Thunder Wolves will set you back 800 MS points and just short of a Gig of hard drive space. TW is an action shooter that sees you take to the sky in a game that may appeal to those desperate to find something that brings back the nostalgia of Desert Strike and its numerous sequels. If you’re expecting anything near the style of the Strike series then prepare to be disappointed – at its core TW is nothing more than a shoot ‘em up.
Clocking in at around four hours, TW is a heavy-handed shooter with some interesting concepts hidden amongst its gameplay mechanics, ultimately it’s a rather dull experience. One of your buddies sums up the game perfectly, ” it’s like shooting fish in a barrel”. Hovering your chopper over the battlefield you can fire salvo after salvo into your enemies making the gameplay only a challenge when you’re trying to better your score or beat a friend on the leaderboard.
Boss battles are dispersed throughout the game but these are a poor attempt at bringing in some style and pace to the missions. Rather than a slick integrated game mechanic, these battles have no depth or meaning to them, they’re just another thing to blow up and there’s so much to blow up. Just about every building may be destroyed and with an infinite amount of ammo, you will end up hammering the triggers with no thought as to what missile you’re using. Once depleted, you need to wait for them to reload before you can carry on raining down your fiery death. There are no constraints on fuel and health is replenished if you avoid damage for a short period making TW a game that never gives any thrills or the fear of death.
The difficulty rarely spikes and it’s only the odd mission where you must protect a friendly unit that you will fail an objective. Thankfully the controls are pretty smooth. Clicking the left or right stick will decrease or increase your altitude, the left stick will move you forward, backward and strafe left/right. The right stick will turn your chopper and helps to aim your weapons.
Gunner mode is certainly a highlight to the gameplay. In this mode you take the seat of the gunner as the chopper circles a target or navigates a predefined route through an area. The sensitivity of the aiming is a bit wonky so these on rails moments aren’t as fun as they could have been, their saving grace is a hefty auto aim which will help you hit the small targets running around on the ground. Eventually you’ll give up and rely on the worst case of spray and praying since playing Call of Duty online!
Choppers are graceful war machines but there is absolutely no grace to Thunder Wolves. It’s a heavy-handed action shooter more akin to shooters like 1943. Without any depth to the combat or the storyline, there is little to praise about Thunder Wolves. The gameplay is like shooting fish in a barrel and offers little substance. The soundtrack will surely have you delving into the options to set the music to zero – the rock track is particularly awful!
While 800 MS points isn’t too high a price point for an XBLA title, Thunder Wolves would have suited a 400 MS points. Thunder Wolves’ saving grace is that co-op is good fun, it’s just a shame that it’s only local co-op and not over LIVE!