Back in the days when men were men, wars had ‘rules’ and planes had 4 wings some rotta decided to point a gun at one of our planes and pull the trigger and so aerial combat was born. Wings of Honour places you in a period World War 1 bi-plane and gives you the chance to fight back and do your bit for King and country.
You play a rookie pilot who’s just recovered from a nasty plane crash, instead of returning to your old job you decide to change career and enlist the air force. Thrust into a basic bi-plane, you set out to jump when your commander shouts, to kill as many enemy as you can and still make it home for afternoon tea and a fruit scone on the patio with the chaps. Chocks away!
As with most games these days it’s a mission based affair; 20 missions in 4 different areas. Each mission has a number of objectives such as patrolling the skies, reconnaissance, attacking the enemy and rescuing crashed comrades. This all sounds rather good, however some of the missions can be completed in a few minutes if you go straight for the objectives. For example one mission has you stopping enemy tanks from crossing a river, two possible solutions are to destroy the bridge or destroy the convoy of tanks. Given your starting position near the bridge and the distance the enemy is away from you it can be over very quickly if you can hit the bridge with a bomb. Sadly this can lead to a rapid completion of the missions in a around 3 to 4 hours. Thankfully you can go back and play the game on the ‘ace’ difficulty setting.
As you progress through and move around the different areas of the game you get a number of different aircraft to chose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some planes can take more damage while others can fly faster and higher etc. You have to make a decision based on the mission and what you expect to happen once you’re out there in the sky.
The planes handle as expected – bi-planes by their very nature are slow graceful planes which the programmers have managed to re-create well. While it’s possible to stall a bi-plane it’s quite difficult to do and impossible in the game. If you move the control stick violently instead of flipping over and losing control of the plane it gracefully starts to point itself in the direction you want to go, this doesn’t mean that the plane isn’t responsive to the controls however. Dog fighting is good fun especially when you have a large number of planes all weaving in out of each other all trying to get an enemy between their sights and pull the trigger.
While most flight simulators have many controls due to the complex nature of the aircraft bi-planes only have 4 controls, x and y axes, the rudder and throttle. This makes the game very easy to pick up using the mouse for the x and y axes and the keyboard for throttle and rudder control. Landing isn’t a problem as you don’t have to do that often and it’s dead easy to do anyway, taking off isn’t any hassle either as you always start airborne.
Due to the basic nature of the aircraft you’re equipped with the most basic armaments: machine guns, rockets and bombs. The machine gun has unlimited ammunition, however to stop you from simply leaning on the fire button the guns get hot the long you fire them for. Let them get too hot and they’ll stop working until they get cool enough again. Rockets travel a short distance in a roughly straight line before the run out of fuel and they fall to the ground – these are useful to take out static and slow moving objects such as airships and Zeppelins. Bombs are used to take out ground vehicles such as tanks or structures such as bridges etc. It’s possible to damage your own plane with bombs if you’re close to the ground or at an odd angle so you need to make sure you’re careful when bombing targets.
The game doesn’t feature a damage meter as such, you simply gauge how close you are to dropping like the proverbial stone by the engine noise and any smoke your engine is spewing forth. The same goes for the enemy, the more you pummel them with bullets the more smoke they billow forth and the closer they are to being shot down.
During the mission you have a small map in the corner of the screen which shows the location of an enemy aircraft. Sadly you can’t lock this indicator onto a particular aircraft, it only shows one enemy and there’s no height information so it’s not particular useful for tracking multiple enemies. However you have access to a full area map that shows the location of all the aircraft, even those that have been shot down, which you can take a peek at quickly to gain your bearings and your next target.
The game features two multi-player modes: death match and team death match which following the basic multi-player principle – kill as many enemy as you can. You can play both the English and Germans as well as add bots into the game to make up the numbers. While this doesn’t sound much fun it’s like playing Mario Kart in the skies – a d** good laugh.
The graphics are good, textures are clear and you get a nice graphical effects such as the bullet casings leaving the machine guns when you fire, damage to the airframe and nice explosions that leave mangled wreckage on the ground. Speaking of the ground, unlike some flight simulators where the ground is generally bland it’s spotted here and there with trees, landscape features such as rivers, roads and towns.
Sound wise the game takes the sound effect stock and puts it to good use for engine and weapon noise. The most amusing part of the game has to be the voice samples which are very British. Anyone who’s watched any old black and white war movie will be familiar with the British accent just think how an actor would say ‘I say old chap beastly weather we having.’ Before each mission the player’s character reads out a piece of text giving information on the mission and general happenings in the squadron.
All in all this is a fun game, while most flight simulators are difficult to fly you can easily pick this game up and be shouting ‘chocks away’ before you know it. Some people may find it a little short but it’s got re-play value on the higher difficulty setting. Recommended if you’ve got a bunch of friends out for a laugh to try out the multi-player games.