The vast majority of World War 2 titles come with huge budgets, blockbusting cinematics and realism that is occasionally beyond belief. So it’s rather pleasing to see Bomber Crew kick into action, with it coming complete with some fun visuals and plenty of draw. But don’t let that cutesy look fool you – for this is a seriously deep strategic bombing sim that will take absolutely no prisoners.
Bomber Crew from Runner Duck Games and Curve Digital sees you taking a crew of men and their bomber into war, in which the objective given is just as important as trying to keep your crew alive.
Tasked with keeping seven little men safe and sound is a task in itself, and after recruiting the likes of a pilot, navigator, mechanic and ace gunners to your team, it isn’t long before you’ll see them taxiing down the runway and heading on out for the battle which lies ahead. And it also won’t be long before you find that same plane, and those same seven guys, crash landing in the middle of the ocean after a fight with a few bogeys has gone horrendously wrong. See, Bomber Crew isn’t a walk in the park.
It is here where you’ll find yourself rinsing and repeating those initial recruitment actions in the hope that the next mission you send them on will be all the better. And it will, eventually, but initially the darn difficulty curve that Bomber Crew comes with will see you needing to shed more than a single tear as you stare at the memorials of downed men, before trying to place their smiley little faces to the back of your mind as you go about the job once more.
See, getting your head around a control system which has been looped over from the PC world isn’t the biggest issue – because if I’m honest, a few missions in and you quickly find your way around the intricacies of the game pad – but ensuring that each of your crew members has a job to do at all times, whilst in the heat of a dogfight, whilst navigating to new lands, whilst trying to bomb a sub before it disappears under the waves, and whilst taking intel photos, is all a bit too much. Yes, there is the option to pause matters should you so wish, and when you zoom the camera into the cockpit of the plane in order to command your crew, time does slow down to give a little breathing space, but there is so much going on at once, that Bomber Crew all becomes a little too hectic for it to be considered as proper ‘fun’.
There is a strange level of addiction included though, and Bomber Crew is certainly one of those games in which you will find the minutes and hours flying by, even if it is just because you’re trying to decide upon the best flight suits, headgear, armoured vests, glove types or boots that your team will be kitted out in. That’s just the start of the micromanaging too because even though it’s nice to spend your earned cash from completed missions on toughening up your members, there is also the need to weigh up the pros and cons behind dropping various bits and bobs, armour plating, better guns and the like on your plane. Do you really need that extra med kit when you already have a highly armoured tailgunner, or is it better to squeeze in another ammo cache so he can get on with his job instead? It’s questions like this which will be constantly floating around your head in Bomber Crew.
When you get into the action, as a ‘sim’, you will find that you don’t directly control matters out in the field, for all you can do is order your crew to action specific jobs before sitting back, crossing your fingers and praying to the gods that they’ll come out on top. What you do need to do yourself is very little in fact, and aside from telling the pilot when to take-off and land, which direction to head in, and when to raise and lower the landing gear, the rest is all down to him. But these sim guys are all a bit dumb and should you fail to remind him to lift the gear for example, will quickly find yourself firefighting numerous malfunctions that occur and fuel that will be used unnecessarily. It’ll also mean that there will be even more parts for the anti-aircraft cannons and swift flying bogeys to shoot at.
Every single mission in Bomber Crew is fraught with danger and should you try and relax for even a second, will very quickly see your dreams of winning the war going up in smoke. When you’ve got a full squad of veteran fighters aboard, those which you have lovingly upgraded across multiple hours, then it does all get easier, but on the flip side it makes their deaths all the tougher to take in… no more so than when you find yourself needing to start again with a ‘green’ crew.
For everything that is going on at the same time though, Bomber Crew runs fairly well. There is the odd bit of stutter occasionally, and I’m at a loss to understand exactly why the pilot sometimes heads off in a strange direction in order to get a good run at a landing, but otherwise it’s all decent enough stuff. With a lovely bit of audio – from the properly old school war tunes, to pigeons chirping (you’ll understand why when you play), to the sound of whizzing bullets – it all comes across lovely too.
The visuals are decent enough as well, and the cartoon-like look does the job intended of it. Bright, clear and colourful even when flying through atrocious thunderstorms and being plied with bullets, you are never left wanting by the graphical quality of Bomber Crew, proving that a game doesn’t need to be super realistic to nail home the true feeling of war. In a great touch, you can customise your plane in a huge number of ways too, adding your own avatars, text and more to make it stand out from the crowd. Again though, seeing your work peppered with multiple bullets is something only the hardened will wish to endure.
Aside from the considerably lengthy and in-depth main campaign and there is also a challenge mode included within Bomber Crew. This allows you to get into the action with little worry about finances or what upgrades to take on certain missions, dropping you in to the fight fully equipped as you attempt to stave off numerous waves of enemies, hitting objectives as and when is possible. It is this which will appeal to those who don’t want the hassle of micromanaging every single last aspect of bomber flight, and should you find yourself taken by it, will no doubt also enjoy the additional paid challenge of the Secret Weapons DLC too.
But don’t think that this dilutes Bomber Crew to the degree that it is all plain sailing, because it is not and it is that difficulty that will no doubt see many turn away in frustration. That is no more true than for those playing the game via Xbox Game Pass and I have to question the debut of a title that is so hardcore into the scheme. There is a high chance that the initial few missions, as players get to grips with the touchy controls, depth of the mechanics and difficulty of the war, will turn many casual gamers away. And that would be a shame because once you get past the opening segments, and really get to grips with what Bomber Crew is all about, will find a rather fun management style affair that brings much joy.
War doesn’t have to be grim you know!