Posted on 11 Dec 2020 by Jay Shaw

Project Wingman

The Defence

Developer: Sector D2
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Action, Simulator
Platform: PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 01 Dec 2020

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 2.8 GHz
AMD FX 3.9 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 660 Ti
AMD Radeon R9 270
HDD: 16 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: Yes
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 4.3 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 1070 Ti
Nvidia equivalent
HDD: 16 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: Yes
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Project Wingman is an Ace Combat clone from developers Sector D2 and Humble Games. For those not familiar with Wingman‘s inspiration; Ace Combat is a long running arcade style flight combat game where player jets carry hundreds of missiles and you’ll probably end up chasing at least one cruise missile. Full disclaimer, I’m a gigantic Ace Combat fanboy and I’m hard to please – so keep reading to find out how well Project Wingman fares.

The Trial

We’re going to be referencing Ace Combat a lot in this review, not because it’s the only other arcade flight game but because there’s no other comparison for the levels of balls to the wall insane action and even then Wingman comes out far ahead of its inspiration.

Project Wingman puts players in the role of a mercenary pilot, callsign Monarch, who is part of the Sicario mercenary company. Most of the story takes place between briefings and radio chatter between the rest of your team; AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) Galaxy, and your wing-mates Diplomat and Comic. Other pilots chime in from time to time as other mercenary teams and armed forces units communicate with your team. The acting is very good throughout and fits the scenes and action even when it’s just Galaxy calling out “Fox 2! Fox 2!” when you launch a pair of missiles.

The story unfortunately lacks any major emotional moments like the best Ace Combat games manage. There’s no equivalent to AC5‘s Chopper getting shot down, or the moments of absolute terror and panicked radio calls of enemy pilots who realise they’ve just pissed off the wrong team. There’s also no equivalent advancement moments for your squadron, you’re Hitman throughout and never have a defining moment where your team makes a big comeback under a different name ala Ghosts of Razgriz.

That’s not to say there aren’t attempts at moments like those, they just lack the same impact as Namco’s games. Multiple cities get annihilated by war, nukes, and the literal fiery fury of the Earth because living next to a giant volcano is just asking to become crispy critters. Even watching the better part of a city’s population be reduced to radioactive cinders has zero emotional impact but it sure does look pretty. While you’re marvelling at the impressive scale of destruction, skyscraper dwarfing orange lightning strikes tear through the air just to add an extra layer of awesome.

Sie sind das Essen und Wir sind die Jaeger!

Weather plays a big part in adding challenge to missions. A thick cloud layer can lead to obscured vision and fighting blind while volcanic ash and lightning provide obstacles you really don’t want to fly into. They’re real obstacles too – flying too close to a lava field will start to burn your jet up and getting struck by lightning will do not inconsiderable damage. When you only have one life and no checkpoints every little bit of damage quickly adds up and hearing the dull hiss of cannon fire barely missing your jet is cause for panic.

The immersion is absolutely spot on too. At one point I was chasing an enemy jet in a steep vertical climb through a thick cloud layer and broke out into the clear blue sky only to find that he’s already rolled over and about to rake the cockpit with cannon fire. My first instinct wasn’t to dodge with the flight stick sitting in my lap but to duck to the side in my seat in anticipation of getting shot in the face. I wasn’t even playing with VR and it’s not the only time I physically reacted to the action on screen.

The sense of distance and motion is something a lot of air combat games can struggle with: Either jets can feel too small and slow or combat takes place at altitudes too high for the terrain to provide meaningful reference. Project Wingman neatly side steps all of these issues by encouraging players to engage enemy planes both up close and near the ground. Combat can take place anywhere between treetop level and thirty-thousand feet but aggressive enemy planes are always jockeying to line you up in their gun sights and even at maximum standard missile range planes are clearly visible and identifiable.

Combat is almost always intense. Even random non-priority enemy planes put up a half decent fight and can shoot you down if you don’t treat them as an ongoing danger. That said, enemy pilots of all kinds fall back on a handful of tried and true manoeuvres like steep climbs and jousting you with quick head-on passes where whoever has the altitude advantage can rain cannon fire on their opponent with impunity for a split second. Enemy pilots also make good use of their missiles – engaging you when you’re most vulnerable and even attempting to lure you into a disadvantageous turn so that a tracking missile can strike you more easily.

Enemy flying superweapons disintegrate into a thousand pieces as they hit the ground.

Thankfully you have infinite flares that recharge on a seven second timer. A few seconds doesn’t sound like much but it feels like an eternity when half a dozen missiles are closing in and your choices are break off from your target to evade or stick with him and hope it’s not a set up to jam a rocket powered phallic object up your exhaust. Later in the game when you start to face better equipped enemies armed with longer range surface to air missiles (SAMs) or Advanced SAMs the flares become a valuable life saver. CIWS (Close-In Weapon System, pronounced “see-wiz”) mounts will fill the air with streams of bullets and flares aren’t going to help there – the only way is skill and speed.

Unlike Ace Combat your plane’s guns are powerful and relatively easy to use. Getting within 4000 feet of an enemy will prompt the gunsight to appear – it’ll trail behind your flight path because bullets have travel time but you don’t have to be completely accurate to score hits. Getting “close enough” is often all it takes to land hits on an enemy and your powerful cannons will shred all but the most hardened targets in relatively short bursts. Most combat takes place in this kind of Top Gun style battle of reactions attempting to line up your guns or launch missiles at the perfect moment to score a hit.

