Okay, so let us clarify one thing first. Wings of Prey is the PC version of IL-2 Birds of Prey which is basically an upgraded console-only sequel of the original PC game, IL-2 Sturmovik. Now if you are done taking a moment to let that all sink in, let us move on to the game itself; this combat flight simulation game is more than just your typical PC flyer, it incorporates some of the best elements of a basic arcade flyer with some of the features of a fully fledged flight simulation game.
Never Ending Combat
Battles are what comprises the game's gameplay –there are a lot of missions in between Berlin and Stalingrad, and players will be fighting through them from beginning to end. As expected, the era-theme limits the types of available planes to those that were actually present in the war. The story itself is easy to forget, but at least the missions are fun enough to play through. The biggest drawback of the game's story mode is the fact that the planes made available for missions are not all that varied. Sure the game is originally titled IL-2, but that should not mean that the game itself ends up being limited.
There are two types of vehicular sims: one is where the operations are streamlined to basic mechanics so players can concentrate on other things. The other kind is where most of the real-life limitations are made present and players have to learn how to deal with these things in-game in order to play. Normally, flight simulation games tend to favor one approach over the other –Wings of Prey is trying to get a median of both. Many of the plane details and missions are lifted straight from history textbooks –that aside, there is even more to enjoy in the game itself with its nicely detailed planes (which the developers have tried to recreate as accurately as possible).
When players turn on the simulation mode, the planes start flying and behaving as they would in real life (approximately at least) –and when this mode is on, core players are at their best. From minding the propellers to thinking about how much g-force you will be subjecting your virtual pilot to, to the amount of heat your plane can generate before the temperature starts affecting performance, it is all here. Arcade mode is a lot simpler, and this straight forward aim and shoot experience is going to be a thrill for arcade style players.
Either way, players are recommended to take the time to get familiar to and tweak the controls as much as they need to. This factor will affect gameplay both ways and more especially so with the simulation mode where each plane handles quite differently from each other (and this becomes quite noticeable when performing some complex maneuvers).
A Skyful of Details
Whether you are watching a thick trail of smoke from an enemy's ripped up carriage as it burns up in the sky or are gawking at the massive amount of red text onscreen labeling each faraway fighter in the immediate distance, Wings of Prey is certainly a visually wonderful gaming experience. The planes even take real-time damage from enemy fire, from torn wings to bullet-riddled carriages, every hit makes a difference. And this makes it quite satisfying to play. One of the things that stood out best was the amount of detail that was given to the terrain –which is one of the details that is usually low on other flight simulation games.
Fly With It
This is a no-brainer: play this game. Wings of Prey does its' best to appeal to both sides of the flightsim coin and actually manages a decent job of it. At the same time, it provides a good campaign mode that is fun to play. So whether you are a purist TrackIR fan with your own HOTAS rig, or an arcade flight-combat junkie, this game is sure to keep you happy.