- Great, arcadey fun
- Constant action from start to finish
- Short campaign
- The winch control, although not often used, is annoying
Rather than dissect a game and look at how great it is on a technical level, sometimes it’s best to just throw what you know out of the window and embrace what you’re playing for what it is. Thunder Wolves doesn’t boast intricate flight mechanics, a complex mission structure or even much in the way of variation beyond a few sections, but most importantly the end result is something that’s great fun to play.
It’s not a brand-spanking new concept that the game revolves around; you join an elite team of pilots as a newbie and attempt to repel a terrorist threat in a series of increasingly tough missions. But before you run away, it’s not all as dull as it seems. Despite the plot sounding as if it’s devoid of even an inkling of personality, it’s always knowingly cheesy rather than forcing your through 3 or so hours of try-hard scripting.
And that’s very much the flavour of the entire game. The action is over-the-top, bullet laden and completely nuts from start to finish. It feels like a throw back to the times before realism became a big thing in gaming, with each mission simply encouraging you to go bonkers.
Helicopter control is all done on the left stick, with the L3/R3 buttons used to ascend and descend. There are no advanced piloting skills needed at all, anyone looking for a simulation will be in for shock. The on-board machine guns have unlimited ammunition that allow you to simply rain down death on everything below you, with an array of missiles, homing missiles, controlled missiles and what would appear to be mini-nukes all a part of your deadly arsenal. Projectiles simply regenerate over time too, so it’s simply a matter of shoot or be shot.
There is a bit more to the game than mindless carnage though, at least in the latter half of the campaign. While in early missions you’ll rarely need to check your positioning in accordance with what’s below you, later on you’ll need swift dodging skills and fast reactions to deploy flares to distract oncoming missiles. While flares are unlimited, they take a few seconds to recharge, and when you’ve got a barrage of certain doom coming your way, timing becomes all important. On Hard difficulty this all becomes particularly evident, but if the tactical side of things sounds a bit scary you can opt for a more casual experience on Easy, we won’t judge you.
At their core, missions are all the same. “Go here and destroy this” or “Go here and save the people” are your bread and butter, with each passing level involving both of these objectives on multiple occasions. They suit the bombastic gameplay and are simple enough so that the focus is still very much on the gameplay rather than checking off certain criteria to the detriment of fun.
However, each mission seems to have a random section that’s a bit of a curveball. For example, you could find yourself sniping out of a helicopter or dropping bombs via a satellite from the sky, so there’s a little effort for a bit of variation in there. While they’re not necessary, they’re a nice little diversion and help break up the point-to-point gunfights quite nicely.
There are a couple of little niggles I had with the game though. Occasionally you’re asked to winch up and rescue some hapless individuals on the ground, but the result of operating such apparatus is akin to what it would be like to watch a blind man use chopsticks with soup. It only really latches on when it chooses to.
While there’s nothing distinctly wrong with the presentation, everything is a bit brown and visually it’s not that exciting. If we rated the game on a scale of “How Nice Does it Look Blowing Stuff Up” it would rate quite highly with the boxes ticked for explosions, collapsing buildings and general chaos, but the environments in general are dull. There are also a couple of frame rate dips when the action gets ultra busy, but nothing that’s too detrimental to the whole package.
As a whole, Thunder Wolves is a great helicopter-based action shooter. It’s nothing new and the action is knowingly over-the-top, but most importantly it’s great fun to play and not something that becomes stale too fast. The campaign is only around 3 hours in length, but achieving a 3 Star rating on each difficulty/mission will add a few more hours into it. If you’re looking for an accurate flight sim or something remotely sensible then look elsewhere, but if you want something that boasts utter anarchy from start to finish then give Thunder Wolves a look.