Most of the time consoles and flight simulators don't mix. Add the word budget to that combination and some may say you have a recipe for disaster from the outset. However in this generation of consoles we've had it proven to us time and time again that flight simulators can work and work well with one standout being Crimson Skies from Microsoft. Wings of War works very much on the pick up and play philosophy employed in Crimson Skies and while it doesn't have the polish and the online play, its still a moderately solid game.
Wings of War is set in World War II as you take control of a pilot named Benjamin with the call sign Butch. From there the game's storyline is played out mainly during the missions. While there are briefings before you fly out, things change in the mission and objectives change which would keep the game fresh, but the problem is they are monotonous and repetitive tasks and the missions drag on much too long to keep you interested in the long run.
The game contains seventy missions in thirteen chapters so as you can see your work is going to be cut out for you in this game. Tasks can range from protecting a friendly unit or destroying enemies through to bombing moving trains or convoys to stop the enemy advancement. The mission objectives change throughout the missions and should Butch happen to crash or be shot down the game will revert to a checkpoint which is usually saved after the completion of a task. This removes the frustration factor from the game but can also mean the game is to easy to complete and this lack of challenge can along with the repetitive tasks can lead to a very boring game play experience quite quickly. There is some variation with some missions such as firing from a gun in the back of a plane or turret but most of the time it doesn't differ very much from destroy enemy planes, buildings, bridges or vehicles.
As with Crimson Skies the realism leans more towards the arcade spectrum of gaming and therefore basically anyone can pick it up and play without having to worry about initiating a landing gear or figuring out how to turn the jet turbines on for take off. The controls are very simple with the triggers controlling either acceleration or deceleration of the plane and the buttons used for tasks such as firing and zooming in. One thing that may come as a surprise is the small amount of fire required to take an enemy down. It's realistic but it doesn't extend to your plane. In comparison to the enemy planes yours can appear to be made out of Kevlar rather then the material used in WWII. The game allows you to mimic famous moves such as bearing down on a moving train to bomb it at a low altitude and also having dogfights with other pilots.
Although the game in terms of the story is fictional, it does contain real world fighter planes from the second world war which add a small touch of authenticity to the title. Of course this is somewhat negated by the arcade style physics but flight simulation fans or history buffs will appreciate this inclusion. The game contains both allied and German planes including the Triplane, Eindecker, Silverfish and a number of blimp style air ships. Other realistic factors of the game come across in the planes such as guns locking up from heat when overused and they do feature destructible parts. The planes feature different attributes and seem to handle differently.
The few problems of the game can be overlooked in some ways due to the budget nature of the title. As mentioned before the game is not very hard in most cases and the only time you will get a challenge from enemy planes is when they swarm together which does happen quite often. Perhaps if the player had the same amount of armor (the armor regenerates during times the plane is not being hit) the game would have been much more difficult but on the flip side much more frustrating as well. Also there is no real multiplayer to speak of. Instant action allows you to fight against AI bots in a deathmatch or team deathmatch format but even it is a little restrictive in that it doesn't feature modes such as capture the flag. It does however allow you to customise the battles such as number of enemies, weather and time for the match.
The game is set across thirteen missions and the levels in which the game sets the missions very much a style of that found in games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator. You will find textured environments with a few objects such as trees and buildings scattered about to give a sense of life to the other but also for mission objectives. The graphics are by far the least impressive aspect of the title looking closer to a PSOne title than Xbox but other than aesthetics it doesn't affect the gameplay and there is some genuinely impressive details such as the way the planes disintegrate The sounds are fairly stock standard for both the plane noises and the weapons fire but the voice acting, while accurate in accent, can come across as cheesy a lot of the time with the music featuring a suitable classical style score.
Wings of War is not the most impressive flight simulator out but it does what it set out to do well. Due to the budget nature of the title it can be easy to overlook some of the games shortcomings and when you do that you will find a game that can be good for a quick bash every so often, but its not a game you will come back to time and time again nor play for hours on end like Crimson Skies.