Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
System requirements: Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1/Win7; Pentium 4 3.2 GHz CPU; 1 GB RAM; 10 GB hard-drive space; DirectX 9.0c; GeForce 7600 or ATI Radeon X1650 256 MB graphics card; DirectX-compatible sound card
Genre: Flight Simulator
Release date: Available now
Due to a most dire shortage of World War II-themed games during the last decade, I would like to take this opportunity to petition the Illuminati World Government to pass a law that prohibits development of games based on any other setting. This is only reasonable, since WWII is the only war that humanity has ever fought. Don’t let the name confuse you; there was never a World War I, or any other war for that matter. I tell you this with all the authority of a History major. Setting games in imaginary conflicts is simply bad form and should not be permitted. Just think of the children.
Fortunately for all of us, we have been brought back from the brink of destruction by the kind folks at Gaijin Entertainment, who have delayed the apocalypse by giving us Wings of Prey, a flight simulator that features more than 50 historical missions and more than 40 aircraft. In addition to aerial combat itself, this game has quite a few features, such as multiplayer with four different modes, VoIP, support for downloadable content and more. It also appears to support certain joysticks and headsets, but I was unable to test this feature, since I don’t have any of the listed hardware.
The campaign begins with you flying missions over the English Channel. Some information about the pilot and missions is given, but it’s more of an afterthought, which is fine since the focus of the game is on flying. After taking down an appropriate number of German bombers, fighters and ships in a few missions, you say goodbye to the Battle of Britain and progress on to the next stage, which happens to be the Battle of Stalingrad. There you do more of the same until you are ready to move forth yet again, this time to the invasion of Sicily. There are six campaigns overall.
WoP is a fairly pretty game when it comes to graphics. It certainly does look better than Heroes Over Europe, for example. You still see a lot of buildings being recycled, especially when flying over a large city, but I suppose this is inevitable when it comes to flight simulators. Otherwise, the visuals are not bad. What made the game nearly unplayable for me was the controls. You control the plane with the WASD keys, while the mouse is used to change the viewing angle and fire your weapons. This is as frustrating as it gets, and I found no way to change it. Good luck aiming at even a straight-moving bomber, much less a fighter plane.
The interface outside of actual flight is much better done. There is, however, a weird glitch that prevents you from seeing selections such as difficulty, additional attempts, takeoff, etc., because they are blocked on both sides. It only happens at very high resolutions such as 2560×1600. And then there is the issue of digital rights management (DRM). WoP comes with some strange BitTorrent client, the game has to be activated on the Internet, and you only get three activations. Yes, even if you get it from Steam. It’s unclear how to deactivate it, so you’ll have to contact Gaijin Entertainment once you strike out thrice. This is unacceptable so far as I am concerned.
While Wings of Prey might very well appeal to the hardcore flight simulator crowd, as a casual pilot I am pretty unimpressed with it. To me it’s just another WWII plane game with no noticeable improvements (albeit reasonably good-looking graphics), incredibly difficult controls and outright insulting DRM. Personally I have no plans to buy this game, nor will I continue playing my review copy past what was required. If for some reason you feel that you absolutely must own it, I recommend at least checking out the free demo before handing over $50 of your hard-earned money.