Posts Tagged ‘flight’

Ace Combat: Joint Assault (PSP)

Posted: September 11, 2010 in PSP
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There is a stretch of time during which every adolescent male is obsessed with posters. I have vivid memories of being dropped off at the mall with my friends, where we would scour the two or three stores with the best selections. We argued endlessly about which comic book characters, rock stars and supermodels were worth putting on our bedroom walls, but we all agreed on two things. First, the Lamborghini Countach was f**cking awesome, and anyone who didn’t have a poster of it was a total loser. Second, we all wanted to be military pilots. And we came to the conclusion that the easiest way to get started was to buy totally sweet posters of F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s and stare at them while pretending to do our homework.Videogames like Ace Combat: Joint Assault exist because that sort of jet craziness never really goes away. If you think airplanes are just big hunks of boring metal, you’ll probably never change your mind. But if you think they’re cool as hell, you always will. The problem is, it’s tough to bring the excitement, complexity and drama of piloting military aircraft to the masses. Games that attempt to simulate the experience risk jettisoning the fun. Those that focus squarely on fun often lose the sense of realism that makes these planes interesting in the first place.

Bring a friend.

The Ace Combat series has always been more about exciting, accessible and sometimes over-the-top aerial action than strict realism, although the latest installment, Ace Combat: Joint Assault, tries to paint a coat of authenticity over its whimsy by using actual cities such as Tokyo, San Francisco and London as settings. It’s a good idea in theory, but it doesn’t add much to the typical Ace Combat experience. They serve mainly as backdrops and have no real ties to the individual missions. At one point I was assured London was burning, which, although tragic, sounded like a cool thing to see. Unfortunately, it just looked like a pile of brownish blocks that were not on fire.

“Real world” settings are one of the big selling points for Joint Assault, the follow-up to 2006’s Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception. The others are an “enhanced combat” view that zooms in on your plane when you accelerate and a host of co-operative and competitive online multiplayer modes. For me, the latter is the only real reason to pick up Ace Combat: Joint Assault. The campaign missions are repetitive and rather dull, the voice acting is hilariously bad, and the storyline is nonsensical. If you can believe it, the main story revolves around insurance. That’s right, insurance. If there’s a more boring subject for a game about multi-million-dollar attack aircraft, please let me know in advance so I can bring a pillow.

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

The multiplayer is where Joint Assault comes to life. Gather a group of friends over via ad-hoc or infrastructure mode and choose to co-operate in the campaign missions (up to four players) or face off in the competitive mode (up to eight players). Joint Assault’s campaign missions have multiple branches that can be tackled simultaneously with other players. What’s more, in many missions, the outcome of one player’s objective will have an effect on another’s. Cool, right?

The multiplayer options in Joint Assault are plentiful. You can limit invitees by rank, share career data back and forth, set mission parameters and create teams in Vs. modes. If you get a solid group of friends together with multiple copies of Joint Assault, you’re in for some serious stick time.

But if you’re going to be playing solo, there’s just not that much to get excited about in Ace Combat: Joint Assault. Sure, you can unlock dozens of planes, emblems, weapons and paint jobs as you make your way through the missions. But most of the missions are uninspired and cheap. “Oh, no! The giant flying fortress that’s firing Electro Laser Cannons also has 12 anti-aircraft guns on it! Let’s take them all out! Awesome, we took them all out! Wait, why did they all come back again? Let’s destroy them again and hope they don’t come back! Shoot, they came back again!” You get the idea.

Aside from a few cool moments like unlocking the F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber, and, oddly, flying a persnickety executive around in an unarmed jumbo jet, there was nothing about this pocket pilot game that got me all that excited about flying. Given the choice between buying Ace Combat: Joint Assault (to play alone) and an equally priced bundle of airplane posters, I’d probably choose the latter. (ign)

  • Published by: Namco Bandai
  • Developed by: Project Aces
  • Genre: Flight Action
  • Number of Players: 1-8
  • Release Date: US: August 31, 2010 , Japan: TBA 2010
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • T for Teen: Mild Language, Violence


H.A.W.X. 2 (Xbox 360)

