Also On: XBLA, PC
Developer: Most Wanted Entertainment
If you enjoy games that feature huge explosions and non-stop destruction, then Thunder Wolves might be right up your alley. It's best described as a mixture of the Crash Mode from Burnout mixed with a little bit of L.A. Machine Guns. While it doesn't offer a wide variety of gameplay, it does give players who like blowing up everything in their path some short lived enjoyment.
In Thunder Wolves, you pilot one of 13 unlockable helicopters (becoming available as you complete missions) and use your never ending supply of ammo to bring complete destruction to any given area. Missions are loosely strung together with the occasional recon and pick up segments but for the most part you will be shooting, bombing and shooting some more. While your machine guns never run out, you do have to wait for your missiles to "recharge" and this can sometimes slow down the action. A few missions remove the piloting altogether and present an on-rails shooting gallery, where your only concern is killing anything that moves. Occasionally, you get to leave your helicopter and control a small drone or drive a dump truck, but these changes in vehicle do not change the overall gameplay at all, as you will still be causing insane amounts of destruction. The basic mechanic here is if it has a red target on it, it's bad and must be destroyed.
Sometimes you have to provide aid to friendly forces (who are targeted in green). These portions are a pain and really slow down everything but thankfully they don't come up too often. There really isn't a story to speak of, just segments of cheesy dialog that explain the missions which all sound like they were pulled from a terrible 80's action movie. There are no online modes to speak of, just local co-op where one player pilots and the other shoots through the whole campaign with the on rails portions strangely included, giving the pilot nothing to do.
Control will take a while to get used to. While most games like this feature a normal flight simulator axis (down being up and up being down), here it's set to reverse with no option to change it. While some gamers prefer having it reversed, (I get by OK), a majority of players may have a difficult time controlling the chopper. Pressing L3 and R3 to ascend and descend is also difficult since you may accidentally press these buttons while in a firefight. The targeting system for the pilot segments is rather spotty, and doesn't always lock on to the desired enemy or building. The on rail segments feature no lock on at all, so it's an exercise in frustration trying to shoot the intended target necessary to complete the segment. While the control can't be described as broken, it will definitely take some time to get comfortable with.
The graphics are fairly nice for a game of this type. Everything from the enemy tanks to the destructible buildings is detailed very well. You may come across a muddy texture here and there, but you really have to hunt for them. All of the helicopters you can control are nicely detailed and can be customized a bit as you unlock more missions. Audio is full of booming explosions and gunfire with the occasional cheesy radio chatter from the main characters. The music is your basic heavy metal fare, but is mostly drowned out by the sound of your guns, missiles, and the buildings you are currently demolishing.
While Thunder Wolves nails the action and non-stop devastation of an arcade shooter, control issues and lack of variety may hinder the overall experience. Add in some awkwardly frustrating on rails portions and you may feel less excited as the game progresses. You can blow through all 13 missions in about 2 to 4 hours and after that, there isn't any more to do, unless you want to challenge a higher difficulty setting. At $9.99 (800 MSP) it will keep you entertained for a short while, but I suggest trying out the demo before committing. If you do decide to take the plunge, just know that what you see is what you get. It's not bad, but at the same time not great.