Striking…that’s the thing about Birds of Steel. It’s an aero enthusiast’s dream with over 100 planes, detail in the cockpits, flying WWII missions and well.. There is plenty of them to go at. Gaijin have gone all at it to replicate the feel of both the planes in flight and the fervent atmosphere in the skies and to a degree they have. You could say it’s the Gran Turismo of the skies with the armoury on offer.
It looks authentic, feels authentic, and sounds authentic. Flying in rain and bright sunlight show off the visuals in the game, from being blinded by the light to suffering the indignity of not being able to see when it’s hammering it down with rain. It moves away from the arcade style that many console games seem to go such as the recent Ace Combat.
The addition of three varied views in most of the planes gives you a great vantage point, and you find yourself just looking around the different cockpits to look at how they differ. Now as I am not an aeroplane engineer or expert I cannot say if the insides of the ‘Birds of Steel’ are replicated correctly but they do look very good. If the claustrophic feel of being surrounded by glass with only the joystick for company isn’t for you then the third person view is there as well as a virtual first person view where you only see the crosshairs to give you an indication of which way you are flying.
Newbies to flight games are catered for with a simplified control system but for the realists there is an advanced control system which isn’t too over the top but takes a little more practice to get good. Also, for those who are a little more proficient than the total beginner, there is a level set between the simplified and sim modes. This is a little glimpse that Gaijin is trying to open the game to gamers of all abilities in the genre which is very much frowned upon unless you are sitting in front of a very expensive gaming PC.
But, the only gripe is that it seems really slow. The training missions, although pretty helpful, seem laborious at best. It takes an age to get to your objective at times and taking 15 minutes for some to complete the first couple of parts. Arguably this could put people off as it doesn’t allow the usual console gamer that instant fix of action.
Persevere and it does heat up but again it still just seems a little sluggish. Taking out an adversary feels more of luck than judgement and using the more simplified control system you find it is pretty easy to take out the enemies. So even in parts where it tries to cater for the console generation, it seems to be too easy which then sort of makes you want to walk away. After all who doesn’t want some sort of a challenge? Well that’s where the harder control settings make it a more rewarding experience. The added difficulty of piloting the planes result in a trickier task when it comes to setting up for that perfect bombing run.
The solo player modes or campaign do give you plenty of back story but get repetitive. Take it online though and perseverance brings a totally different game. It’s hard on simulation mode offline, but it’s very difficult online, with the non linear movements of your adversaries giving a whole new feel to the game. Kills now feel satisfying from tailing the enemy whilst barrel rolling to avoid your own pursuer to then taking out someone it brought a big smile to the face. More kills brings more XP, which then brings more wings, paint jobs, kill markers and nose art to enhance your look as you destroy the enemies but it’s key that you stick with it. The game is a grower and one which could easily be passed aside by many, but if you want a serious challenge then play Birds of Steel online and persevere with it.
Parts frustrate, other parts satisfy; it’s not for everyone. It is arguably a very niche title but it’s not a sterile experience akin to a full on flight sim, however, Birds of Steel leans more that way than being a pick up and play, arcadey title. If you’re interested in this genre you’ll enjoy the experience, but if it’s not something you’d be interested in normally then it’s probably not for you. Gaijin have done well with this title. It seems to tick all the right boxes but don’t expect to have to fight off the masses to get a copy.