Posted: September 8, 2010 in PC, Playstation 3, Wii, XBOX 360
Tags: , , , , ,
I pull back on the stick and slam my throttle forward, gaining as much altitude and distance as I can, but it’s not working. There are six MiGs on my ass, all with active locks and an endless supply of missiles that seem just a little more accurate than mine, and none appear to be running out of flares the way I did five minutes ago. As I pull hard turns at G-forces that in reality would tear my plane apart to avoid a never-ending stream of missiles, I look at my radar to see where my wingmen are, and as I see a swarm of yellow arrows around me, I see a pair of green arrows kilometers away, seemingly flying in circles.Welcome to H.A.W.X.2.

Just 18 months after Ubisoft’s uneven opening foray into modern air combat, the H.A.W.X. squadron is again taking to the skies, now with take-offs and landing sequences, mid-air refueling, and four-player co-operative play through the campaign. Unfortunately, inconsistent level design and underwhelming multiplayer hurt H.A.W.X. 2’s appeal.

H.A.W.X.2. actually makes a pretty strong initial impression. While the visuals are still a little iffy – the planes look pretty good, and so do the environments, but the in-engine cutscenes have some pretty awful-looking human characters and major framerate issues – the experience of turning on your engines and taxiing to a runway to begin takeoff procedures is immersive and engaging, especially using Namco’s Flight Stick peripheral from Ace Combat 6, which is fully supported here as it was in the last game. I’ll give H.A.W.X.2 this: it generally guides you through some daunting new mechanics quite well, and gives a number of options depending on how comfortable you become with the nuances of things like carrier landings.

Controls are a different story. Using the standard controller, H.A.W.X. 2 can be a difficult game to get a handle on. While it’s not a simulator by any means, the controls are still complicated. They are not intuitively mapped onto face buttons and bumpers and triggers. You can make it work, sure, but it often feels like you’re fighting control shortcomings as much as any MiG. However, with the aforementioned flight sticks, it’s almost like a different game.

I feel conflicted here as a reviewer. I’m not the type to demand the use of racing wheels for games like Forza 3 or the Gran Turismo series, for example; I think it’s important that a game work and be enjoyable with the most common standard control method available. But you really will get more out of H.A.W.X. 2 with a supported flight stick and throttle than you will with a controller, both in immersion and overall control of your aircraft.

Of course, you still get the same design problems whether you’re using a flight stick or standard controller. While Ubisoft has stressed the inclusion of co-op as a major feature in H.A.W.X. 2, it’s a pain in the exhaust port to play. You need to create an unranked lobby from the multiplayer menu and select the co-op mode from the menu, as well as a mission, to fly alongside your friends against the forces of… er, whatever political movement the Tom Clancy franchise has specified as evil this week, I guess. It’s 2010, and while this isn’t different than every other Tom Clancy title that’s preceded H.A.W.X. 2 this generation, it would have been nice to see a more elegant and user-friendly implementation of the co-op experience here.

You’ll want to learn to make co-op happen though, I assure you. H.A.W.X. 2 has been designed for co-op play, to the point where it feels like there wasn’t much play-testing done for solo pilots making their way through the campaign. This wouldn’t be an issue if the friendly AI wasn’t so idiotic and the enemy AI so aggressive and robotically precise. The situation I described in the introduction? Completely legit, and it happened repeatedly.

Other missions found me by myself, chased by a pair of preternaturally skilled MiGs in an aircraft without missiles across a night sky dominated by anti-aircraft fire and no assistance at all. This resulted in a dogfight that lasted upwards of half an hour. I’m all for tension and hairy combat situations, but after 10 minutes of attempting to line up supersonic aircraft in my sights while trying not to stall my plane, I wasn’t having fun. It was frustratingly tedious. At least in co-op, when you run out of missiles after shooting down 60 enemy aircraft, you can crash into the ground and respawn with a full weapon loadout. And yes, that really happened, too.

