If there’s one thing we need more of, it’s competent aerial combat games. I don’t mean simulations like Birds of Steel or mind-numbing exercises in over-complication like Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X – I just mean a fast, accessible, pick up and play shooter that let’s me live out my Top Gun fantasies without muddying the mixture with wing-flaps, mid-air stalls and the disorientation of flying along with the sea above my head.
So it’s in the Director’s Cut of Born Ready’s Strike Suit Zero that I recently placed my faith, and I’m glad I did. Less Top Gun and more Space: Above & Beyond (which I actually prefer), Strike Suit Zero is a great space shooter that stands out by being the only one of its kind currently available on PlayStation 4.
You take the role of Adams, a space fighter pilot in the armada of future Earth, currently embroiled in a war against rebellious colonies spread across the galaxy. In the opening few levels Adams and his wingman (wing-woman?) Reynolds discover that the Colonial Black Fleet is in possession of a weapon powerful enough to obliterate planets – and they are heading to Earth. Along with various plucky space pilots, over-zealous Admirals and temporary accomplices, Adams and Reynolds race back home in a bid to stop the weapon from destroying their world.
As you might expect, the story isn’t amazing. It’s infused with enough urgency and heroic drive to just about carry it through from start to finish, and the scripting and acting is decent enough without being incredible – but then you don’t buy a sci-fi shooter expecting a great story, just a great ride, and Strike Suit Zero is certainly that.
The titular suit is given to Adams by an AI named Control who is coordinating the UNE counterattack against the Colonials. Part fighter ship and part flying mech, the Suit is a powerful tool and by far the coolest thing to pilot among Adams’ small roster of available craft. You build “flux” energy by destroying enemies or simply waiting for a meter to fill, and then hitting X will instantly transform your craft into the Strike Suit. What you lose in maneuverability you gain in firepower, and using the Suit form in conjunction with your ship’s normal form is the key to success.
Different ships have different weapons, and you can customise your loadout pre-fight. Once out in the big black, both right triggers cover your primary and secondary weapons (changeable with the D-pad), while the left triggers control your speed. Flight controls are standard, with banking on one stick and rolling on the other. You can also opt to be in or out of the cockpit, depending on your preference.
Strike Suit Zero’s greatest strength is its accessibility. For the first few minutes of the tutorial it may seem hard for newcomers to get their heads around the controls, but it’s not long before you’re using the full horizontal and vertical space around you to full effect. Understanding which weapon is right for which job isn’t always easy, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Each campaign mission grades you on a host of parameters, awarding you medals (or not) in parallel to your performance. This alone ensures that you’ll never run a level just once – the need to earn those medals and climb that leaderboard is just too great. The campaign is fairly lengthy, too, coming in at 13 decent-sized missions. Once you start unlocking upgrades (often awarded for completing secondary objectives), returning to previous levels is even more alluring. The mission structure is rarely surprising, offering the usual mix of escort duty, assault runs and dog-fighting, but then it’s not the kind of genre that courts originality.
Besides the campaign, the Director’s Cut also features an AI training suite wherein Control will put you through your paces by introducing you to increasingly challenging combat scenarios. It’s more pick-up-and-play than the campaign, but becomes pretty difficult pretty quickly. Again, you’re graded on your performance so the replayability remains at a premium.
While the oppressive atmosphere of deep space and the occasional flashes of colour and sparkle that break it up are enough to impress, Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut isn’t particularly stunning to look at – although it does have moments of real beauty, such as an early vista of a destroyed world, wreathed in fire and encircled by swathes of burning rock and dust. The craft designs have a Japanese mecha feel to them, none more so than the Strike Suit itself, but the environments, unsurprisingly, aren’t really varied enough to warrant much fanfare.
VERDICT: Strike Suit Zero is a solid space shooter that offers a well-crafted balance between arcade blasting and tactical challenge. Unless you’re a fan of dog-fights and sci-fi, you’re unlikely to give Born Ready’s console port a second glance, but if you’re after a user-friendly blaster with a decent lifespan and enough variety to stave off the tedium often inherent in the genre, then this comes heartily recommended.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.