Originally a Kickstarter project and developed by a small team, Sector D2 have created a game that is far beyond the normal scope of any indie developer looking to place themselves on the market. Clearly developed as a homage to the Ace Combat series, Project Wingman goes above and beyond in many areas and will surely be a win for players looking for their next arcade aerial combat game.
I should preface the rest of the review with a few details that are worth mentioning up top. Firstly and most importantly this is NOT a flight simulator game. With the recent release of MSFX, people looking for detailed cockpit layouts and real-world details are in the wrong genre. Want to fly up to 18 miles above the ground with no repercussions? No problem. The game is supposed to be a pick-up and play combat game, and it certainly succeeds in that area. Secondly, those hoping for full HOTAS support will be disappointed as, despite a few vein attempts, I could only manage to play on my controller. Project Wingman does support VR, so that may appeal to a few others, but I cannot attest to its functionality. With that out the way, let’s take a more in-depth look at Project Wingman.
Surprisingly for games of this ilk, the story is pretty solid if not somewhat… anime. Set in yet another dystopian future with world resources on the line, you are an ace fighter pilot mercenary, and you have to stop a world superpower from running over your client. There are no cut scenes for transitions, so all dialogue and action take place in-game, and while this was apparently due to budget restrictions, it makes the game a lot more immersive. Plenty of chatter is had over comms in-game, and the voice acting is consistently of decent quality. As things ramp up in the game, the plot gets somewhat extravagant but maintains its entertainment value and keeps me invested. The soundtrack is also very impressive considering the team size with some great music cues and atmosphere.
The game itself builds on the arcade basis, letting you spend your score points as cash to unlock the next aircraft, weapon or payload as the player desires. You can choose to save up during the campaign waiting for one particular aircraft to unlock, or improve the overall armaments that you have available to ones you have already purchased. Further story progression unlocks more ‘advanced’ aircraft, but you will want to upgrade in tranches as you will soon find the starter aircraft unable to compete against some of the more advanced enemies. This balances saving up for the next jet vs spending to be more competitive in the next mission very well. Post campaign is a conquest mode, and this is where the most fun can be had, pushing enemy defenses and fighting for territory across a world map, all while improving your arsenal and unlocking those high-end jet aircraft.
Graphics are also impressive with decent visuals and little fps drop even on the highest settings. There is not a lot to look at here as everything goes past in a blur, but things explode nicely, and gunfire tracers are fun to watch when you are trying to chase down enemy aircraft.
Lock, fire, repeat
Combat has not changed from Ace Combat, and that is fine for those looking for this style of game. You select a target, the hud gives you a stretchy triangle to point you in the right direction, and when you get a lock, you can fire some missiles at the target to destroy it. Rinse and repeat, over and over and over.
This was always my personal major gripe with these games, and it’s no surprise to me that I found this somewhat tedious. Missions are largely a repetition of this action, flying by bigger targets repeatedly until the right bits come off and they explode. I respect that this is what a lot of people come to these games for, but frankly, I do not get the appeal of watching a small box turn red before blasting it with xyz missiles. More options in the later stages with unlocked weapons do add more variety, but the core of the game is the same action, and it has always been my biggest gripe with these arcade-style ‘fighter’ games.
Overall, Project Wingman, or dare I say Ace Combat 8: Oh no not more rockets should absolutely fill the boots of those who have been looking for an arcade aerial combat game. Specifically of the Ace Combat genre.
[Reviewed on PC]