This Ain’t Rocket Science, It’s Just Rockets
Prior to playing I had held out hope that the game would be similar to the PS1 classic Warhawk with thrilling flying in tight spaces and edge-of-your seat action on top of a B-movie story. Instead it turns out it’s a lot closer to Soviet Strike zoomed way out with a C-movie story. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
You’ll spend most of your time in Thunder Wolves choppering around a battlefield rushing from one objective to another. 95% of those objectives are to shoot down some other choppers or blow up some sort of ground forces (infantry/trucks/tanks/SAMs) and you’re armed with a high powered machine gun along with a regenerating supply of three types of missiles. Exactly WHAT those missiles are depends on what chopper you are using (you’ll eventually unlock nine of them with varying stats that cover speed, weapons and armor) but you’ll always have some dumb-fire missiles, some sort of homing missile and one of a few types of super-missiles. Time to finally live out all those “Airwolf” dreams of my youth, right?
The combat isn’t bad, although things can get pretty hectic when there is tons of ground fire, enemy missiles and your own fire crowding the screen. Your helo is pretty nimble and most of them can absorb an awful lot of punishment before going down, and you’ve also got flares to counter the swarms of enemy missiles and I probably only died a half-dozen times running through the 13 levels on Medium. Each of those levels is fairly wide open although you are generally herded in a certain direction at any given moment. Each level runs 10-12 minutes so you’ll probably zip through in about 3 hours the first time through.
What gives Thunder Wolves a bit of an identity of its own is the little one-off minigames that pop up every mission. Sometimes you may suddenly play a rail-shooter for a few minutes, you may jump on a turret and hose down some bad guys, turn into a sniper, line up a mid-air refueling or run through a scene in the style of classic arcade game Cabal. All these little games are an excellent way of breaking up the standard action which can get a little repetitive (at one point the finger that was holding down that machine gun button just cramped up from nonstop use). You’ll also likely get a kick out of the story which is told over via voiceovers on top of animated stills. It’s completely over the top, profane and sublime. I might not remember a damn thing about it after it was all over, but I remember that I loved it while it was happening.
Thunder Wolves even has a rudimentary co-op for when you and your buddy are hammering back a few brews and he wants to get into the game. In co-op one player will control the flying while the other takes over as the gunner. It DOES force you to work together a bit since the pilot can never be sure what the gunner is looking at. It’s recipe for chaos. Delicious chaos! One thing with game really bugs me though. Most of the time your targets are so tiny that they get completely obscured by the targeting reticule that appears whenever you get near anything and it feels like all your enemies are merely red crosshairs.
If you’re looking for a diversion between great gaming experiences, you can’t go wrong with the devil-may-care fun you’ll find here. If you’re looking for the next great gaming experience… this is not it. Everyone needs to take a step back and check out with the video game equivalent of casual connections and I nominate Thunder Wolves to be that game for you.