I grew up loving two films in particular, “Battle of Britain” and “Top Gun“, and both of them clearly had a similar theme. You know, the focus on air-combat, the freedom of the skies, your cunning versus a single enemy’s guile? (which movie do you like the best of those two?) Sadly, I could never become a pilot myself, so I took to the next-best thing (maybe), flight games. There have been some fantastic titles in the past, in historical settings such as WWII and more modern settings in up-to-date (and sometimes slightly futuristic) jet fighters. So when the opportunity came to check out “Iron Wings” on Xbox One, I leapt at the chance.
First up, “Iron Wings” is set during WWII. It follows two protagonists, Jack and Amelia, who are part of two flight divisions that actually existed. The Tuskegee Airman, Jack’s section, also known as the Red Tails due to their rather unique paint scheme on their planes, and the WASPs (Women’s Army Service Pilots), Amelia’s faction. It was interesting to see how the game would manage these story-lines; I was intrigued. Sadly, In overall I was left disappointed .
Nevertheless, let’s look at the good bits first. Iron Wings offers three-game modes. Free flight lets you get a hang of flying World War II fighter planes from Spitfire to Junkers Ju 87, all purchasable with money earned from the campaign missions and their optional side missions. The Arcade mode lets you take part in dogfights that last as long as the damage, fuel and time permit. They all can be replenished by successfully downing the enemy fighters. So, what about the actual missions of the game then Well, the campaign mode consisting of 12 missions, each with several objectives.
The campaign in “Iron Wings” seems to jump from one theatre of war to another, as old Jack recalls his war memoirs in the present day. The missions are rigid and don’t afford any creativity, complete the objective, or it’s back to the previous checkpoint. You’ll be very thankful for the checkpoints too, because you’ll not only be up against those pesky Nazi pilots. Furthermore, there are a bagful of technical problems to contend with too.
“Iron Wings” sits firmly in the arcade-style flight game, so controlling aircraft is pretty easy with a controller. I’d much rather have a full-on flight stick, but since they’re rather expensive, a simple controller will have to do. The visuals are very good too. The detail in each plane is great, clearly a lot of time was spent on this.
Unfortunately, there are just too many problems with the game to allow me to recommend this to everyone. Enemy fighters can only be shot down by engaging them in a tail view after they’ve been riddled with enough bullets in normal view. More often than not, I had my cross-hairs on the spot indicated in front of the enemy to fire at only for the game not to recognize this and shoot wildly everywhere but at the target.
You could forgive this as “those old fighters were obviously not that accurate” but when you’re up against a tight timer to complete an objective, it became extremely frustrating. I often found myself having to go back to a previous checkpoint as I missed an objective by seconds……lots! Then, when you finally shoot an enemy down, your pilot spews out a pointless remark “I’m an ace”, “that’s another cross on my plane” which are all fair enough but when you get the same comments several times in a mission, across several missions, it’s all rather tiresome and annoying.
There are two types of missions in “Iron Wings”, main story missions and side missions. However, they’re not really all that different from each other. Side missions earn you money to upgrade your airplanes while the main story missions offer a cut-scene and progress the story. In each case, there are several examples of the feeling that you pilot is a bit of a mercenary rather than a member of a flight squadron, often taking their own decisions rather than what’s good for the whole cause. The cut-scenes did add to the story though, I thought they were good, but there was very little variation on the mission objectives and outcomes.
Then there are the previously mentioned technical issues. On a number of occasions, my plane got stuck behind a viewpoint after a cut-scene, I got stuck on the runway of aircraft carrier and in one instance, I actually ended up moulded together with a wingman! Sure, at least you can reset back to a previous checkpoint, but it’s infuriating all the same, such as fundamental bugs being present in a full release.
I mentioned at the beginning about the freedom of the skies, being able to fly where you want as a pilot. Well, sadly enough this isn’t true of Iron Wings. The “box” in which the missions take place is astoundingly small. I found myself hitting the invisible boundaries a lot, only to be turned round automatically. A number of times this happened, I let out an audible sound of shock at how quickly I’d hit the edge of the mission area. So it just seemed surprisingly small given which generation of gaming we’re on now.
It all sounds rather negative I’m afraid. There are so much promise here in “Iron Wings” but it’s let down by some poor choice of gameplay mechanics, small mission areas and annoying glitches in the game. The visuals are beautiful and, at times, I did enjoy flying around admiring the view. Of course, this meant I missed the time limits and had to return to the previous checkpoint, but it was a bit of fun while it lasted.
This is also the reason why I struggle to recommend “Iron Wings” in it’s current state. Don’t be sucked in, like I was, by the promise of an engaging storyline, the freedom of the skies and the ability to take down enemy fighters at will, because it doesn’t. In fact, this game does quite the opposite, and it left me with a rather bitter taste to try and swallow.
+ Some beautiful visuals
+ Reasonably easy to control
– Too many technical problems
– Frustrating mechanics
– Annoying, repetitive sound-bytes
Replay value: 1/5
You know, when I first heard of Naps Team’s Kickstarter campaign for “Iron Wings” I thought that the game looked like a very promising WWII combat flight title. However, the sad reality is that the final product doesn’t even come close to any of my expectations…So truth be told, “Iron Wings” is a rather mediocre game. In other words, I can’t recommend “Iron Wings” to anyone, because there are so many better WWII combat flight titles out there (like “IL-2 Sturmovik”, for example).
Title: Iron Wings
Developer: Naps Team
Format: Xbox One
Genre: WWII action flight
Release date: 2017-10-06
Spent time: +15 Hours
Average grade internationally: 55% Metacritic.com
PEGI age rating: +16
Price: £19.19 (Xbox store)
Install Size: Around 1.54GB
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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