There are not enough WWII fighter games on Xbox One if you ask me and Naps Team now brings us a title for those craving to try their hand at dogfights set in that era. Not only that, but the game also features an African-American Tuskegee pilot and a female WASP pilot. Two groups that have barely been represented in any media. I for one couldn’t wait to launch the game and take to the skies.
- Finally, we get a WWII fighter plane game again on the Xbox One. There are too few of those if you ask me. Not only that, but the underrepresented African-American and female pilots get to be in the spotlight here which makes for a refreshing change.
- The soundtrack is a bit limited but of good enough quality and fitting to the theme.
- The free flight mode offers a change of pace with peaceful flight, which would be nice, but there isn’t anything to do really. When I tried to create my own challenges, by flying under a bridge in New York, the game put a quick end to that. I got forced into a cut scene where I was told I’m not allowed to fly that low in the area and end up flying much higher when the control gets returned to me.
- Arcade mode can be a bit of fun but doesn’t really offer that much longevity unless you really want to get high up on the leaderboards for some reason. You basically just spent time shooting down enemy fighters that, depending on an icon next to their name, either give you more time to keep playing, fuel to keep flying or will repair your plane. Don’t ask me how that works.
- The controls are one hundred percent arcade and should be easy enough to pick up, despite their being some real quirks to the control system. The zoom in and slow down are a bit unnecessary and actually disrupt the feeling of flying a fighter plane, for instance.
- While in the main menu the camera moves over a desk with some items on it and the screen tears like crazy. It’s incredibly noticeable and seems so unnecessary. This also happens during mission cut scenes but to a slightly lesser degree.
- I’m a sucker for campaign stories, but Iron Wings makes it hard to enjoy the story. The dialogues are some of the strangest and most awkward I’ve ever witnessed. It breaks immersion as I keep thinking nobody would ever talk to somebody like that. The characters seem hell-bent on overexplaining just about everything as if they just woke up from a coma and found themselves up in the sky piloting an airplane for the first time.
- What isn’t over-explained, unfortunately, is how to actually accomplish the mission goals, or sometimes even what those goals really are. It’s a bit of trial and error, which wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t dealing with a brutal countdown timer on just about every single mission.
- The sound effects aren’t particularly well done, and there is a frequent sound bite of a plane suddenly crashing and this guy screaming “Aaaargh, I’m going down!” which plays about every minute by default, even in scenarios where you don’t really see allied planes around.
- If you want to complete objectives before the timer runs out, you have to continuously give attack orders to your wingman (or woman). The problem is, you can’t just tell them to attack enemies. You have to actively target their intended target with the Y button and then push up on the d-pad while pulling the left trigger to order an attack on that specific target. This works reasonably well against air targets, but not against ground targets, they usually force you to target them head on first before you can give those order. Obviously, this breaks up your own strafing run against your original target.
- Speaking of targeting, when flying straight at a unmoving target, it is quite common for that enemy to magically get obscured even though you can clearly see it and you won’t be able to score any hits on it anymore.
- I usually make it a point to complete the campaign for every game I review, but with Iron Wings, I had to throw in the towel halfway through. There is an escort mission that has you shoot out searchlights so your heavy bomber won’t get spotted. I have strafed and strafed, but most of the times I do no damage whatsoever, even though the game interface tells me I’m in range and on target I see my bullets strike the searchlight installation all over. My AI teammate has no issues, but you both need to be effective. At the same time, the bomber, for whatever reason, decides not to fly a straight line through the searchlights that you took out, but just circle around, hoping to enter a beam of light that you haven’t taken out yet. Not that it’s easy to even see that happening as the flight path is unclear and not displayed, I just started looking at it on attempts 10-20 for this mission.
- Last but not least, I’ve had game crashes, mostly during arcade mode, where the game would lock up, and the sound would go completely haywire. The loading times when first starting the game are pretty long, making these crashes extra frustrating.
Iron Wings could have been quite promising, but a series of shortcomings make it very hard to enjoy after the first hour or two of playing it. As much as I love the genre and really had high hopes for this game, I cannot recommend this to anyone, even at the otherwise reasonable price point.