Birds of Steel Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3
Birds of Steel Box Art
System: Xbox 360, PS3
Dev: Gaijin Entertainment
Pub: Konami
Release: TBA
Players: 1-4 Offline, up to 16 Online
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p
The Allies Need Your Help!
by Angelo D'Argenio

There aren't a whole lot of flight simulators being made these days, and that's a shame. The flight sim was the original "shooter" so to speak. It was the game genre that required you to center a targeting reticle on your opponent and blast away before Master Chief was even in diapers.

Birds of Steel is trying to recapture the feeling of the early combat flight sims. Rather than relying on missiles and special weapons, as you do in the Ace Combat series, Birds of Steel is a World War II period piece that forces you to rely on the most trusted of airplane weapons: the gun. In fact, the entire game strives for deep historical accuracy, which sets it apart from other games in the genre.

Birds of Steel Screenshot

Now, I admittedly didn't get a whole lot of time with Birds of Steel at E3, but from what I could gather, the design team was going for an "FPS in the air" sort of feel. Your plane controls are pretty much the standard flight sim controls we have seen ever since dual analog sticks were invented. At least, that is what your controls will be if you play the game with the arcade control scheme. If you want to up your difficulty a bit, or if you are a die-hard flight sim fan, you can make the control scheme even more complicated in order to give you direct control over every aspect of your plane. To really hammer home the sim element, the game will support several USB flight sticks as controllers and will have specific control schemes for them. That's sure to send you right back to the days of Top Gun on the NES.


Actually, that's a pretty good comparison. Birds of Steel feels like a far prettier Top Gun. When you start the game, the first thing you'll do is crash right into the water, because handling your plane is actually pretty hard. Once you get the hang of it, you'll need to learn the ins and outs of following the prompts on the screen to find your enemies and targets. After a few more minutes of wrestling with the laws of physics, you'll finally have your air legs, and you'll be shooting down enemies in no time.

Birds of Steel Screenshot

Speaking of shooting down enemies, you can either dogfight as much as you'd like in free-flight mode, or take on over forty missions in the main campaign. In free flight mode, you get to set up the exact environment you want to fly in. You can fly night or day, rain or shine, and over mountains or cities. In fact, I'm almost positive this will be the most fun mode in the game. I didn't get much info on what the missions will be like, but my guess is they will mostly be "find a guy, shoot him down" sorts of deals.

There are numerous planes in the game, and each has its own loadout, including camouflage, weapon type, and weapon count. Considering how simple the loadouts are, the amount of planes in the game is pretty impressive. I saw about sixteen just in the demo, and I was told that other planes will be unlocked as you play the game. Ultimately, you can choose from over 100 different makes and models.

Birds of Steel Screenshot

Each plane is historically accurate down to the last detail. In fact, there is a cockpit view that you can go into which makes your aiming reticle slightly larger (kind of like ADS in a shooter, but as a whole other flight mode). When you enter these views, you actually get to see the real cockpit of the plane model you chose, with all the dials and knobs in the right places. This should cause airplane buffs to drool.

The graphics in this game are absolutely gorgeous. I was told that all the environments in the game were based off of real World War II battle sites, and that they were all mapped out using satellite data. It really shows. Even the tiniest buildings have depth to them, and you can see their shadows as you do rolls and flips overhead. I swear you can even see the trees sticking out of the landscape as you fly uncomfortably close to them. This is a big difference from Ace Combat, the other flight sim at the show, which mostly used textures when you got close enough to the ground. In addition, the lighting effects in this game are phenomenal. Just seeing the shadows on your wings as you tilt your plane is a visual feast.

Like I said before, there aren't a whole lot of flight sims out there, so Birds of Steel doesn't really have a whole lot of competition. In fact, it's only competition at E3 this year was Ace Combat, and the games are completely different. Ace Combat went for the extreme movie-style dogfights, while Birds of Steel is going for serious historical accuracy. There's no reason why flight sim fans can't enjoy both. I can only hope they do, so that we get to see more flight sims into the future. Until then, Birds of Steel is worth getting when it comes out, if just to repeatedly crash planes into the incredibly detailed environment.

By Angelo D'Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer

Game Features:

  • Over 100 real life planes - Dogfight and dive bomb in actual WW2 planes and rain down terror from above. Determine for yourself which plane is the ultimate bird of prey.
  • Navigate through hundreds of missions - Embark on 20 historical missions and hundreds of procedural missions scattered throughout 16 different locations. All are inspired by real life campaigns such as Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, and the Battle of Wake Island. Reality is reflected using real-life maps and actual satellite photos of these areas.
  • Pioneering online and multiplayer modes for flight sims - Enjoy 4 player co-op or go into the new and unique online ware mode to compete against up to 16 aviators across world.
  • Key innovations - The finest details are the most critical in the new physics and damage models. Controlling speed is a direct result of effect manipulation of the ailerons and rudders. Each plane has over 100 damage points, so each part of the plane has its own health and damage detection.
  • Fun for all gamers - Multiple levels of realism offer a gameplay experience for gamers of all walks: Simplified, Realistic, and Simulator for the serious flight-sim aficionados.

  • Screenshots / Images
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