Red Wings caught my eye with its arcadey 3D flight combat and comic-like visuals. It was something that reminded me of Crimson Skies, one of my favourite dogfighting games of all time.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky takes place above the battlefields of WWI, allowing you to fight in some of the most iconic planes, whilst following the history of well-known figures like Red Baron and more.
At its core, the game is a relatively simple affair where you play through different scenarios with a handful of objectives that mostly boil down to taking out a set number of enemies that respawn in waves. For some, this might be a bit too simple, which wouldn’t be an unfair assessment, as the objectives can get repetitive rather quickly.
However, what kept me wanting to play just one more level each time was how fun the game feels to play. Whilst there are some things that the game could have done to be considered outstanding, the base mechanic of flying and attacking feels satisfying. This is due to a combination of elements such as reactive sounds, clear hit responses and charming visuals.
Whilst I am not a fan of restricting sharp turns and evasive manoeuvres behind an ability system, it does make the game more approachable. Compared to more sim-heavy games like Ace Combat 7 or the recent Rogue Squadron, you can easily pick up and play this game anytime. The loading times are fast, content is segregated for a better choice, and the controls are simple enough.
Still, there is a level of complexity to the game, as it features a skill tree for progression. Throughout this skill tree, you can add buffs to some aspects of your general attack, or unlock modifiers against specific enemies. The enemy investment is especially worthwhile, as the game does throw some difficulty curveballs your way.
Whilst the majority of the game isn’t tough to play, a few difficulty spikes do make certain levels frustrating. Most notable of these are the fuel run missions, which are a checkpoint race that sees you flying through a set number of hoops. What makes some of these hard is the fact that you can only really win if you hit these in a specific order.
I would have much preferred to see more leniency so that players could easily experiment with their flight. Not to mention, some of the quick manoeuvre abilities are locked behind cooldowns which makes it hard to evade special enemies who have their AI and Hit Chance dialled all the way up.
Where the game really shines and fails, however, is the multiplayer. The game is an absolute blast to play with your friends via local split-screen, and you can easily see yourself losing hours to it with both PVE and PVP modes. Because of how fun this aspect can be, it is a bit disappointing that the game doesn’t feature online multiplayer which could have made this game a more substantial package.
Another aspect where the game falters for me is with its lacking control scheme, both on the PC and controllers. This is especially a problem on the PC, which features no mouse controls whatsoever. With how twitch-based the game can get, it is a baffling design decision.
It isn’t much better on the controllers either, since it doesn’t follow the more well-known controller layouts. The right stick controls the speed, you do a barrel roll with a face button, and a few other uncomfortable design choices make the otherwise frantic experience a bit restrictive.
There isn’t a lot of display customisation available in this game either, and I found 4K scaling a bit broken on the PC. As the game doesn’t take a lot to run, I can easily see this being played in 4K by those who have the equipment. Sadly, this breaks the UI, hiding the skill tree at the end of a mission. It is especially a shame due to how amazing the game looks!
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is a generally fun and vibrant game, something that fans of classic arcade shooters like Crimson Skies would love! Sadly, the confusing controls, restrictive design choices and lacking display options do hold back its full potential.
Still, at only £13, the game isn’t too expensive if you want to play something with your friends or family on the couch. Otherwise, I would recommend waiting for patches that improve the user experience. It is a Generally Fun and Frantic Flight Shooter With Clipped Wings
On an ending note, I wouldn’t mind if Microsoft gives the developers All in! Games the license to make more Crimson Skies. I would love to see what this team can do!