Who doesn’t love some good old air combat? With Red Wings: Aces of the Sky, All In! Games drew from their love of World War I air combat and none other than the Red Baron himself as inspiration to make a fun experience for the Xbox One. That inspiration is apparent throughout, as Red Wings: Aces of the Sky hooks you early and keeps you coming back for more.
It’s always welcoming being greeted with a stylized menu that fits in well with the game’s setting. It makes you feel as though what you’re about to play is top quality and made with lots of care. In Red Wings: Aces of the Sky’s case, that quality and care is often lost. You’re in the communications room of an airbase from the looks of things. From here, you can select to play the single player or alternate modes which include a survival mode and local PVP mode. All the while listening to some early 20th century music.
Being a World War 1 plane shooter, you’re have a decision right off the bat. Play as the Triple Alliance, or Triple Entente? For those who don’t know, this is basically just Germany or Britain. Starting off, I went with the former. The tutorial shows the basics in a very neat little package, demonstrating maneuvers and attacks. Finishing off the tutorial, I learned how to execute a “Fatal Takedown”. A very cute finisher move which shows the pilot shoot the enemy with a hand gun causing him to explode. Great fun.
As for the story itself, it’s told through narrated comic strips. I was unsure as to whether it was going for historical accuracy or not. Hints within the loading screens pointed towards historical events, but searching for them yielded no results. Further confusion came from the mostly awkward voice acting, and what seemed like the same voice actor voicing all characters. At one point, a certain character introduced another who started talking with the same voice. Personally, the purpose of the cutscenes were lost on me as I couldn’t see how they related to the missions. I just wanted to fly planes.
The levels are all the same depending on whether you choose Triple Entente or Alliance. The only difference is in how and when you encounter these levels, and the skins the planes come in. The cutscenes are different, even down to the narrator. Apart from when they read German words and really annunciate those umlauts.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky has a very clear style from the get go as I mentioned previously. Heavily cell shaded and almost like a comic book. The game sticks with this throughout and it looks great. It truly does look like an animated comic book while playing. The landscapes below are more detailed than they need to be and really help with the sense of scale and height.
Another area the visuals shine is in the cutscenes and loading screens. The cutscenes have very detailed hand drawn characters which keep to the comic book style. The load screens are similar but take it to another level. They feature very beautifully drawn pictures of aircraft and dogfights.
Looking at this game, it’s obvious not to expect simulator style physics and controls. Red Wings is very much an arcade style game and does that well, if a little too well in areas. For a game that relies on ease of mobility to aid air combat, it’s quite restrictive sometimes. For example, when chasing an enemy plane they may go out of sight and you’ll have to turn to get them in your sights again. I found this to be a little too slow for my liking, so I thought I’d raise the sensitivity. At least I would if there was a setting allowing me to do so. Unfortunately, the only control options Red Wings offers are axis inversions.
Frustratingly though, barrel rolling is a cooldown based skill, and you can’t even do a loop! All this equates to a mostly frustrating gameplay loop of simply being unable to follow enemy planes and finish off kills. Which brings me on to the score based levels. These require you to kill the designated amount of enemies, but combo them enough to reach the high score. Easy enough right? Well not when it takes almost twenty seconds to turn 180 degrees. There is a button to instantly turn 180 degrees, but it’s just not always helpful as you have no control over it. It also has a cooldown like the barrel roll. This makes it hard to get to the target amount of points as the enemies always seem to always fly close to you, forcing you to have to turn round which takes so long that the combo ends.
But how is the combat? Again, very arcade like but this is where the Red Wings is most fun. Enemies are fairly easy to kill, but satisfying to do so. Some enemies have armour which regenerates which makes for a more tactical approach to shooting. Each plane’s guns will overheat if fired for too long. Armoured enemies mean you have to be more careful with how many bullets you shoot.
Most levels are combat based, but there is the odd bombing mission or mission which requires you to fly through hoops before your fuel runs out. This is also a mechanic in the combat missions but I rarely found myself running out of fuel. All in all, the levels are pretty repetitive with combat being where the most fun and excitement is had.
This section will remain short as there’s not much to say about it. The skills in Red Wings are really underwhelming. They absolutely help streamline the gameplay and make you stronger in any plane you fly. So they work as intended, but there’s nothing that particularly stands out.
Awarded by getting stars at the end of each level depending on how you performed, you’re only able to upgrade cooldown times and increase the chance of doing a little more damage when attacking.
While not offering an online multiplayer, Red Wings does offer local co-op and versus modes. Either play with a friend in the story or the survival mode at varying difficulties. Then when you’re done being friends, play against each other in the PVP deathmatch mode. There isn’t much on offer here, but what Red Wings does offer is in it’s simple, pick up and play entertainment.
To sum up, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is at it’s best when there’s a bunch of enemies in front of you and they’re far away. This way you can satisfyingly shoot them down without having to worry about the long turn time and losing your combo points. The other modes are fun, but lacking in replayability.
Red Wings looks great, plays mostly great and is a very easy game to pick up and play if you’re a fan of air combat. You can purchase Red Wings: Aces of the Sky for $19.99 here.