If you are familiar with what a H6K4 or a CAC Boomerang is, then chances are, this game is for you. Birds of Steel boasts of a wide array of planes that were made for the battles of World War II -and some of which hardly even saw action. But the bottom line is, this is a game that focuses heavily on recreating the experience for those who want to. Birds of Steel is not a game that wants to get a huge following of gamers, but it certainly wants to be on top of the list of every hardcore flightsim fan.
One can almost imagine the types of ideas and notions that the developers at Gaijin Entertainment were having when they came up with this game. After all, who goes through this much trouble to recreate so many vehicles with such detailed accuracy -the only other answer off the top of our heads would be the folks who responsible for the Gran Turismo series. And that pretty much explains what Birds of Steel is; a purist's game made with as much polish as possible. And the end result is a pretty awesome title.
From the inside to the outside, the planes are nothing short of beautiful. The lighting effects work in real time even inside the cockpit -you even see the small shadows in the instrument panels and the cockpit itself has its own little imperfections that are only visible under certain lighting conditions. Going beyond the plane details are the backgrounds -ranging from clouds to little houses and structures on the ground, everything has been designed with care and nothing looks like it was rushed.
Going back to the planes, many enthusiasts will be happy to know that aside from being able to unlock a huge library of planes, the game also allows a bit of customization in terms of the pain job. The planes appear in their default colors, but you can spice things up by adding a kill count, nose art, and even stuff that only a die-hard fan would know about (like the fact that little circle-emblem things are actually called roundels).
All in the Controls
While the game does have an arcade style playing mode, but it really shows its' teeth when you jump into simulation mode: the game's controls mirror those of core flightsims like http://www.x-plane.com/ so well that one would wish that the game supported flightsicks better (even the best console HOTAS are a little jumpy, though it has been said that the Ace Edge for the 360 works; PS3 users will have to make do with Thrustmaster's HOTAS Warthog). The opinions are pretty much split about which flight sticks will work best for which console -but if you do not have the luxury of pursuing a special controller, the default controllers manage to work well in their own way.
Combat is Fun
The missions for the campaign mode will put planes in the less often shown Pacific theater of war which means that you get to see both the Japanese and American side of the conflict. There are also non-story standalone extra missions that showcase other battles across Europe, Russia, and the rest of the eastern front. The most fun to play, however, are custom missions where you can set the parameters and have up to as much as 100 other planes in the air. If playing with others is more your thing, the game allows up to 4 players in cooperative mode while competitive mode allows up to 16.
Perfect for Collectors
If your only exposure to flightsim games are those in the arcades (and you have little interest in vintage planes), then it is unlikely that you will appreciate Birds of Prey in all its' entirety (though it would still be worth playing even just once through the campaign). On the other hand, if you are a big fan of world war 2 era games - (a big collection of online and pc games here - http://www.worldwargames.org/) and you love the planes, or just have a lot of inclination towards detailed recreations of old-school warplanes, then you should not miss out on being able to play Birds of Prey at all.