Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut Review
Written Monday, April 07, 2014 By Richard Walker
Take one part Battlestar Galactica, mix in a soupçon of Star Trek and then liberally throw in a Colony Wars shaped onion, and you not only get a lazy cooking analogy, but you also get Strike Suit Zero, Born Ready's explosive spacefaring shooter. Originally released for PC last year, the game has finally made the leap to next-gen consoles as Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut, with spruced up visuals, a restructured campaign and the five mission 'Heroes of the Fleet' campaign. It's also the first game in Microsoft's much-vaunted ID@Xbox program, indie game fans! Woo!
You assume the role of space pilot fella Adams, a new recruit in the United Nations of Earth, and the man picked to fly a new prototype fighter craft known as the Strike Suit. You escort allied frigates and carriers, shoot swarms of enemy fighters, pick apart larger cruiser ships, all while navigating through the vast expanses of outer space, admiring colourful nebulae and planets. And that right there is the rub. You'll find that you do very little beyond escorting, protecting and blasting chunks out of antagonist vessels until the credits roll. The same goes for the Heroes of the Fleet missions, which consist of more challenging objectives that put your ability to endure protracted and punishing space battles to the test, as you enter a simulation and relive the past glories or failures of other U.N.E. Pilots.
Some of the cloudy space vistas are lovely.
Since Strike Suit Zero lists Elite, Homeworld and Colony Wars as its influences, it's hardly surprising that the game takes place entirely in the never-ending abyss of space, as you and your nomadic fleet bounce from system to system in a bid to track down a relic. The story isn't particularly compelling and quickly grows tiresome, while the repetitious act of targeting and wearing down ships of varying shapes and sizes becomes a grind. Some engagements against larger craft become wearying battles of attrition, which can be especially irritating when you've got dozens of fighters zipping around you. It's not the deepest of games, let it be said.
With your objectives seldom changing, enjoying Strike Suit Zero comes down to the game mechanics, which are thankfully pretty robust. Like any flight combat game, you can pitch, roll, yaw and all that, although you can only choose from a handful of preset control configurations if the default layout doesn't suit your play-style. An option to map your own control setup would have been nice, but is sadly absent. The default setup works just fine, however, the only instance of fiddliness deriving from switching between your four weapons. When there's so much activity on screen, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming, and if you're anything like us, it's likely you'll panic, get muddled up and pick the wrong missiles or primary weapon for the job.
Your craft – and you can choose between several, including standard fighters and the transforming Strike Suit – is equipped with two types of missile and two variations of cannon fire that can be switched on the fly via the d-pad. Plasma cannons and machine gun fire are primarily used to strip enemy shields, while different missile types can be either locked on to enemies or fired at will to finish them off.
Your Strike Suit can only transform into its beefed-up bi-pedal mech mode once you've vanquished enough enemies to build up Flux energy, which feeds into a red bar that pulses when full, reminding you to transform. Doing so enables you to hold a button and track enemies, allowing you to blast them to smithereens with little effort. Every blast drains the Flux meter, so using the Strike Suit's robot guise is essentially a special, limited 'power mode' that's great for rapidly clearing a chaotic screen or shredding larger enemies in a snap.
Your ship has limited thrust. Use it wisely.
There's thirteen missions of this same rinse and repeat shooting and five more in the Heroes of the Fleet campaign, with little effort to inject any sort of variety into proceedings. If you're hoping to skim a planet's surface, destroy some ground targets or just do anything different outside of flying through space and blowing up fighters, cruisers, frigates, corvettes and the occasional fuel platform, then you're shit out of luck. Space really is the final and only frontier.
Strike Suit Zero's visual design isn't particularly inspired either, with boxy, smooth and clean ships, with none of the 'lived-in' scuffs and scratches that made Star Wars' universe seem so real and tangible. Sure, some of the battlegrounds look pretty enough, but a sense of deja vu pervades every facet of the game, whether it's endlessly blasting away or simply seeing the same old thing from beginning to end. One mission in which you pilot a bomber does nothing to combat the tiresome repetition either, simply changing the pace and nature of targets you happen to be firing at for all of 10-20 minutes.
Mercifully, each mission doesn't tend to outstay its welcome (for the most part), so at least the repetition is often short-lived, offering regular breaks. And checkpoints are liberally scattered throughout the campaign, even if some of them are slightly too far apart, requiring replaying of entire drawn out sections if you happen to get yourself killed. Even on normal difficulty, you'll likely find that getting yourself blasted to bits happens more often then you'd like, spinning out a fairly short campaign a little longer than it ordinarily would be. Strike Suit doles out its fair share of hair tearing frustration, that's for sure.
Somewhere in space, this could all be happening right now.
Strike Suit Zero's achievements add some replay value beyond simply completing the game's eighteen missions, though it's a list rather light on imagination. Granted there's an achievement for shooting the moon, for destroying certain vessels in specific ways and for beating the final mission in a slim seven minutes, but there's nothing to get too excited about. The fact that there's a paltry thirteen cheevos to unlock just smacks of laziness too.
While it does space combat well enough, Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is severely lacking in depth, with a lack of customisation a massive oversight. There are upgrades, but you have no control over them, and you can change your loadout, choose from a handful of ships but that's about the long and short of it. Add to that a story that does little to capture the imagination or make you really care about what you're fighting for, and Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is simply a serviceable space shooter that's mildly enjoyable while it lasts.
A score that's comprised of dramatic choral warbling, pounding drums, strings and synth noodling, rubs shoulders with the sounds of plasma projectiles, missiles and explosions. Voice acting is perfectly fine. We could do without the 'low shields' alarm going off every five seconds.
Not the most visually striking game we've seen on Xbox One, Strike Suit nonetheless looks the part, even if there's nothing of particular note. Ship designs are fairly standard, and there's nothing here that you haven't seen better realised elsewhere.
Once you get to grips with the initially quite bewildering control scheme, Strike Suit Zero actually becomes rather enjoyable, providing you're not in a situation where you're being bombarded from all sides. It's in these seemingly insurmountable moments that the game is at its most frustrating.
Eighteen missions that can be completed in a couple of days with enough perseverance, equating to about 6-8 hours of solid gameplay at a push. There's a selection of six different ships to choose from, but beyond that, there's very little replay value.
A serviceable but uninspired list that makes use of a piffling thirteen achievements. It won't take long to hit 1000G, but completing the list will take a fair bit of mission replays and will therefore test your patience to breaking point. In space, you can almost definitely hear us scream.
Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut isn't a bad game, it's just not a particularly great one. If you're screaming out for a space combat game in the Colony Wars mould, however, this will certainly fit the bill. Just don't expect to be playing Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut for a particularly long time after you've beaten the missions the first time around.
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