- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PC, Xbox One
- Unleashed: Out now
- Publisher: Born Ready Games
- Developer: Born Ready Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.bornreadygames.com/
Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut gives you a spaceship that transforms into a robot. This piece of information will be enough to persuade a certain type of person to stop reading there and rush off to buy, and ordinarily we’d encourage such behaviour. This, however, needs to be a much more carefully considered purchase.
The story is a mildly depressing tale of humanity expanding to the stars, then fragmenting and going to war with itself. Although the story is told fairly well – the cutscenes are brief, it’s mostly told through in-game chatter, and the writing isn’t too bad (though the quality of the voice acting fluctuates wildly) – the bottom line is that it’s a story too big to fit into a campaign with just thirteen missions (which on Normal, we beat in five to six hours). It feels like there’s a movie – or, preferably, another thirteen missions – missing.
Nonetheless, first impressions are very good. The art design is reminiscent of fifties and sixties sci-fi novel artwork, and makes you feel like you really are in space, piloting and fighting against craft that don’t belong anywhere else. Similarly, the sound effects and music have clearly been designed to enhance the experience rather than merely complement it. This is a game that looks great, sounds great, and demands your attention.
At a fundamental level, you fly around shooting things and that’s about it. Just as well then that Born Ready Games succeed in this mechanic, where so many others fail. The main reason for this success is speed; you’re given much more control in this respect than most flight combat offers. Your craft is constantly moving forward at a fairly sedate pace, but you can pull on the brakes in order to slow to a crawl – or hold down boost (powered by a finite, recharging gauge) for a significant increase in speed. You can barrel roll and loop-de-loop if you want but, though this might make you feel like Han Solo on a day off, you’re offered no tactical advantage for doing so (if anything, you run the risk of becoming disoriented).
As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock a small number of different craft (not all of which transform), and a similarly small but interesting variety of guns and missiles. Though the craft all handle about the same, there are noticeable and important differences in terms of speed, boost, and armour; and the weapons also vary in important ways. Your standard primary weapons are your plasma cannons, for example, and there are three types which balance damage dealt and energy required per shot (like your boost meter, energy will slowly recharge when depleted). There are two types of machine guns, which can be fired continuously but rely on a limited stock of ammo; a rail gun unlocked late in the game, massively powerful but limited to one shot every five seconds or so; and a wide variety of missiles. Some home in once locked on to a target, some do not, and all vary in how much damage they can do. You’ll soon be able to make a craft & weapon loadout combo that complements your play style perfectly.
It’s not all pulsars and rainbows. One problem inherent in flight combat that SSZ:DC hasn’t managed to get around is that it is, of course, usually ineffective (and dangerous) to get too close to your targets. This means that while you can always get a good look at the larger ships, the dozens of smaller fighters you’ll face will usually be no more than indistinct circles and icons in the distance that you pew-pew at until they go away. Also, if you’re using a Strike Suit (a transforming ship), you’ll soon find that taking control of a giant mech in space is very disappointing. You stop dead immediately when transformed, with no forward momentum. You can move around, but much, much slower than when in ship form – and, strangely, you can only move along the Y and X axes (usually at an angle for some reason). Strike Suits require the Flux gauge to be filled for transformation, and this same gauge acts as ammo for the mech’s weapons. Different Strike Suits have different weapons (the gun of the first is almost useless) and the only reason you’ll find yourself going back to the transformation is for the missiles that don’t deplete your limited stock. Generally it’s a case of destroying ships to fill the gauge, transforming when needed, firing missiles until the gauge is depleted, then fighting as a ship again to refill it.
We were in fact enjoying the game very much – despite the distinct lack of variety in enemies and objectives – until we started hitting bugs. By the time we’d finished all the missions, we had been hit with three significant technical issues.
The first time we finished the main campaign two sets of narration played over the ending, making it impossible to hear what was being said (this did not happen a second time). The Heroes Of The Fleet DLC is also included here as standard, five extra missions featuring an admirable attempt to mix up gameplay which, sadly, usually just results in the mission dragging on a little too long. In the penultimate mission, triggering one of the final cutscenes gave us a black screen and no way back to gameplay. This happened twice in a row; we then restarted the game, skipped that custcene, and one/both of these allowed us to progress. Finally, in the same mission, the game simply crashed and returned us to the dashboard for no apparent reason.
Given these bugs – at least one of which is also present in the Xbox One version – combined with the price, we can’t justify scoring the game higher than we have. If/when these issues are comprehensively fixed, we’d say go for it; but until then, think if you’re prepared to buy frustration as well as enjoyment.