bitComposer’s Thunder Wolves is an unusual prospect for modern consoles, even with the growing popularity of digital distribution platforms. Helicopter combat videogames are most certainly niche products, and with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon having entered the field some would wonder if there’s room for another title. Thunder Wolves proves that there most certainly is, simply by being fun.
An arcade inspired experience, Thunder Wolves is most certainly erring on the side of action-orientated gameplay over simulation. A very short and sweet tutorial leads into a series of reasonably lengthy missions that take the player across deserts, over the ocean and through cities, as well as the odd jaunt through an underground cavern. Thunder Wolves is nothing if not varied.
The videogame plays like a helicopter mission from Command & Conquer in which you take direct control as opposed to simply issuing orders. The action is fast and frantic, the missions vary between attacking enemy bases, rescuing troops or deploying them and taking down rival helicopters. It’s the most immediate version of a helicopter videogame imaginable, with new vehicles unlocked upon completion of a level, recharging health and multiple missile types selectable with a simple press of the D-Pad.
In addition to the typical structure of gameplay in which the player directly controls the helicopter comes a secondary mode. Interspersed in the same level as the above is a first-person light gun-esque section, sans light gun of course, where the player is flown on a predetermined path. It’s an interesting break from the monotony and one which reinforces the fast-paced action ideals.
The campaign is reasonably lengthy and sets the target of collecting three stars on each if the three difficulty settings for each level. Furthermore, the entire campaign is playable in a local split-screen co-operative gameplay mode for two players. It’s a shame that Thunder Wolves stops short of including online play, as thus far it’s presented very little reason not to spend an entire weekend completing its missions and breaking into its many secrets.
The videogame falls into the usual air combat videogame trap of trying to deliver character via icons and voiceovers, and predictably ends up with nothing more than irritatingly Hollywoodised stereotypes. Rarely do people care for backstory in arcade-style helicopter combat videogames, and the sooner developers realise this the better. The visual design of the helicopters you will pilot is frankly phenomenal. Easily on a par with anything Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo has done with their wide variety of four-wheelers, they frankly put the rest if the videogame to shame. The maps are nicely detailed and enemy units reasonably varied, but they pale in comparison to the immaculate detail of the players’ vehicles.
Available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC via each format’s respective digital distribution channel, Thunder Wolves is a thoroughly enjoyable videogame designed for those with a passion for arcade style experiences. It never takes itself too seriously, leaving reality at the door when it comes to combat situations and mission structure. The arcade flavoured packaging of Thunder Wolves is what sells it, and Electronic Theatre finds it an easy recommendation for any gamer who earned their stripes pumping coins into tall cabinets in the early 90s.