If getting shot at by a slightly longer range SAM doesn’t sound all that exciting to you then Project Wingman has plenty of excellent surprises up its sleeve. Railguns play a prominent part in the enemy arsenal and leave huge orange trails across the sky that will damage you from even flying through the aftermath. Some boss encounters include super-manoeuvrable jets (actually a real thing) that can pull outlandish moves at the drop of a hat and will push your skills to the limit when trying to stay on their tail. It’s a shame the player can’t leverage thrust vectoring and other methods to also use supermaneuvrability though, the Kulbit or Pugachev’s Cobra would have been useful in almost every battle. Edit: It turns out I’m a doofus and the AoA Limiter module can be used to enable the Cobra. The mistake in the above paragraph is preserved for posterity because it’s still partially true.

At least two enemies are also equipped with the ability to launch anime’s favourite air combat trope, the Itami Circus – a spread of missiles that flies in unpredictable and highly chaotic patterns to saturate a chunk of airspace. A near suicidal dash through a swarm of missiles feels just as much of a gamble the tenth time as it does the first and knowing just a couple of hits will put you right back at the start of the mission adds to the stakes.

GN Super Taurus look like they came straight out of UN Squadron.

Targets will often require you to put your own plane at risk to achieve your objectives too. Bombing from twenty thousand feet might be a safe bet but there’ll probably be enough targets that you’ll have to descend into close range at some point. Ships will snipe at you with their railguns, massive airborne super weapons fill the air with streams of bullets and thanks to where the weapons are mounted on these larger targets you often have to get in harms way for several seconds to deal a killing blow.

Player controlled planes run the gamut from the classic F-4 Phantom all the way up to fictional prototypes armed with the enemy boss weapons so you can go on a post-game rampage. Some of the designs borrow heavily from Ace Combat too, with the two fictional planes bearing striking resemblances in both looks and armament to the X-02 Strike Wyvern, and CFA-44 Nosferatu. That’s not necessarily a negative as the Project Wingman designs are unique enough and incredibly cool.

While every plane feels unique to fly we would have liked to see a bit more variety in their performance. Several aircraft are so close in terms of performance that they don’t feel like an upgrade over earlier models despite costing considerably more. This is especially evident with the early-game F-16 that can hold its own throughout the rest of the campaign and deal with most threats with ease thanks to an excellent turn and roll rate. Upgrading to an Sk.27 (Su-27 “Flanker”) or Sk.37 (Su-37 “Terminator”) doesn’t feel like as big of a jump as it really should considering their costs in game. The prototype planes however far outperform the non-fictional aircraft, with insane roll and turn rates and incredibly slow stall speeds.

More attacker aircraft would have also been nice. The Sk.25U (Su-25 “Frogfoot”) makes an appearance and flies like a brick, as it should, but packs a considerable arsenal of rockets and bombs. It would have been nice to see others like the F-111 Aardvark or SEPECAT Jaguar and, of course, the venerable A-10 is conspicuously missing from the line-up. The devs have promised more planes are on the way though.

Lastly, we have to talk about the music. Jose Pavli has produced a stunning 40 track soundtrack for the game that ranges from quiet ambient pieces to rapid drums and sweeping orchestral battle themes that both invoke memories of Ace Combat‘s best music and take it to the next level. The final battle in particular has an awesome track that fits the pace of the conflict almost perfectly and keeps the player excited right up to the final words and explosion are done.

The Verdict

It’s obvious Sector D2 had a lot of love for Ace Combat and they not only produced a competent clone of the series but fixed a few of its major flaws along the way. Everything is of outstanding quality and doesn’t just ape its predecessor. With any luck we’re seeing the birth of a new arcade flight combat series – one that understands what players want and has an excellent sense of what makes for a good mission. Project Wingman is a no-brainer 100% recommendation for anyone who loves an arcade flight game. There is no better.

Case Review

  • Selection: There’s a good selection of planes and more to come.

  • Missions: No bad or boring missions makes the whole campaign an absolute gem.

  • Guns Guns Guns: The encouragement to engage with guns is natural and welcome.

  • Scale & Speed: The sense of scale and speed is great.

  • Famous Last Words: The final boss goes down with some memorable final words.

  • Conquest: The additional conquest mode is a rogue-like run through random missions that adds a lot of replayability to an already great game.

  • Crash: The rare program crash can range from a minor CTD to unrecoverable driver hangs.

5 Score: 5/5
When you hear thunder. Remember me.


  • Gameplay: Head tracking toggle, first and third person field of view sliders, default camera selection, camera sway and rotation lag sliders, Module activation/camera toggle, HUD unit selection, HUD colour selection, HUD toggle, HUD in-cockpit toggle, cockpit radar toggle, HUD unit scale, VR unit HUD scale, Radar HUD in VR toggle.
  • Controls: Full key bindings for keyboard/mouse, controller, and flight sticks. Novice controls toggle, mouse aim toggle. Deadzone, response curve, and inversion options. Input calibration displays.
  • Graphics: Resolution, resolution scale, window mode, vsync, FPS cap, gamma, UI style, motion blur, post processing, view distance, anti-aliasing, textures, shadows, effects, cloud resolution.
  • Audio: Sliders for master volume, music, dialogue, sound effects, and UI volume. Subtitles display and placement. Spoken language and text language selectors.
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