Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Birds of Steel

Review: Birds of Steel

2:00 PM on 04.02.2012 // Maurice Tan

Combat flight simulators, like real-time strategy games, are a resilient breed which has always struggled to find its place on consoles. A mouse and keyboard control scheme is almost always preferred over a gamepad when it comes to fast-paced strategy games, and flight sims really need a flightstick if you are going to opt for a realistic feel.

Console flight sims traditionally veer into the arcade space (H.A.W.X., Ace Combat, Secret Weapons over Normandy) to try and create a fun experience for all, or try to satisfy both the arcade and simulation fanatics at the same time, usually without success. Gaijin Entertainment, on the other hand, has made some good sim-heavy console titles with an arcade feel in the past (IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, Apache: Air Assault). With Birds of Steel, they have finally steered well into simulator territory, only offering a half-hearted attempt at appeasing the arcade crowds.

Birds of Steel (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3)
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Publisher: Konami
Released: March 13, 2012
MSRP: $39.99

Set during World War II, Birds of Steel offers a huge array of aircraft to unlock and fly, each with their own specific feel, stats, and a high level of interior and exterior detail. That Gaijin really loves their aircraft comes as no surprise, and they truly deliver in this regard. Players who look to Birds of Steel for historical authenticity will feel rewarded to say the least. The dedication to such authenticity also impacts the controls and combat mechanics which, depending on what you are looking for in a console flight sim, may put you on either end of the fun spectrum.

Difficulty is defined by the flight controls, and comes in three variations -- Simplified, Realistic, and Simulator -- while options for limited fuel and ammo are also at your disposal. Realistic mode is the go-to mode Birds of Steel feels best tailored to, even if it is undeniably hard. Planes will shake under the strain of speed and winds, making it hard to aim and lead your targets, while overzealously trying to make turns without regard for aerodynamics and airspeed will see you unceremoniously stall and spiral out of control. G-forces will blacken or redden your screen, which is a nice visual touch that is long overdue on consoles.

Simulator mode cranks the physics up a notch, and removes HUD info to make it nearly impossible to tell your airspeed without looking down at your instruments in the cockpit view. On the other hand, Simplified mode is what anyone new to the genre will feel most at home with, removing stall issues and generally feeling more like your typical arcade World War II flight sim.

The flight control systems that lie beneath the hood make for an impressive feel, turning the mere act of controlling your airplane into as much of a challenge as actually completing objectives. Flying feels dangerous, as if humankind wasn't meant to be inside a tin can with wings and guns attached to it, let alone using it to wage war in the skies over conflict zones. Try to make a dive-bomb run on Simulator, and you'll even need to extend the air-brakes to control your speed lest the stress of aerodynamic physics turns your plane into a heap of metal, crashing to the Earth below.

The caveat of the distinction between the different control difficulties is that most players who are more casual fans of the genre will stick to the Simplified scheme, rendering most of the game a rather boring and unimpressive chore. Meanwhile, the Simulator option may offer exactly what the "hardcore" crowd is looking for, but feels made for flightstick and throttle controls rather than a gamepad. Even the slightest nudge to the side at the wrong time can lead to a complete loss of control and a seemingly inevitable drop towards death. There is always the option to switch to one of the other three planes in your wing, but crashing four times in a row when you are merely trying to make a turn is a less-than-welcome slap on the face if you are struck with a gamepad.

This discrepancy between realism and arcade sadly permeates most of Birds of Steel's offerings. Combat in most single-player missions revolves around reaching a checkpoint, watching an in-engine cutscene of planes flying to their target, followed by shooting a number of enemy planes or destroying a number of sea and land targets. Then you return to your carrier or airstrip checkpoint, and the mission is over.

Dogfights are meant to portray realism rather than arcade fun, so don't expect to singlehandedly wipe out entire squadrons of enemy planes on your own. Shooting down any enemy plane at an angle often feels more like the result of a lucky shot than that of complete mastery over the combat mechanics. With unlimited ammo, you can drop one to three bombs before you have to wait a minute to "reload," further reducing arcade fun if you are seeking it. Suffice it to say, arcade combat flight sim aficionados should look elsewhere when it comes down to the combat mechanics. It feels made for the harder control scheme options to maintain a fine balance between skill and challenge, and the Simplified controls just don't offer enough of a challenge for most of the game.

On the upside, fighting your way through Birds of Steel's single-player components is a pretty lengthy endeavor, with a 1941-1942 Pacific campaign available for play from both the USA and Japanese viewpoints. Aside from the two campaigns, a wealth of single missions can be chosen for the Mediterranean theater, Pacific Ocean theater, and Western and Eastern European fronts. While the campaigns and missions are decent fun to play through, the mission design is disappointing. Each mission does make you feel like you are simply flying a sortie to do a single bombing run or Combat Air Patrol, but in some missions, flying back and forth almost takes more time than you'll spend actually seeing any action.

Eventually, single-player may start to bore you as mission after mission begin to feel all too similar. However, there are multiplayer and co-op options abound in Birds of Steel, and it's only here that everything the game has to offer starts to unveil itself. In fact, the majority of the content is hidden away from solo-only players' eyes.

Some Single Missions can be played online, while there is always the option to pick AI wingmen in a private match, or completely play offline. A Dynamic Campaign lets you rewrite history (cooperatively if you choose) during eight battles, such as the Battle of Midway or the attack on Pearl Harbor. Success or failure in missions at each "turn" of a dynamic campaign will affect how the battle as a whole will play out in successive missions, meaning you can easily lose yourself playing a dynamic campaign for an extended session of play. A mission editor with plenty of options allows you to further extend your playtime.

