In mid-1941, a group of American pilots started a journey to the Pacific to help turn the tide against the endless onslaught of Japanese air attacks throughout China, Burma and other key locations in the region. The small group known as the AVG (American Volunteer Group) were outnumbered, outgunned but determined to turn the tide of the Japanese invasions of the far east. Over the five or six months that followed, the A.V.G, alongside members of the R.A.F, Chinese and Indian Air-Forces, would fight against near-impossible odds to eventually halt the Japanese aggressors and would become famous globally as the Flying Tigers.
Swedish development team Ace Maddox, (led by industry veteran Bjorn Larsson: head of Legendo Entertainment’ 2007 title Attack on Pearl Harbour,) have ported over to consoles, their May 2017 Steam release of Flying Tigers: Shadows over China, adding a bit more of refreshment to the air combat, dogfighting genre that is lacking a little on the console space right now.
You play as a pilot of the A.V.G Flying Tigers and the R.A.F as you try and turn the tide in the Japanese invasion of China. After proving yourself in the appropriately named Kindergarten training mission, you are then thrust into combat taking control of a selection of aircraft playing out key roles of the military campaign that happened from late 1941 till the end of the “Tigers” contracts in July 1942. Playing through twelve campaign missions, you will take part in daring dogfights and bombing runs on the Japanese Navy and Army in missions that last for no more than ten to fifteen minutes each. All in all, this makes for a reasonably short campaign that takes about three hours to complete.
Any title that tries to recreate historical events always runs the risk of not being too exciting because of lack of storytelling options to keep it historically accurate and Flying Tigers is no different. Nearly all the story is told to you through a mission brief that you read before hitting that start button to launch the mission. Most dialogue in-game is just small lines of friendly conversation between pilots which half the time you are not taking too much notice of as you are fighting the controls like crazy to manage to keep your aiming reticule in place over your enemy.
This is where the game comes a little unstuck in my opinion. You have a very important story in our modern history, but you just don’t feel like it is important in the grand scheme of things because of how it is presented, I really feel a little bit more detail on what your doing and more of a history lesson is really lacking when you are playing a game of a such a specific moment of the Second World War. After playing the campaign, I ended up looking around the web for the full story of the Flying Tigers and finding out its significance to the war effort in Asia and was surprised at how little of it was detailed in-game.
Flying tigers does not feel as if the controls have had much work put into them for the console port. I found myself spending too much time in the early hours of playing the game, going into settings to try and get a nice sensitivity setup as the default settings are something only a Ninja could control. This is not helped with the in-game aiming being very erratic at best making it very hard to keep your reticule on your enemies as they bob and weaves to evade your attacks, although you do get a “Trazer Time” ability when you are flying, this slows down time to help you land a few precision shots and can be used as many times as needed, as long as you have it charged up, but yet again even this can also be tricky at times due to the over-sensitive controls.
You do have A.I squadmates on all missions although most of the time feel as if they are only there to add to the scenery. Throughout the entire campaign, I could count on one hand how many times my own squad got any kills on the enemy. I suppose this does help stretch the length of the short missions though as it takes you twice as long to take down enemies as it really should, but really I would have preferred longer missions with more competent A.I. and controls.
You repeat the same process of loading up a mission, heading to a target and destroying x amount of opponent’s planes, before doing the same repeatedly just in a new environment each time. There is a couple of missions that mix up the formula of constant dog-fighting to allow you to go and bomb a few targets from ships to airfields, this is much more fun than the aerial combat that the game is based on which just gets repetitive and boring way too quick due to lack of variety in what you are doing.
Once the campaign is completed, there is also an extra five “challenge mode” missions for you to complete and attack the leaderboards, (which do say Steam ID next to your name instead of Gamertag,) as well as a free flight mode for testing any of the thirty or so aircraft (and to go sperm whale and dolphin hunting, seriously.) Finally, you have a dog fighting mode which lets you choose a craft of your choice to take on up to ten opposing enemies on any map. Online multiplayer is also an option, with dogfights, capture the flag and rocket matches available for solo or team play with up to fifteen other players.