Review: Project Wingman
When you are a kid, machines become the first big fascination. Rockets, cars, trains, and planes. For me, planes continue to fascinate me in their shape, size, and capabilities. Planes can do many things, becoming small towns in the sky. Then, there are fighter jets: Birds designed for combat and combat support. Faster than the speed of sound, infallible in their designs, streaking by to support those in the air and on the ground, some even pursuing science like the SR-71 Blackbird. They tell the tale of human and machine, of heroism and defeat, and pushing the envelopes of what is possible. Project Wingman is one of the few aerial flight video games available, other than Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown and the re-releases of Ace Combat 5 and Ace Combat 6 that accompanied 7's release. Project Wingman is a flight combat game with photo-realistic visuals and arcade-like combat, and while it feels like a love letter to the Ace Combat franchise, it is a white-knuckle thrill ride that will test even the most hardened of players.
It is the near future. A volcanic cataclysm has engulfed the Pacific Ocean in what is today known as the Ring of Fire. This chain of volcanic activity runs from New Zealand through Russian and back southward from Washington State to Chile. This cataclysm reveals a new resource, Cordium, a metal that is energetic and powerful. In a fight for resources, the nearly formed Federation enforces imperialist policies among the populace, and war breaks out. As a part of the PMC Sicario, players are assigned to Hitman squadron with call sign "monarch." As war breaks out, there are missions to complete and a war to profit from.
Project Wingman gets straight to the point. This is an arcade flight game with multi-million dollar planes. Project Wingman presents players with two modes: Campaign and Conquest. In Campaign Mode, players fight in a mammoth war against The Federation, fighting on land and at sea. The Campaign is a beefy 21 missions long, and as each mission can last upwards of 20 to thirty minutes, the Campaign is a solid experience. Players choose a variety of aircraft and their weapon systems, which change depending on the mission at hand. Conquest is a rouge-lite mode, an innovation for the genre. In Conquest mode, players fly through 43 missions on a single life, collecting modifications and currency to gain more aircraft. Conquest mode has all the elements of a rogue-like, from randomly selected missions to varying degrees of enemy numbers and difficulty. When the Campaign mode has been conquered, players are sure to lose many hours conquering Conquest Mode.
Project Wingman is exhilarating, raw, and unflinching, putting players at the tip of a dystopic world and a broken war ensuing above and below. Controlling aircraft does have a small learning curve, especially using the bumper buttons to control throttle as opposed to the trigger buttons, but it's nothing that cannot be overcome. Flying each aircraft in Project Wingman feels incredibly distinct, and there are some aircraft that aren't featured in others games. That distinctness is also in regard to the gameplay and weapons selection. Each aircraft has a multitude of weapons to choose from, right from the start, as opposed to purchasing each special weapon system. The selection of heavy cannons is unique to Project Wingman, specifically used for obliterating ground targets.
Flying each plane has a control sensation that bears momentum. Flying a plane doesn't feel like a starfighter or exaggerated but a bit on the more realistic side, with some planes being faster or more nimble than others. Strafing targets just feet off the ground is exhilarating, but fighting enemies in death-defying aerial combat is a pulsating and unending delight. Downing large fiction warplanes and going face-to-face with entire squadrons of elite pilots is a triumphant thrill. Though be warned, the enemy AI does not let up, and in fact, is more challenging than the competition.
The Ace Combat franchise, the only other game in the genre, didn't shy away from difficulty between waves of highly-advanced UAVs and giant flying fortresses, but the AI in Project Wingman is relentless. In each mission, every enemy plane, whether priority or not, does everything within its power to stop the player, launching volleys of missiles and maneuvering to be in the sweet spot to shoot you down. Enemies will dodge, be evasive, and do everything in their power not to be swatted like flies. Project Wingman allows flares to distract missiles, and while infinite, they require a cooldown and can't be fully relied upon. Gameplay-wise, Project Wingman is a white-knuckle game of flying at Mach 3 with your hair on fire.
Project Wingman is a beefy game, though it could have used more. An online co-op would have been a fantastic addition to the game, should it have been implemented, and the game falls into the familiar trappings of repetition. Go here, shoot the targets, don't die, rinse and repeat. However, the game is incredibly fun and enjoyable, providing thrills and excitement that only a well-made flight action game can provide.
Project Wingman is a strong game. Project Wingman sends players into the Danger Zone and challenges them to survive, all to a strong presentation, solid gameplay, and a resounding soundtrack. With a beefy single player, a ton of fighter planes to fly, and a unique rouge-lit mode built-in with Conquest Mode, there is plenty for players and aviation enthusiasts to enjoy here. Time to log in those flight hours and get to splashing bandits.