H.A.W.X. 2 feels excessively padded in single-player by situations like these, where you’ll find yourself pulling G’s that would make an astronaut wet himself as you fly in circles for upwards of an hour trying to shake, lock on, and shoot down dozens of enemy planes. While these are broken up every few missions by UAV or C130 sequences (which feature appearances by a Russian special operative who bears a striking resemblance to Kestrel from this year’s Splinter Cell: Conviction co-op mode). Co-op mode shortens some missions, but difficulty spikes remain, and you may find you have a hard time drafting willing wingmen to go the distance through one or two missions, much less the entire campaign.

Competitive multiplayer hasn’t changed much from the previous game, and it continues to underwhelm. While there are now de rigeur inclusions of leveling, perks, and plane unlocks, the underlying dogfighting mechanic fails to satisfy. More skilled players are likely to run rampant all over newer pilots, while players of similar skill levels will likely find themselves locked in protracted dogfights that feel more anticlimactic than triumphant. (ign)

Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft Romania
Genre: Flight Action
Release Date: US: September 7, 2010
MSRP: $49.99
T for Teen: Language, Violence
Also Available On: WiiPlayStation 3PC

Top Gun

Posted: August 25, 2010 in PC, Playstation 3
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You would need to be at least 24 years old to have even been alive when Top Gun released in theaters. Sure, that isn’t that old — at least, that’s what I tell myself — but it does point out how, well, arbitrary a new game using the license feels 24 years later. It’s not a film that holds any particular amount of modern day relevance, outside of recent explorations of the bizarre undertones present in sweaty all-men volleyball matches. It’s fitting then that Top Gun’s gameplay also holds little modern day relevance, relying instead on tired arcade shooter conventions from multiple console generations ago.

You already know what the missions in Top Gun are; it’s to the point where I considered adding a paragraph break and letting you all guess before I could tell you how smart you are for figuring it out. You’ve got objectives that require you to take out gun emplacements, missions that require you to shoot down tons of enemy aircraft, missions that require you to escort a wounded fighter, and missions to kill a specific target. If that sounds familiar, it’s because those are the same game types that have been in flight combat games for about two decades now.

It would be less annoying to see such predictability if the game weren’t such a chore to control. You can only lock on to one target at a time with missiles and guns no matter how many active missiles you have at the ready, and you have to be within a few kilometers to get an active lock most of the time. It’s not that Top Gun is difficult by virtue of these things; it’s just boring because of them. While there are ostensibly a few different objectives you might have to achieve, ultimately, missions become exercises in flying toward something in as straight a line as possible, locking on with missiles, firing, and repeating. If you miss, you’ll overshoot your target and need to get some distance between you and the offending whatever and make a wide 180-degree turn to take another shot.

Paramount has stressed Jack Epps Jr.’s involvement in Top Gun. While Mr. Epps was indeed one of three writers involved in the script for Top Gun, his presence barely registers here. In fact, what little new “story” there is in the game errs more on the side of Viva Rock Vegas than Top Gun — it’s awkward and embarrassing. Top Gun takes bits of exposition and dialogue from the film and places them often without any context whatsoever during the in-mission cutscenes — including the out of nowhere occurrence of the “Flat Spin Moment,” which happens after a mission but ends without showing what happens and picks up again after Maverick has returned to flight school following Goose’s death. In the movie, this part is sad. In the game, I was just excited I didn’t have to hear Goose anymore. The voice acting in Top Gun sounds like a live reading of the movie’s script by the cast of Dragonball.

But then, at least Goose speaks. While you’ll be playing as Maverick, you certainly won’t be speaking as Maverick, to the point where your Rio will accept compliments on your behalf. I guess if I were Maverick, I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone in this game either.

The best part about Top Gun is the multiplayer, which is… just OK, actually. I had some trouble consistently finding games, but when every player is at the mercy of the same so-so controls, some fun can be had. That said, it’s difficult to expect that a strong multiplayer community will spring up around Top Gun, unfortunately. (ign)

Microsoft Flight’s logo, as seen on the game’s website.

Yet upon this release, Flight Simulator has a new name: Microsoft Flight. The game’s website claims that it was ‘inspired’ by the original Flight Simulator series that first launched in 1980 (on Apple’s II), with the last version (Flight Simulator X) being released in 2006.

Microsoft’s original “Flight Simulator”. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Details are scarce at the moment, and the website is live, but has limited information with the exception of a press release and a video. The game is set to appear on Games For Windows Live later this year.