Although the Missions are an appreciated bonus, competitive multiplayer might be the best aspect of Birds of Steel. As much as the realism detracts from having fun in single-player, multiplayer manages to take the best aspects of the realism Gaijin strove for and turns it into an exhilarating, enjoyable experience. Compared to shooting down AI planes on Simulator difficulty, which is already a challenge when your target reticule moves all over the place, killing a human player in multiplayer takes it to a whole other level. It's hard enough to land even a few hits, let alone enough to take out a player, and while you may not get double-digit kills in an online match, each kill is rewarding and feels like an achievement.

Leaderboards, time-specific online events, and tournaments with certain requirements all increase the odds that the online playerbase will remain as active as it is at the time of writing; no mean feat, as the lobbies in console flight sims are often as empty as space itself, a week after a title's launch. Experience points, which can be gained in limited amounts in single-player, are far more easily accumulated in multiplayer, and a hangar filled with dozens of fighters and bombers for different countries in the war is at your disposal to unlock with the XP you collect.

Birds of Steel's single-player offerings are rather dull compared to other games in the genre, including Gaijin's own Birds of Prey, but the online components are unrivaled. If you are new to console flight sims, this isn't going to be the best place to start. On the other hand, if you bought a flight stick for your console and have been continuously disappointed by titles in the past two years, this is exactly what you have been waiting for.

It's a game meant for simulator fans who like to play hard and play together, and one that is only available on consoles. (Presumably because IL-2 exists on PC.) Those willing to commit to Birds of Steel will remain occupied for a long time. Don't let the option of a more arcade-style control scheme lure you in, however, as it will leave you largely unsatisfied if you are expecting something like Ace Combat.

Birds of Steel doesn't quite manage to marry arcade and simulator crowds in a single console title, but it does pull off being the best online combat flight simulator on consoles, bar none.



THE VERDICT

7.5

Birds of Steel - Reviewed by Maurice Tan
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Maurice Tan,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Birds of Steel


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Discussion Discussion on Games

PStoid Episode 38: Doomed from the Box Art

Cblogs of 2/9/16 - Only Slightly Late Edition

Narrative Mistakes: Mass Effect's Reapers As Primary Villains

Journey to Become a Jedi Knight - Jedi Outcast

Waifu Wars - The End

Hindsight Part II: Unreleased Games of the Past

Robbing Kirby of his Greatest Asset

The meaning of The Witness (Part 3 of 3)

Friday Night Fights: War Never Changes Edition

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

ikiryou avatarikiryou
Starting over from scratch after dying in a roguelike MMO
Occams avatarOccams
I've been listening to the live stream of the phone call with the remaining militia jackasses in Oregon all morning and its the saddest, funniest thing I've heard in a while.
FakePlasticTree avatarFakePlasticTree
Next South Park RPG is releasing in the first fiscal year of 2017, apparently. It'll probably be fractured but whole. Can't wait! D':
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Waaaait a minute... From a design standpoint.. Wouldn't a bodysuit look better with shoes/boots, thus .GASP. precluding bare feet? Say it aint so! :'''(
gajknight avatargajknight
Hey guys, there's a new episode of PStoid up. You should go listen to it, I hear Phil takes his shirt off. I mean, it's a podcast so you can't see it. But you can IMAGINE it!
Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
Yesterday, I brought a banana with me to my job for my lunch break. Some yokel must have swiped it, for I never saw it again, nor got to eat it. My response when: [img]http://i.imgur.com/wrZt8SO.png[/img]
darrenhupke avatardarrenhupke
"At launch, playing through most of the single player content will give you enough Fight Money to get Alex for free!" Will it be possible to earn enough FC by April for the next character DLC? I'm guessing not.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Right, looking for advice. Just redeemed four old XCOM games from a humble bundle a few years back, so I wanted advice on which one I should give a looksie to first. Got 5 choices, kind of thinking terror from the deep or apocalypse. Any suggestions?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
Never be first to avert your eyes when locked in a staring contest with a cat. You must push through the pain if you ever wish to become truly whole, to win this eternal conflict of wills. Bonus XP is awarded on Thursdays!
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
S Magala Plate first fight! :D
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
I have basic knowledge of two other languages (with certificates to prove so) and I decided today that soon I shall be fluent in both. One at a time though.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
If you had to pick one: Firewatch, Not a Hero, or Layers of Fear?
Shinta avatarShinta
I'm soooo glad that they kept the gyroscope controls intact with Gravity Rush Remastered, and that they work well. First Dual Shock 4 game to ever use them well. If you turned them off in options, you're really missing out. Helps you fine tune aim.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Even Luigi gets it.
Alphadeus avatarAlphadeus
Alone With the Psychopath (2014) - I wrote this song after being inspired by the Epic Rap Battle of History between Jack the Ripper and Lecter. I think it sounds neat, and doesn't rip off too much from the song that inspired it =p
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
Tell me who downvoted my smash 4 opinion or the cat gets it. I'm not joking around.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Is that new digimon game any good or no? I know there's the review but I'd like feedback from a couple others too
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
People bitching that "(insert character) Needs Nerfing" because they lost to them several times online, incoming in T-5 days.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
For some reason I had a dream that I was playing a new Jet Set Radio game. It was open world and had an amazing day/night cycle. It was wonderful, yet horrible...
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
4.6 Million XCOM operatives down and down! [url]https://xcom.com/xcom-2-stats[/url] 66% from Collateral damage. Never mind the Alien invasion, cars are the real threat
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -