In our previous interview developers Most Wanted Entertainment said how they were influenced by the fast-spaced, frenzied arcade shooters of the past and their homage for the genre is clearly evident within the first few seconds of Thunder Wolves. After using a terrorist attack against a military airbase to introduce players to the fluid and carefree controls (even the PC version we reviewed kept button inputs to a minimum), you’re soon thrust into a relentless series of action packed missions found all over the globe. From the dense jungles of South America to the urban warzones of the Middle East, each location possesses fully destructible scenery meaning that not only will you enjoy admiring the vast and colourful vistas but also tearing them apart too. Everything looks better engulfed in bright fiery explosions right?
Each mission starts with the choosing of one of three distinct helicopter classes best suited for the chaos ahead. Support choppers provide more armour, recon possess better speed and the attack class focus on those glorious guns. While there is scant difference in controls of each machine, it will more often come down to their unique special weapons that influence your killing choice. Every chopper comes with industry standard heavy machine guns and missiles (both the high explosive and heat-seeking varieties for all you connoisseurs) but special weapons range from napalm drops and cluster bombs to A-10 airstrikes and remote-guided rockets. Choose wisely and you get to unleash all sorts of hell, choose wrong and…well…you still get to unleash all sorts of hell.
It’s a win-win situation that, like the arcade games of old, focuses on fun rather than a strict formula that penalises choices outside the box. No matter what the mission goal, enemies are thrown right at you like dollars at a stripper, with little respite between the masses of soldiers, artillery, tanks and aircraft that beautifully crumble amid the sounds of booming gunfire and panicked radio chatter. More impressive still is that those goals have some great variety to keep each new mission feeling fresh and exciting from the last. You’ll get to man the guns to defend a crashed helicopter, protect civilian targets from approaching attackers, pick off snipers through night vision goggles, escort and rescue teammates behind enemy territory and decimate opposing battleships as just a small example of what’s on offer.
Throw in some vicious boss battles, frantic dogfights with enemy helicopters and the occasional trigger happy on-rail sections through anywhere from construction yards to oil fields and what you have here is a lot of explosive bang for your buck. While a dedicated multiplayer mode is absent, there is local co-op that allows one player to take control of piloting the machine and another to man the guns. If you’re the type to complain about your partners driving (yes I’m looking at you husbands) then feel free to test the limits of your relationship with a feature that’s bound to cause arguments!
Thunder Wolves is very similar to Criterion’s Burnout series in that (other than the obvious differences between helicopters and cars smart ass) it’s an easily accessible, energetically charged title that rewards bigger points for over-the-top behaviour and reckless killing combos. Delicacy is most definitely thrown out of the cockpit thanks to Most Wanted Entertainment reintroducing weary gamers to the sheer excitement of a bullet-fuelled arcade shooter. It may not be Shakespeare but this summer blockbuster has certainly made helicopters feel fun again.