Posted: August 12, 2010 in Nintendo DS/i/3DS
Tags: , ,

If there was anything that Face Pilot was good at, it’s showing that developers should not rely on the DSi’s camera to take the place of a good ol’ accelerometer for tilt control. This game feels like it was developed just to prove a point to the Nintendo R&D department that the next DS system absolute needs some sort of motion chipset, because the camera just doesn’t cut it. Face Pilot is absolute proof of this fact: if it works it’s a victory, but mostly it’s just one big frustrating mess getting the game to know where your face is and where you want your hang glider to fly. This is one dreadful DSiWare game, and a terrible tech demo of the system’s capabilities. This was published by Nintendo?

Imagine a segment of Pilotwings where you control the hang glider around the environment by tilting the system. Makes sense, right? But here, because the DSi lacks accelerometer features like the Wii remote does, the controls are your face. That’s right, your face. This isn’t the first time the face has been used as in-game controls on the DSi: Looksy’s Line-up used the camera and the player’s face to move the 3D environment, and even here it wasn’t perfect. A nice tech demo, sure, but definitely a game that should convince developers to stay away from those cameras for face recognition control.

Come on, the Nintendo DSi cameras are far from the most sensitive of optical devices for full motion control: the game’s looking for a traditional face: two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a general round shape, but good luck finding the optimal lighting conditions in making this happen. Your skin tone has to be so far extreme from your choice of background that it’s nearly impossible to find an area where the game can lock onto your face and not something else, like a crack in the wall or a leaf formation in the trees. Even a flat white can baffle the facial recognition and cause your hang glider to go all spastic.

If the controls worked Face Pilot would have been a nice, albeit dull, relaxing flight over a variety of locations. But the controls do not work, and it’s just one frustrating experience that feels like a total waste of Nintendo points.

  • Published by: Nintendo
  • Developed by: HAL America
  • Genre: Flight Simulation
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: July 26, 2010 , Japan: July 28, 2010
  • MSRP: $5.00
  • MSRP: JPY ¥500.00
  • E for Everyone
  • Also known as: Face Pilot

(via ign)

If you are a big Gorillaz fan like me, playing a videogame based on the exploits of the band sounds like an exciting proposition. After all, these characters look like they’d be right at home in a videogame. Escape to Plastic Beach, though, is not that videogame. This is a pointless venture designed solely as support for an album. The guy in the meeting room who dared to suggest that Escape to Plastic Beach should also maybe include a little bit of fun was summarily dismissed.

As possibly demonic guitarist Murdoc, your goal is to prevent vocalist 2D from escaping Plastic Beach. To keep 2D in check, you must circle around the Plastic Beach atoll in a glider and shoot his getaway vehicles. Before you get the idea that this is an exploratory flight of fancy like Glyder, think again. The arena is small, cluttered, and poorly designed. And this is made all the worse by poor tilt controls. Getting proper responses out of Murdoc’s glider is frustrating, especially when you must skim the ocean while zeroing in on 2D. Too often, you crash into the water while trying to line up a shot.

In addition to preventing 2D’s escape, you must deal with other enemies  like pirate ships as well as add seconds to the clock by soaring through  airborne rings. Targets and collectibles hang amongst the rings, but they  are decidedly out of the way of your primary objective. Thermals placed  around Plastic Beach are supposed to give you greater height to reach  these secondary goals, but with shoddy tilt controls on both the iPad and  iPhone, getting the most out of a thermal is a slipshod affair.

Two things could have saved Plastic Beach. One, better controls. The  second fix would be sensible game design. Why are all of these thermals  here if they really don’t help me get at 2D? Why not have 2D fly around the  island and force me to use the thermals to chase him down rather than just  using them to go after some pointless collectibles?

One last thing: why is this not a universal app? If the iPad version of Plastic Beach included some unique content or stages, I would understand the need for two different downloads. But the game is the same on each platform.

  • Published by: Matmi
  • Developed by:Matmi
  • Genre: Flight Action
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date:US: July 26, 2010
  • MSRP: $1.99
  • Also Available On: iPad, iPhone

(via ign)