All pilots, suit up for the stunning Project Wingman demo

Project Wingman

I am in continual awe of what tiny independent developers are capable of these days. While jetfighter action game Project Wingman may boast a couple of additional names on its credits, it’s primarily a one-man project. Given that it looks, sounds and plays every bit as good as Namco’s Xbox 360-era Ace Combat 6, if not better, that’s nothing short of mindblowing. Better still, the lengthy 3-mission demo (which led to the project’s Kickstarter being funded in mere hours) is just the tip of the iceberg of this gorgeous tribute to a favourite series.

If you’ve never played an Ace Combat game before (quite excusable – the only one to reach PC was the pretty naff Assault Horizon), what you’re getting here in Project Wingman is a game that sells the fantasy of modern jetfighter combat, without bogging itself down with any of the more fiddly, realistic details. Swarms of planes swoop around each other, firing salvo after salvo of constantly replenishing smoke-trailing missiles. A gamepad is highly recommended, but the game also offers support for more complex HOTAS-type setups if you really want to show off.

Ace Combat fans will be happy to hear that this hits all the notes you’d want, including an alternate-earth setting with familiar aircraft, but unfamiliar nations, plus a fair bit of sci-fi technology. Two of the three demo missions throw you into combat against aerial battleships bristling with anti-air missile and gun emplacements which must be whittled down to size before you land the killing blow. The amount of polish on show here despite this being an early alpha build of the game aimed at securing funding is truly impressive – even the voice acting sounds AC-authentic.

Project Wingman’s lead developer, Abi ‘RB-D2’ Rahmani has some exciting plans for the full version of the game, and even later iterations of the demo. On top of the story-driven campaign mode (wherein you play a mercenary pilot), the Conquest Mode promises a non-linear, semi-roguelike dynamic campaign where you run your own mercenary force. You pick missions to undertake and spend profits on increasing your supporting forces, up to and including heavy capital-class vessels, which reminds me of both Sky Rogue and Strike Suit Infinity in equal measure.

Project Wingman

As mentioned, the demo is largely to drive interest to Project Wingman’s Kickstarter funding page. The game hit its target £19,791 goal (converted from $25,000 Australian dollars) within about twelve hours, which gives it another 34 days to bulk up the budget. The developer’s conservative estimate is that the game will be finished sometime in May 2019, although I can imagine that if this ends up funded ten times over, that may be extended somewhat to allow for greater scope. I know I’d like to see more sci-fi units included. Anyway, we’ll have Ace Combat 7 to try while we wait.

You can grab the Project Wingman demo over on Itch.io here,  and find the Kickstarter page here. £14 ($25 AU dollars) will get you a copy of the game when it’s finished.

16 Comments

  1. KDR_11k says:

    There was another indie Ace Combat-like game called Vector Thrust on the PC some years back, dunno if that was any good. And of course the combat design of the AC series is the template for Sky Rogue and the Tom Clancy’s HAWX games (remember those? Fun games but 2 came out in Ubisoft’s DRM crazy phase)

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Vector Thrust was mechanically okay, but it fell far short of the mark when it came to visuals and audio, which are two of the key pillars of the Ace Combat experience. At heart it’s a fairly light arcade game but the battle-chatter and busy airspace sells the concept.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      I remember HAWX. HAWX 1 was a better Ace Combat than Assault Horizon, and that’s one of the most shameful things in the history of that series.

      Project Wingman on the other hand is pure Ace Combat already – it’s got Assault Horizon beat in it’s current state. If it finishes remotely close to what they promise it’ll be an amazing game for the price.

  2. Luiz Paulo Santos Cruz says:

    Hope it has moments not exactly like but stuff like shooting fried chicken with a expensive misile in a hot pursuit on a van and me crying a lot because a bunch of pilots began to sing a song really bad together in a mission.

  3. Ansob says:

    This looks fantastic, but (based on that trailer, anyway) it’s missing the thing that truly makes Ace Combat games great: the ridiculously cheesy dialogue.

    Which reminds me, I still haven’t found anything that tops the Project Nimbus trailer for Ace-Combat-ness.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Don’t worry, cheesy dialogue is present and correct. The third demo mission features a lot of bickering between the pilots as to whether they’re getting underpaid compared to the gung-ho ground troops.

  4. kemo says:

    I just took a quick look at the kickstarter demo and I’m really impressed. I absolutely adored HAWX 2 on my old 360 and I felt right at home with Project Wingman

  5. Eightball says:

    Played the first mission on normal, had to crank down the graphics to medium to make it play smoothly but I have an ancient GTX 760. With the PS4 controller I have, it’s Ace Combat on PC.

    Unfff so good. I’m going to have to both kickstart this and upgrade my GPU for it.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Yeah, I’ve got a shiny new 1070 and I occasionally get a couple dropped frames at maximum settings. It’s not as optimised as it could be, but that’s only to be expected – this is an alpha build after all, and fine-tuning and optimisation of effects tends to happen later in development.

  6. KDR_11k says:

    I’m still not sure how to avoid missiles in these games. Given the limited flare usage I know you’re expected to fly perpendicular to the missile and turn in a circle or wave to maximize the chance of it missing you but I find that outside maybe of HAWX with its long camera distance it’s hard to tell where the missiles are coming from. The radar, if you can read it fast enough, only gives you a top down projection and doesn’t show vertical distances.

    How do you do that properly?

    • Eightball says:

      It’s tough to do if there are a lot of missiles in bound (Mission 2 on Hard, looking at you) but the game does give a vague indicator of incoming missiles on the HUD. When a missile is heading for you I believe there is a beep which increases in tempo as the missile draws closer, and there is also a red “smudge” which shows up in the middle of the HUD that varies vague direction and distance. It starts out small when the missile is far away but grows larger as it approaches. There is one for each missile headed at you.

      Most of the time a steep turn a bit before the missile is set to hit will take care of it, but there’s a sort of feel you get to it.

  7. DasBilligeAlien says:

    Yay! Super fun game. Thanks for mentioning it. I really miss Ace Combat. The game runs fine on my machine which surprised me. Will get it when it’s finished. No credit card for kickstarter.

  8. c741535 says:

    Played the demo and backed it straight away. Thx for bringing to my attention RPS, great stuff.

    They also just posted that they wont do stretch goals, just focus on delivering on time what they’ve promised and making it as good as they can. Damn refreshing I say. If Chris Roberts had done that, I would have finished Squadron 42 in 2013… [sigh].

  9. Sunjammer says:

    All this does is make me angry Namco haven’t put out HD remasters or even just basic ports of the PS2 era ACs. I have no good way to play AC5 and Zero now and I love those games perhaps as much as I can love any game.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Have you tried emulation? My impression is that current PS2 emulation is kind of fiddly but works for most games.

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