So, I picked up a copy of Thunder Wolves today. It was developed by Most Wanted Entertainment -- a relatively young game house, most known for their strategy title Defenders of Ardania. This is a 3D helicopter combat simulator with serious attitude and lots and lots of explosions. But is it good?
The game begins with a very fast tutorial level (aka Mission #1) where you have to learn the basics of how to fly a helicopter. Sadly, since you can't re-keybind, you're forced to learn one of the three preset keyboard layouts. I just went with the standard keyboard layout and that worked well enough.
Story and Characters
You play as a very disagreeable chopper pilot and/or his trusty sidekick Blister. You have a woman who clearly hates your guts prattling on in your headset about every little village you blow up. Together, the animosity and the helicopters are the stars of the game.
Shoot guns and missiles at bad guys and deploy flares when their missiles are coming in at you. As long as you're not hovering and letting people shoot you with impunity, you'll be just fine. Oh, and you occasionally need to raze massive buildings down to the ground. Easy to understand and it works.
When you clunk into an object with the blades of your helicopter, you take a tiny bit of damage but you don't crash. This is a good thing, as the game as a whole doesn't take itself too seriously and forcing you to replay the level over and over every time you strike the walls of a cave or a crane would depress most people. This game is not about precision flying; it's about explosions.
You cannot re-keybind, so you are at the mercy of the developer's choices -- which in this case aren't the worst I've ever seen. On the settings menu, when you change the graphic aspect ratio choices, even if you set them back to where they were -- hence changing nothing -- the game automatically closes and then you have to reboot. This is a huge pain.
Also, there are only two aspect ratios to choose from: 1280x1024 and 720x576. That's really weird.
Then, once you attempt to play the game, if you click on the wrong thing while viewing the mission select screen, you will immediately be launched into the mission without being able to change your stuff.
A very poor job of interface design all the way around.
Wolves has a very gritty, at-war feel to it. Everything is dusty; when you destroy buildings there are great clouds of debris. There are times when the mesh for an enemy helicopter passed through my camera. I also had an instance where while dogfighting, my helicopter became entangled with another helicopter for a few seconds. But really, the game was beautiful to look at and I rarely lost my immersion.
This game appears to be well constructed. I feel like even though it's a game that laughs at 80s action extravaganzas like A-team and Miami Vice, the developers made sure that the game itself didn't end up as the butt of the joke.
The voice overs are hokey and exaggerated -- but on purpose. This is a game that is, in some respects, very self deprecating and I appreciated that the voice acting reflected on that. Really, there are only a handful of voices in the game at all, but what they had really sold the story.
This is a game where once you beat all the levels, you will always know what to expect. Bullets increase their damage as you up the difficulty level and enemies become more accurate. Playing on casual was a cakewalk; the harder levels were more of a reasonable challenge, but don't think you're going to get 30 hours out of this one. That being said, playing through once is an enjoyable experience. And, if you're ever in the mood to just blow things up -- even the first mission features a terrain full of buildings that are completely destructible.
- You can blow up buildings -- even the ones that don't count.
- You can blow up people -- just make sure they aren't friendlies.
- You can blow up other helicopters using night-vision missiles, heat seeking missiles, standard straight-ahead missiles, or just shoot them until their bird looks like an Alabama deer crossing sign.
- Occasionally, game meshes will collide in weird ways.
- The menus are awful, though this never interferes with the game.
- Touching the aspect ratio dial in the settings menu will guarantee a forced exit from the game.
- There's a very narrow limit on how high or low you can fly
- The edges of the map -- sometimes -- are too close to the action, giving you a warning message.
- No true re-keybinding.
Thunder Wolves was not a cerebral kind of game designed to make you think; rather, it's the kind of game where you had a long day at work and now you just want to veg out and blow some stuff up. And to that end, this game is excellent. While the interface could use major work, the gameplay is properly constructed and loads of fun. I'm glad I had a chance to play this one and you should consider checking it out.