Mix Microsoft’s Flight Simulator with aerial combat, set it in World War II and you have the recently released Birds of Steel. Is it a title that will fly off the shelves or should it remain firmly grounded? Read on to find out.
Game: Birds of Steel
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Birds of Steel doesn’t feature one story, instead you’re given multiple scenarios to play out taken from American and Japanese battles from World War II. There are 20 scenarios for you to master, with narrated videos from the war accompanying each battle. It’s nice that they’re included, but if you’re not into the history of World War II, you’ll find yourself skipping them so you can move onto the actual missions. However, if you love a bit of history, you’ll enjoy the old war footage as well as the fantastic narration.
The visuals and overall presentation of Birds of Steel are a bit of a mixed bag. For example, the sea and aircraft look incredibly authentic, probably the most impressive replication of both you’ll come across in a game belonging to the same genre. However, the land doesn’t quite match up and the presentation before each mission certainly could have done with a bit more work. Explosions don’t look particularly great either, especially when you view them alongside the game’s detailed and authentic aircraft.
The narration accompanying the videos that play throughout the campaign is fantastic, giving you a clear description of what happened during the war. In-game, the voice acting is quite good, complimenting the on-screen well and never really sounding out of place. The background music is also quite good, with nothing of note to really complain about it.
For the most part, controlling your plane in Birds of Steel is a fun and enjoyable experience. However, at times, you’ll find the turning to be quite stiff and flying through the air (even with your throttle at full speed) very slow. Apart from when you’re nose diving, in most cases, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference from say 20% throttle speed to 100%.
Thankfully, the game allows you to choose from three different control settings, Simplified, Realistic and Simulator. These settings are basically Birds of Steel equivalent of Easy, Medium and Hard. Before you take off, you are also give the option to glide around with limited or unlimited fuel and ammo. Simplified, as you can imagine, is the simplest control setting, allowing to breeze through the game without much trouble. There’s no pressure in regards to fuel and you never really have to worry about you engine stalling.
Whilst this setting is great for newcomers, the real test and enjoyment comes when you switch to the Realistic or Simulator control setting. Both options essentially turn the game into more of a simulation, giving you much more control of the aircraft you’re flying. Each turn you make will need to be accurate, as one wrong move can result in failure, resulting in you having to restart a mission all over again. If you’re a hardcore fan of the genre, then Realistic is the way to go, as it will offer you the most realistic flight experience available on the current generation of home consoles.
Firing your guns, rockets or dropping a bomb on an enemy aircraft also requires a certain level of precision. Even on Simplified, a miss will result in the enemy running rings around you and eventually taking you out. Dropping bombs on carriers requires the highest level of accuracy and thought, as if you use your bombs too quickly, you’ll have to wait a short while wait for a replenishment.
To keep the gameplay fresh, you’re given access to four pilots per mission and you can switch between with the simple press of the select button. Doing so will bring up a list of pilots you’re able to take control of, but a once an aircraft has been destroyed the mission will end and you’ll have to try once again.
Birds of Steel also features a comprehensive online mode, allowing to work as a team in co-op through campaign missions or join a deathmatch where it’s every man himself. The fun online options coupled with Dynamic missions (giving you the chance to change history itself) mean Birds of Steel certainly has plenty of enjoyable content outside the single player campaign for you to get stuck into.
If you’re after purely an offline experience, then the campaign mode won’t take you more than a couple of hours to complete. Whilst that doesn’t sound like much, Birds of Steel’s staying power comes in the form of its fun online co-op and competitive modes, both offering hours of gameplay if you manage to get hooked. Throw over 100 unlockable planes into the mix and you have plenty of content to keep you flying for a while.
As far as flight simulations go, for the most part, Birds of Steel delivers an enjoyable home console experience. It’s a shame then that the offline campaign is extremely short, done and dusted in a couple of hours max. The online modes, both co-op and competitive, are a lot of fun and will certainly keep you occupied if you find a group of friends to play with. It might not be a day one purchase, but if you’re a fan of the genre and yearn for a good flight simulation on your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, Birds of Steel is a definitely worth a look.