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AirForce Delta Strike

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I picked up Air Force Delta Strike today and logged about 5 hours into it. So far it seems like a very solid entry into the flight combag genre, although I don't think it's going to blow anyone away.


Delta Strike features a futuristic scenario in which the Orbital Citizens Community has launched an attack against Earth. Of course, Earth's forces are taken by surprise in the early part of the war, and a rag-tag resistance of stereotypical anime characters forms to fight off the oppressors. The characters are overdone to the point of being satirical and they've had me grinning from ear to ear for most of the time I played. Among others, there is a speed freak, an old man who won't fly anything but vintage WW2 planes, an ace who has trouble following orders, an unseasoned kid, and of course, the obligatory main character who has a habit of saying "...". The plot is integrated heavily and drives the game along. You move around the base Front Mission 3 style by selecting the location you want to go to from a menu. Occasionally you can talk to other characters, which is done through largely static anime style portraits and text. The mission briefings feature voice-overs in addition to the text and generally feature amusing bickering among the characters. However, it doesn't stop when the mission begins. The characters talk through the entire mission, and the dialogue is often relevant to the plot and character development. Again, like the characters, the dialogue is overdone to the point of being amusingly satirical.


Lilly: Wolf, what are you doing? Get back in formation!

Wolf: .....

Lilly: Wolf, do you copy?

Wolf: The hunter is tracking his prey.

Lilly: The bombers are the objective here, go after the bombers!

Wolf: The bombers don't count in the final tally, I'm an ace dammit.

Lilly: Wolf, I am your superior. I'll have you court martialed if you don't follow orders.

Wolf: My superior? Ha! I've been flying longer than you have.


The downside of all this dialogue is that it's tough to follow while in combat. If a mission features a lot of juicy stuff, I generally watch the replay to take it all in. Overall, the plot and characters are a significant portion of the game that I enjoy, but they may turn those off who don't have a sense of humor. The plot is thick enough to where AFDS feels like an RPG at times, which is a plus in my book.



Graphically, AFDS is behind the times. It runs at 30FPS, isn't especially clean, and doesn't have anything amazing in terms of effects, draw distance, etc. It does not look as good as Ace Combat 4. The graphics are very utilitarian and they get the job done while occasionally looking nice, but they won't be winning any awards.


The sound on the other hand, is very solid. The music is well composed an in a style that suits the action well. Given that the voice actors are portraying stereotypes, I think the volumes of spoken dialogue are good as well. The constant chatter and good music during missions do a nice job of contributing to the atmosphere.


The gameplay is better than most professional reviewers have given AFDS credit for. The feel of the planes is very similar to that of AC4. However, they don't have that super smooth feeling, instead reacting to commands in a rougher fashion. I'd imagine pulling tight turns at mach 3 isn't a smooth experience, and the slightly weightier feel of the planes is welcome. The armaments I've used are standard fare so far. In general, the planes have missiles, machine guns, and another weapon that could be bombs, specialized missiles, etc. The third weapon must be purchased seperately from your ship. Speaking of ships, there are over 100 of them and unlocking them is handled in an interesting way. You can pick your pilot when you go into a mission, and each pilot has access to a limited number of the planes. This should provide some good replay value, since I don't think there will be time to build up all the pilots in one playthrough. The mission structure is also slightly nonlinear, and I have read that AFDS has multiple endings. From what I've played so far, it looks like AFDS will be a good length the first time through with multiple playthroughs still being entertaining.


The combat is solid. Unlike AC4, missiles are a threat and they WILL hit you if you don't evade. Ammo is limited, meaning you can't just fire off salvos of missiles willy-nilly unless you want to be stuck using the machine gun. However, if you wait until you have a good bead on the enemy and don't fire when missiles obviously won't hit(ie: you have a lock but you're approaching from the side rather than from behind), ammo shouldn't be a problem. As a nice touch, your payout for kills is modified by the weapon that you use. If you use unguided weapons like bombs and machine guns, kills are worth a lot more cash.


The missions are also interesting and varied. There are some generic dogfight missions interspersed for you to earn cash, but the storyline missions have been great so far. The generic missions come at two points. Occasionally you will be assaulted on the way to a "real" mission and you'll have to clear out the enemies. Also, if you finish up the "real" missions in a phase early, you'll have the option of flying a few extra dogfight missions for cash up until HQ sends new orders. I won't go into the mission scenarios to avoid spoiling the plot, but they vary from simple search and destroy to complicated multi-phase escort missions. If anyone wants more information about this area, just PM me.



Overall, AirForce Delta Strike gets my recommendation, especially considering the price. It is on sale at Best Buy for $29.99 this week, and a gift card coupon will knock it down to $24.99. Not bad for a game that just came out and retails at $39.99. If you are a fan of the genre, you like your games to have some plot, and you won't be bothered by decent but underwhelming graphics, AFDS is a definate buy. If you are a graphics whore or you simply don't enjoy the genre, then your money would be better spent on something else.



Oh, and fans of other Konami games will get some nice surprises in terms of secret planes.

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