Birds of Steel is a flight sim set in the Pacific Theatre of World War 2. For those not trained in military terminology, the Pacific Theatre isn’t where the Prisoners of War put on their annual variety revue – instead, it’s referring to the part of the war that took place on that big blue wet thing in between Western America, and Japan. And when we say flight sim, we mean proper flight sim – not like the boring, “The flight to Barbados is currently departing from gate 44 in Terminal 3” types, where you ferry sunburnt holidaymakers to and from their destinations. This is a flight sim in the proper sense, that'll have you sitting in a plane, taking off, and dogfighting with those "bounders" in the romantic style of World War 2.
Letting you take flight and dogfight in not only a cavalcade of American and Japanese warbirds, but also planes from Germany, Italy, Russia, and the good old UK, there’s a decent selection of planes to keep you busy with here, with the normal flight sim selection complimented by some more unusual ones – from Hurricanes and Spitfires, to tank busting Sturmoviks, to heavy bombers, like the He-111 and Lancaster, and even flying boats, like the Catalina. And brilliantly, there’s even a specific single player mission that challenges you to land the latter on the sea. That should tell you all you need to know about just how hard it is.
The main single player game here’s split into three sections – Campaign, Single Missions, and the “Dynamic Campaign” – which we’ll come back to in a minute. Offering a pretty similar blend of missions, the Campaign and the Single Missions are where you’ll head first if you want to delve into some action. With two campaigns on offer, letting you see the war from both the American, and the Japanese perspective, as you may imagine, there’s a strong naval bent to the proceedings here, with aircraft carriers to take off from (and sink), tiny Pacific islands to defend, and shipping convoys to torpedo. Just like the old days! With a wide variety of missions on offer, from recon patrols, to bomber intercepts, or torpedo runs on convoys, there’s plenty of variation from one mission to the next, with the campaign interspersed with documentary style footage that takes you through the history of what actually happened - which is a nice touch.
Offering something a little different to the campaigns, the single player missions are set across the entire world during World War 2, letting you play as the Russians, British, and Germans, but without the back story, or historical aspect tying everything together. Rather than simple go here, attack these objectives, the single player missions are even more varied than the campaign – whether you’re being asked to fly down a narrow valley to fend off the twenty strong squadron behind you, or land a plane on a breakwater, these are challenges for the more experienced pilots to take up – meaning you’ll want to play your way through the campaigns first.