Looking for another chance to be World War II fighter pilot during
the campaign in the Pacific? Flight sim enthusiasts and history buffs will want
to check out Birds of Steel, an air combat sim that puts players in the
cockpits of fighter pilots flying actual missions during WWII. Flight sims may
be a dime a dozen these days, but Gaijin Entertainment is attempting to add to
the genre to make an even more engaging experience than other simulators.
The game consists of a historical campaign, quick missions, co-op
and multiplayer where players can fly twenty historical missions over sixteen
locations. Among them, players will visit familiar locals from the Pacific
Theater like Wake Island, Guadalcanal and Pearl Harbor and can either fight as
the Allied forces or the Axis Powers. Choosing the latter can result in some
what-if historical events emerging and creating an alternate historical
timeline. The developer wasn’t able to go into detail with this feature, but it sounds interesting nonetheless.
Gameplay plays out as you would expect out of a typical WWII air
combat sim. Players can choose to launch a mission at the airstrip where they
would be required to perform a successful takeoff or simply start the mission
with the aircraft already in the air. Objectives we saw ranged from bombing weapons
depots, destroying enemy airstrips, and defending friendly aircraft. Pulling
off successful maneuvers, kills, takeoffs or completing mission objectives will
net players experience points which will later unlock the over 100 historical
planes and additional missions.
For those who may not be a flight sim enthusiast, Gaijin
Entertainment has kept the rookies in mind providing three different modes for
aircraft controls: Simplified, Realistic and Simulator. Simplified, the control
scheme we used, allows for players to fly freely as the plane auto-corrects to
level out the horizon and make small adjustments so players don’t get
disoriented and fly into the ocean. The two other modes give greater control over
the plane allowing pilots to pull off more advanced tricks and maneuvers like
stalls. It's easy enough to get a hang of the controls on the way to the
objective but once you hit combat it’s a whole other story.
In combat, players will take control of individual planes in their
squadron. Players have the ability to switch between members of the squadron at
any time, but when they are shot down you will be down one squad mate and automatically switch to the next pilot. Each plane has its own ammo capacity, so once your ammo is
out in one fighter you would have to switch to another pilot. For example, in a
mission where we had to bomb an enemy air strip we only had as many bombs as
our squad could carry, putting a lot of emphasis on being accurate and
efficient. It may sound a bit too realistic to be fun (seriously, who really wants to run
out of ammo?) but trigger happy players can toggle infinite ammo, which employs
a reload timer, in the options before each mission as well as a variety of
difficulty, mission and weather options.
Birds of Steel will also include a four player co-op, and up to
sixteen player multiplayer mode which will use the same persistent leveling
system in the single player campaign. This is where Birds of Steel can really
stand out. Players will be able to play the customizable quick missions and
custom missions with up to four friends. With the emphasis on squad tactics
inherent in dogfighting and group ammo conservation mechanics in place, it
could make for a fun co-op experience. We weren’t able to see the multiplayer
mode, but the developer promises further details will emerge soon.
Birds of Steel releases on the Xbox 360 and PS3 early 2012.