Thunder Wolves PS3 review – Not Apache on the ‘copter sim heyday

Were this ‘chopper vs the world’ arcade shooter less obnoxious, it’d have undeniable lure. Its air-to-ground combat calls 16-bit treasure Desert Strike to mind. The helicopters themselves, daubed in primary colours, combine with a wartime story with absolutely no moral ambiguity to make you feel like the lead in an early ’90s cartoon. And sure, it’s never going to win design awards, but combining explosions with huge points payouts speaks to something primal in every gamer’s brain.

Thunder Wolves PS3 review

But then it has to ruin it all by acting like your bicep-kissing teenage brother who needs to constantly demonstrate he knows all the swears. The characters, dialogue and story arc are (you hope) intentionally trashy, but that doesn’t make them funny by default. It would be like Most Wanted Entertainment saying, “The graphics are intentionally guff.”

If Thunder Wolves would only leave you in peace to shoot oil rigs, radar towers and cocaine fields without spewing its machismo nonsense at you over the radio, you’d be more inclined to forgive its basic graphics. Since it doesn’t, let me say this: damn, they’re basic. You’re often left with the curious sensation of being a toy helicopter shooting at tabletop models, which makes that gung-ho radio banter sound all the more absurd.

And with a mission structure more repetitive than Michael Cera’s movie roles, any thrill held by its initial novelty is shot to tiny pieces by the twentieth time you’re ordered to do just that. Modern spins on the helicopter combat game can either embrace repetition by accentuating the retro angle, using a 2.5D perspective and some chic post-16-bit art, or incentivise exploration and clever manoeuvres by presenting large theatres of war with at least passable terrain detail. Thunder Wolves does neither: you’re hemmed in by a frustratingly low invisible ceiling, and its visuals summon 2003 rather than 1993.

Our Score

Score: 4
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