Ultrawings 2 review – a less serious flight simulator

Ultrawings 2 review - a less serious flight simulator

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Ultrawings 2 – Pilotwings never had online multiplayer (Picture: Bit Planet Games)

GameCentral reviews the PlayStation VR2 version of the popular flight sim sequel and the closest thing to a new Pilotwings game on modern consoles.

The fact that a large majority of your time in flight simulators is spent gazing out of the window doesn’t in any way limit their appeal. Looking out of the cockpit in VR, with its built-in sense of being somewhere else, really brings the experience to life, making it feel even more like actual flight.

Originally released two years ago on Meta Quest, and now available for PlayStation VR2, it’s fair to say that Ultrawings 2 isn’t really a flight simulator, even though both its sensation of flying and its responsive, accurately modelled controls feel very authentic.

That’s because it gamifies multiple aspects of your fights, from popping balloons using a dart gun, as you wing your way around its sunny archipelago of islands, to Pilotwings style flying through floating rings, with optional landings waiting at the end of most levels.

Before you take off, you’ll need to turn on the fuel pump and flick a switch to power the engine’s magneto before you can activate the starter and advance the throttle to get your engine going. And then you’re retracting the landing gear and off into the sky using one of the game’s three control methods.

The default uses the PlayStation VR2’s Sense controllers to fly using a virtual joystick, the controllers’ haptic feedback and the accuracy of their tracking making for an exceptionally rewarding flight.

Alternatively, you can use the thumbsticks to steer and yaw your plane, which while less accurate works perfectly well. In fact, you need to use this method when popping balloons or you’ll quickly run out of hands to fly and shoot simultaneously. The final option is plugging in the Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas 4, the only flight stick compatible with PlayStation 5, which works brilliantly, its throttle control and joystick proving easily the most subtle and intuitive control system.

Whichever method you choose, Ultrawings 2 is a significant graphical leap forward from the seven-year-old original, with landscapes looking sharper and more detailed, and little touches like the way the sun glints off your cockpit window as you turn, making for an even more compelling experience. Set across four architecturally and geologically diverse islands, you’ll find each has its own look and feel, with landmarks to fly past and bridges or rock arches to fly underneath.

There’s also a heartening variety to the missions you’ll undertake, which start with take-offs and landings before getting you to fly through rings, shoot down drones, fly through rings whilst shooting down drones, popping balloons, or using your WW2-era fighter and rocket-powered glider in dogfights against computer-controlled enemies – or versus actual humans in multiplayer. Perhaps that’s why it has a PEGI 16 rating for ’strong violence’, although that is certainly one of the more bizarre rating decisions in recent years.

Ultrawings 2 – a lot more fun than a regular simulator (Picture: Bit Planet Games)

There are six aircraft to unlock, varying from planes and a microlight to a rocket-powered craft with so little fuel that you need to keep turning the engine off and then on again to conserve it. Plus, there’s a helicopter too. To get hold of them you’ll need to unlock access to all of the game’s islands, each of which has two available airports, before you can then buy the planes that come with them.

Gently mocking you for your (frequent) failures and crashes, the game’s sassy sense of humour is a generally welcome constant, adding to the light-hearted feel created by generally sunny skies, colourful landscapes, and only enough realism to make flight characteristics consistent. It’s a delightful place to spend time, and time is most certainly what it takes, with the generous amount of content and testing difficulty level making for a surprisingly long-term challenge.

The fact that flying feels so pleasing makes up for the fact that you’ll regularly need to retry levels. It’s also why landings are optional, because at least for your first few hours with the game that’s where much of the danger lies. Having to fiddle with your plane’s flaps and throttle as you get perilously close to the runway can inadvertently lead to crashing and burning, which after an otherwise flawless flight can be frustrating, although you soon enough get the hang of it.

With its colourful good looks, refined flight mechanics, and variety of missions and aircraft, Ultrawings 2 is a cracking VR game. Its stupefying wealth of stuff to do and unlock comes with a sense of actually flying that would be impossible on a flatscreen TV. Sony’s PlayStation VR2 may have a cable connected to the back of it, but it’s still the most comfortable VR headset to wear by some margin and proves to be the very best way to enjoy this excellent game.



Ultrawings 2 review summary

In Short: A gloriously colourful VR flight simulator with a wealth of content and things to do, that never takes itself too seriously despite its dedication to authentic flying.

Pros: Pleasant looking landscapes and sense of motion when you’re in the air, a variety of genuinely different aircraft and islands to explore. Extremely good value for money.

Cons: The difficulty level does occasionally feel a little brutal and the humorous commentary can grate on your umpteenth retry.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PlayStation VR2 (reviewed), PC VR, and Meta Quest
Price: £15.99
Publisher: Bit Planet Games
Developer: Bit Planet Games
Release Date: 25th January 2024
Age Rating: 16

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