Thunder Wolves Review
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Do you ever get into your car, pop on ACDC’s “Shoot to Thrill”, and just drive around feeling like a badass for no particular reason? Many of us have moments similar to this, even if we don’t tell anyone about it, so why not have that feeling transported into your gaming? Ubisoft knows how to make gamers feel powerful (with titles like the Assassin’s Creed series, or Watch Dogs), so it stands to reason that when they teamed up with development company Most Wanted Entertainment to bring us Thunder Wolves, that feeling of being an epic powerhouse would follow. Thunder Wolves is a hard-hitting, action-packed shooter with a whole lot of firepower ready for your twitchy trigger finger. If you’re a fan of gratuitous violence, verbal debauchery and helicopters, keep reading as we explore this new release from the ground up.
Your name is Max, and you are constantly getting into trouble due to your aggressive nature in the field. Apparently, on your last mission, you blew up a soccer stadium because “soccer is for pussies”. Your next mission will be with a rookie pilot, and your commanding officer requests you not bring her more trouble by making this new rookie quit. The only issue with an opening like this is that the game assumes you don’t really care why you’re there, but sets it up in a way that looks like there should be a story, though one really isn’t present. It’s unclear why the game has an opening premise like this when there doesn’t seem to be a point to it, as Max seems like an all-in-one soldier, hopping from vehicle to vehicle or weapon to weapon, whenever the need arises. You’ll fight bad guys, but the plot doesn’t really give you a good idea of who you’re fighting or why, and much of the dialog fades into the background amidst the sound of your overpowered guns and heavy metal music in the background.
Campy is the perfect way to describe Thunder Wolves’ characters, voice acting, and overall theme. Even the verbiage that attempts to be tactical in nature ends up seeming like a bad joke. Your team is introduced when they first arrive in the game, but all you’ll get afterwards is maybe one or two more mentions of their names, and a dialog box on the bottom left hand side of the screen. While they do have names, you’ll come to refer to them as “that innuendo chick, the youngster pilot, the angry, scruffy looking guy, and that other dude”, or varying nicknames of this nature. None of the characters do anything to further the story, and instead seem like they’re there to point out the obvious objectives, or give you a cheap laugh as everyone hits on their female superior, or just to provide general hazing towards their male counterparts. Adding more ‘awesome brodom and dude-based hardcoreness’ to the game, you’ll receive plenty of encouragement in the form of yellow text while you play. Encouragements like “Hells to the yeah,” “Way to go, bro,” or “You a Badass” while you tear down your enemies’ bases, towers, vehicles and troops will pop up in an attempt to pump you up.
It’s pretty easy to spot your objectives: white arrows indicate the next location you need to travel to, green arrows indicate friendly targets, and red arrows indicate enemies. You’ll get entire sections that are littered with red indicators, but the accuracy is not very important when taking down these enemies – as long as you’re firing in their general direction, you’ll blow them sky high with your unlimited supply of general ammo, flares for distraction, and a multitude of rockets at your disposal. While this may seem like a helpful decision from the creators, it greatly detracts from the attention you’ll need to pay to the game, adding to the monotony of the levels. Nevertheless, Thunder Wolves attempts to shake up the action by occasionally throwing you into first-person views where you are firing differently at your foes, like sniping enemy targets, using night vision, or hopping on a rail-gun attached to the helicopter to take down enemies en masse. Unfortunately, this changeup doesn’t do enough to keep your attention, though it is a nice little change that can be appreciated for its attempt at switching things up. The boss levels are no different than the general mobs you encounter, as you’ll be taking cover, firing on them, taking cover then firing on them again. The mechanics don’t change in any drastic manner during these phases, and the only thing that will give it away that it’s a boss fight will be brief cutscenes and larger vehicles with bigger health meters.
Another mechanic you’ll have to concern yourself with is when you hit invisible walls on the playing field that make it hard to maneuver, as the ceiling limitations change depending on the level, with no indicators you’re flying outside of range or too high. When this happens, it will stunt your movements for a few seconds, creating a mechanical handicap that gets extremely irritating. While there are some really amazing new challenges (e.g. flying your helicopter through a cave), this seems to create an uneven playing space that makes it harder to determine where the edge of the playing field is. Even some buildings seem to have a bubble around them that you can only approach to a pre-determined certain point, and it changes based on the level and circumstances with no indication on how to predict these changes. It’s a trade off: drastic changes in scenery or a constant, measurable playing field. With this in mind, players are sure to have their own opinions about which aspect is more important when they play for themselves.
On the flipside, visually the game is brilliantly designed, with only a few little blips to offset the feeling of a true simulation. Every level is filled with different land masses, seas, or underground caves to fight your way through, though many of the fights will revolve around base camps – yours or the enemies’ – so you’ll be fighting away from civilians, usually in the middle of a dessert, or on a coastline. The high quality graphics and attention to fine details are what leave their mark on you – everything from the realistic chopper movements to crisp and clean landscapes, the game really takes its time with detail. There are a few parts where this illusion is ruined, however, when an almost cartoony action comes into play. For instance, the rockets being fired in the cutscenes, or some of the vehicular motions are unrealistic and sloppy – being fired almost as if it was half into the wing instead of coming out of the barrels.
Perhaps one of the more impressive details in the game is how your health meter works: by using a glass crack effect. As your helicopter takes damage, you’ll notice cracks, or even holes appearing in the glass of your windshield. Get too many cracks and you’ll die – failing the mission and having to start over. If you do make it away from enemy fire, your health will automatically regenerate and the glass will magically replace itself (as glass in games often do), but this transition is subtle and with all the distractions around you, you may not even notice the repairs until your windshield is as good as new! The game also jumps between first- and third-person view depending on what you’re doing at the time, but in an almost seamless manner that makes it feel like that’s exactly what is supposed to happen, instead of the jostling disorientation some games make you feel when they switch you involuntarily.
There is approximately 1.5-3 hours of gameplay in total within Thunder Wolves, depending on your skillset and the difficulty you’re playing at, but with little to no replay value. Casual gamers will thoroughly enjoy a single playthrough, but if you are looking for a challenging, tactical experience with a developed theme or storyline, this is not the game for you. For those of you with who like a little raunchiness in their lives, the dialog will not disappoint, and the morbid side of you may chuckle slightly as enemy soldiers will flee from vehicles you’ve hit, flailing their arms and running while they are on fire. This is the type of thrill-seeking, brain-off shooter that lets you play co-operatively or solo with 13 missions and local-only access. While these missions are fairly short, and the game doesn’t give much in the way of replay value, if you’re a big fan of blowing up things just for the sake of it, this is the game you’ll want to play this summer. Thunder Wolves doesn’t ask you to take it seriously, it asks you to get out there and blow up everything (and everyone) in sight while screaming “Yeeehaw” at the screen.
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