Are you ready for intergalactic war?
The vastness of space, battle-cruisers in the distance, a squadron of ace fighters vying for supremacy, and you’re in the middle of it all. The space-combat genre does not deserve to be forgotten. With the rapid advances in gaming technology, it seems like this genre has endless potential, but nobody is interested in realizing it. Born Ready Games, not content with the status of the genre, has developed Strike Suit Zero. Coupling the accessibility and challenge of an arcade game, with all of the elements of a grand space opera, Strike Suit Zero could be the kick in the pants space-combat needs to thrive once again.
In the year 2058, mankind discovers a mysterious signal. Its meaning is unclear, but it prompts a rapid expanse in space-colonization. All of these colonies hold the desire for freedom from Earth, but don’t have any means to bargain for independence. In time, they discover alien wreckage, and grant earth access to it in a bid for self-rule. Unfortunately, this relic proves to be far more valuable than thought possible, and this leads to war between the earth and the colonies. Now it is the year 2299, and you’re earth’s last hope.
After going through a brief training mission, to familiarize themselves with the controls, all pilots are assigned a ship. Each ship is equipped with a set of weapons, including the main cannons that deplete energy when fired, and a cache of secondary weapons with limited ammo. The UI tracks everything from status of the pilot’s ship, to the current objective, and any enemies they may be tracking. Flying takes a little while to get used to, as the best pilots must make extensive use for both analog sticks for maximum control. The results are great, as getting around is fluid and there is enough freedom to perform maneuvers of all types.
Being earth’s last hope, doesn’t grant pilots immunity from the mission. They’re typically expected to be at the front-lines, protecting their allies, and making sure the objectives are completed. Despite its assortment of weaponry, the standard craft doesn’t have the heavy firepower to take down cruisers or other massive ships effectively. They can however destroy turret placements, and fend off surrounding fighters, so that their more powerful allies can destroy the cruisers themselves. After a few missions, you’ll be granted access to the strike suit, but usually your objectives won’t change. In fact, pilots will gain access to other small ships. The interceptor specializes in maneuverability. The bombers trade speed for torpedoes, which makes them very weak in a dogfight. You’re allowed to retry completed missions with different ships.
The strike suit is worthy of special mention. It enables you to access strike-mode, which causes the ship to transform into a mech. This mech houses very powerful weaponry and evasive maneuvering. Unfortunately it must be used sparingly, and only the destruction of enemy vessels will recharge it. Knowing when to switch between modes will make a difference in later missions. Furthermore, the transformation between modes is pretty quick, so it might be worth employing strike mode, just for its evasive benefits. Overall, the combat is exceptional. Each encounter requires more out of the pilot, than merely following a targeting cursor. They have to know when to break off engagements to pursue enemy torpedoes, or focus on the objective even at the risk of their own demise. The key to winning the war; is prioritizing and managing each battle effectively, while knowing the limits of your role, and Strike Suit Zero does a great job of emphasizing these aspects.
The difficulty level of this game is generally on the high side. While checkpoints are usually frequent enough, and your ship is capable of taking quite a bit of damage, the cruisers, bombers, and other ships you’re escorting don’t have the luxury of temporarily fleeing from conflict to restore their shields. Hostile ships are relentless in their pursuit, and will unload their full arsenal regularly. All of this can become overwhelming. There are times when you have to destroy laser cannons on an enemy cruiser, but its flak cannons tear you apart when you get close. There are occasions, where it might even be necessary to get destroyed, as armor and ammunition don’t replenish in-between checkpoints. The same applies to the allied ships you escort. It’s easier to fail the mission, so that their armor gets repaired when the checkpoint restarts.
Each mission also has an optional objective. Accomplishing these tasks will upgrade your ship. It isn’t always clear how close you are to completing or failing the objective. There are even a few, where you’re better off completing later missions, so you can attempt the optional objective with better weapons. This aspect is pretty neat I’ll admit, but for the most part these tasks are unusually difficult. One in particular requires a cruiser to survive what is essentially a gauntlet. The enemy is throwing everything they have at this one ship, and no matter how much time you spend in strike-mode, you’re not going to be able to save it. Then again, for some this might be a seemingly insurmountable challenge that they’ll enjoy. Thankfully for the rest of us, this game can be completed, without attaining most if not any of the upgrades.
There are also a couple minor nitpicks, that I have to address. When an enemy is destroyed there is a brief yet blinding flash. It’s a little disorienting at first, but you should eventually get used to it. Online leaderboards are available which is always good. However, they track score by how many enemies are destroyed. This can be milked in certain missions, due to the constant and infinite enemy fighters that attack. Rather than revamp the scoring system entirely, it might be worth adding a second set of leaderboards for completing missions as quickly as possible.
In conclusion, Strike Suit Zero does exactly what it sets out to do. It provides exciting and intense space-combat, backed by a decent and – more importantly – unobtrusive story, with great music and graphics rounding everything out. All this makes for a great way to spend a weekend. Hopefully this game leads to a well-deserved resurgence in the genre, or at least an even better sequel. Support for mods and downloadable-content will also be available. This is all the more reason, to give Strike Suit Zero a look.