of Prey, by Gaijin Entertainment. Wings of Prey features a 20-mission single-player campaign with two to five missions in each of six historic battles, from the Battle of Britain all the way to the Battle of Berlin. In addition, it has 49 single missions, nine tutorial missions, a “training” feature that allows you to fly any of the 46 aircraft in the game in combat against up to 16 computer-controlled enemies, and four multiplayer modes. Wings of Luftwaffe adds two more aircraft, 10 more German single missions (which can also be played in co-op mode online with friends), and approximately 40 new skins for the aircraft.
Now, despite what I said earlier about realism, Wings of Luftwaffe can’t be called realistic either. The game provides you with a color-coded 360-degree radar display, unlimited fuel and ammo, and multiple respawns if you get shot down. You can turn off unlimited fuel and ammo and switch to a more realistic damage model, but you’re going to need that ammo in some missions. One has you and three wingmen trying to sink four destroyers, with your wings carrying two bombs each. This would be possible if your wingmen were smart enough to bomb ships properly and if you got perfect hits with your bombs, but your wingmen can’t sink a ship even if their lives depend on it, so you end up doing all the work. I discovered that you have to leave unlimited ammo turned on or you keep deliberately bailing out just to get more bombs.
The rest of the game, however, is very realistic. The flight characteristics of the aircraft seem to be identical to their real-world counterparts. Fighters such as the I-16 turn on a dime, while heavier aircraft such as the IL-2 attack aircraft are extremely sluggish. Damage to the wings or tail make it more difficult to turn, damage to the engines reduce your top speed (or even shut down the engine entirely), and so on. I was also extremely impressed with the visuals and sounds. Usually in games like this I can see a visible seam where the textures begin to become more detailed as you get closer. In this game, that transition is so smooth, you’ll never notice. When in a plane with multiple guns, such as the Spitfire, you can see the muzzle flash and smoke from all the guns, and the tracers streaking away. You’ll also hear the sound and (if you’re using force feedback) feel the shaking as you fire, or as you take damage.
As visually impressive as Luftwaffe is, it does have its shortcomings. There are only four wingman commands, which can be given individually or to the entire group. Your wingmen are only somewhat okay at hitting air or ground targets, and totally lost when it comes to seafaring targets. Escort missions in any game can be tough, but here they’re especially bad. Unless you’re a lot better at shooting down multiple enemies in rapid sequence than I am, you’ll never be able to succeed at some of the escort missions. There’s a frustratingly high level of artificial difficulty on some missions, even with unlimited fuel, ammo and respawns.
What I’d like to see in future Wings of Luftwaffe patches is smarter wingman AI that uses its weapons more effectively, and also the ability to play the other more than 65 single missions (the ones in which you’re not flying solo, anyway) in co-op mode. The graphics engine would also be a great starting point for another flight sim with modern aircraft. I’ve been itching for a reboot of the Jane’s flight sim series, especially Jane’s USAF and Jane’s IAF. But since I can’t have that, I’d settle for a good, quality military flight sim. Overall, I recommend this game primarily for hardcore flight sim lovers.