I’ve finished the Project Wingman campaign.
Wow, that was a bleak story.
The gameplays is very similar to Ace Combat but the lack of timers, escort missions and checkpoints give the game a more chill rythm that allows for a more patient approach.
In general trying to go for the classic “kill all the objectives as fast as possible” is often a recipe for disaster because fixed defenses and enemy planes are numerous and feel more aggressive, and it doesn’t help that standard missiles are more finicky than in classic AC. But flares are unlimited and on a timer instead of only having a few of them so situations that would have you die easily in AC7 are actually pretty survivable as long as you time everything right and in general you don’t find yourself forced to evade when taking a potshot at a particularly slippery plane to save on flares.
You can also stack secondary weapons at times, an attacker can have all three special weapons slots filled with MLAG missiles which means you can launch something like nine of them at a time, I’ve did several late missions heavy on ground target with the A-10 analog because all those air to ground missiles were just godly in thsoe missions and the autocannon made mincemeat of enemy fighters during dogfights. In general guns seem to have a more generous hitbox so I have found myself using them more often, either that or the lead indicator is realistically not as precise as in AC7 and there is enough of a dispersion pattern by default that allows to hit moving targets more easily.
The gog version is one patch behind I think yet the game seems remarkably stable and bug-free minus an occasional black screen glitch that only lasted one or two seconds and that reared its ugly head only four or five times in fifteen hours and only twice during actual gameplay.
Apparently there are HOTAS issues but thankfully it seems that it’s mostly some super fancy sticks that are the problem, while my setup is on the costly side being CH Products its electronics are so remarkably un-fancy that they work with more or less everything, which is ironic since back when I researched stick models one of the few negative reviews I had found for their products listed “outdated electronics” as a big negative. The test suite in the options is a bit wonly though, while movement in-game is perfectly fine the test indicators for the axes often behave in a weird jerky way.
So, about the story: sometimes it’s a bit difficult to follow because a lot of it is told via in-mission chatter and a lot of the time I was too busy trying not to die to really listen but it feels a lot less unintentionally goofy than AC7. I noticed that the character bits with the WSO become more sparse in the later missions, probably because there seem to be no two-seaters among the most advanced planes. And yes, I stuck mostly to the A-10 analogue (I think it’s a real plane that’s similar to the A-10 with a changed name) and the F-14 analogue (which is effectively a F-14) so that I could have one more character around.
The protagonist is basically a player avatar like Mobius in AC4, there isn’t even the semblance of an arc like in AC7 for Trigger. But that’s kind of the point, after all the campaign is made to make you feel like the badass ace which paradoxically makes the moment in which you can’t really do anything to save the situation even more powerful. In the end you are only part of an escalation that only brings out more and more extreme measures by the enemy, a superpower (and by extension an enemy ace) that isn’t used to lose wars and the extreme methods they resort to also tie in the way this Earth differs from ours. It’s not as different as Strangereal is, you can still recognize our continents and they are still called, Europe, Asia, etc. but the political landscape has been completely changed by a sudden global geological catastrophe a few centuries earlier so you get no USA but there is an Alaska-to-California-through-Canada state called Cascadia for example.