Review: Thunder Wolves (PS3)

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Title: Thunder Wolves
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1072 MB)
Release Date: August 13, 2013 (US), June 19, 2013 (EU)
Publisher: bitComposer Games
Developer: Most Wanted Entertainment
Price: $9.99
ESRB Rating: M
Thunder Wolves is also available on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam.
The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.

Gameplay:
This game is about helicopters shooting things. Seriously. In a world where games are so intricately nuanced, backed up by a convoluted storyline and Oscar-worthy performances; Thunder Wolves can be accurately described in that one sentence.

Let’s begin with the good stuff: excuse the pun, but Thunder Wolves is an absolute blast. There’s seldom anything more enjoyable than blowing stuff up in games, and that’s what this game encourages. Your machine gun never needs cooling down, so you can hold the trigger down for the entire game if you want. There’s also a variety of missiles available, which only require a small amount of time to recharge, so you can be very liberal with your use of explosives.

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These elements create the all-out chaos that ensures you always feel like a total badass. In fact, my favourite moments are the seconds just after you’ve completely cleared a battlefield of all the enemies, vehicles and buildings. That moment of silence when you hover and just look at a clear plot of land is very satisfying. At times it can be a little too hectic – with boats, tanks, choppers and RPG’s all simultaneously trying to shoot you down – but overall it isn’t too difficult to cope with the full-on assault.

That’s mainly because the camera is almost perfect. In a game like this, any issues with the camera would inhibit and completely spoil the experience, so thankfully the development team have done a great job with that. I found the controls excellent too; simple but effective. Movement is on the Left Stick, crosshair on the Right Stick and ascent/descent is controlled by clicking said sticks. It makes for an incredibly fluid game, very easy to manoeuvre in the fast-paced nature of the battles.

The style of Thunder Wolves is very brash and bold – it’s like a throwback to cheesy action movies of yesteryear. All the stereotypes are here; swearwords and bullets in equal measure, the attractive female commander, the narrative not so much taking a back seat, as forgetting to enter the vehicle at all. It can become pretty grating towards the end, but the theme generally works well.

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Some far more significant irritants are present though. The first of which is the lack of any longevity. Gaining 3 stars in each mission is the only incentive for you to play through the campaign again, and competitive multiplayer is non-existent. With the game being so short (around 3 hours), there’s not much bang for your buck. Missions generally last between 10-15 minutes, which is nicely bite-size. However, for some odd reason, the dev team have decided to throw you back to the menu after each level.

This slight absence of flow might not seem too big a deal; but for the crippling load times. It takes an absolute age simply to get from mission to menu, or even to return to the previous checkpoint. After failing a section, you immediately feel like turning the PS3 off, simply because waiting through the dull loading screens are too painful. Certainly fun, but the flaws in Thunder Wolves are too big to just ignore.

Visuals:
At this late point in the console life-cycle, I was disappointed by the graphical fidelity on show here. General gameplay is a mixed bag, with some textures (especially evident in cut-scenes) at PS2 standards – a blocky, pixelated mess. In full flow these gripes aren’t as noticeable, but it’s annoying to suffer visuals that are that poor when the action slows down. Frame-rate issues are also present, though with the action so fast and chaotic, it’s somewhat understandable. Presentation-wise, this is pretty cookie-cutter in terms of the fonts and general style, but it matches the game’s style well. The only real positive on the visual front is the variety of locales across the planet. Oil rigs, deserts, beaches, industrial sites, fields…it’s all here. There’s nothing worse than a single bland backdrop for a shooter, so this is a pleasing assortment.

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Audio:
Very, very loud. Often it reaches the excruciatingly loud levels usually reserved for Michael Bay films. Thunder Wolves constantly combines massive explosions, incessant gunfire, heavy metal music, cheesy ‘dudebro’ lines and a huge helping of expletives to concoct a painful formula for the ears, but it works. It fits the theme of the game perfectly. A lot of the comments your team make throughout each level are annoyingly repetitive (there’s only so many times you can hear “hells to the yeah” before throwing your controller out the window), which is the major downside of the audio. However, credit has to go to the devs for actually including voice-overs for the characters (which overall suit them well) rather than playing it safe by using text, like many other PSN titles.

Online/Multiplayer:
The campaign can be played in local co-op, which is a nice addition that works well. One person flies the chopper while the other controls the weapons. Co-operative play looks the same as single player mode, just with one added crosshair, so there’s no worries about the screen being split. Leaderboards are the only online interaction in the game, which is obviously a slight disappointment. Who knows whether the anarchic gameplay would have worked in competitive multiplayer, but it might have been worth taking the risk.

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Conclusion:
If ever a game were the complete antithesis of Journey, it would be Thunder Wolves. Mindless, over-the-top violence, devoid of any emotion or attachment. And that’s what makes the PSN so great – the sheer variety. This is a sweary, 80’s action flick of a game, which at times seems like a ‘best of’ package of the worst elements in shooters.

Yet, it somehow creates something greater than the sum of its parts, a lot better than it should really be. Mainly thanks to the fluid control system and level design, Thunder Wolves is an extremely fun game which nails the very important feeling of being a total badass. Its annoyances can’t be ignored, but there’s no doubt most gamers will thoroughly enjoy this explosive package; albeit for the very few hours it lasts.

Score:
7.5

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  • nunley33

    good review,i’ll probably get it now since i like these kinda games. does it offer custom soundtracks or anything other notable?