Strike Suit Zero Review - Leave the Mech at Home

Andy Chalk | 5 Feb 2013 15:00
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The space combat sim genre doesn't get much love these days. It's a void in the heart that Strike Suit Zero does its best to fill and it makes a pretty decent go of it, with flashing beams and explosions galore in massive, frantic battles between dozens of ships both large and small. But underneath all that sizzle, there's very little in the way of steak, and the truth is that in the midst of melees that make the attack on the Death Star look like a spitting match, I found myself feeling a little bored.

Strike Suit Zero is a pure yank-and-bank arcade space sim. There are no shields to balance, no energy to transfer, no complicated sensors to mess around with; the throttle is limited to three settings - fast, slow and cruise - and there's not even a proper cockpit view in first-person mode. If you want to pick nits it's not even really "yank-and-bank," since despite being a flight sim it's actually much easier to play with a mouse than a joystick. Both are supported but the unlocked crosshair in mouse mode allows weapons to be aimed beyond your ship's direction of travel, which makes tracking and killing enemies much easier.

You begin the game as a fighter jockey who's trying to earn reinstatement after being kicked off the flight line for some reason. Naturally, all hell breaks loose in a war between Earth and one of its dissident colonies during your final test flight, leaving Earth's navy decimated and helpless against a huge fleet armed with a mysterious planet-busting weapon and a grim determination to use it. It's a desperate situation, and despite being an unreliable screwup, it's up to you to put a stop to it. And that's no overstatement - it's all up to you. If you don't take out the targets, they don't get taken out; if you don't protect the bombers, they get shot down; if you don't haul ass to defend the critical asset that's mere moments away from being turned into burning space junk, neither will anyone else. It's normal for players to fill the heroic role in videogames, but your fellow pilots in this one are useless to the point of silliness.

After a couple of introductory missions behind the stick of a conventional space fighter, you'll find yourself seated in the eponymous Strike Suit Zero, a prototype heavy fighter that can transform into an incredibly destructive giant robot - a mecha. Leaving aside questions about the practicality of a humanoid robot floating around in the middle of space, the SSZ in "strike mode" - which is to say, giant robot mode - kicks a lot of ass, with a primary weapon that delivers a tremendous punch and never runs out of ammo. But as hard as it hits, its mobility is comparatively terrible and in combat, speed is survival. The net result is that while it's handy against stationary targets like supply depots and gun emplacements on capital ships, it's not particularly useful in the massive, Star Wars-style furballs that make up the core gameplay of space combat sims. The Strike Suit ends up feeling like a magical space howitzer being towed by the Concorde: fly up to a target, transform, blow the bejeezus out of everything in range, transform back and hit the road. It's possible (and, I would venture, more fun) to spend most of your time in "pursuit mode" - that is, fighter mode - but success sometimes depends on dishing out the massive, wholesale destruction that only the suit can deliver.

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