Berfore I review this game, a quick autobiographical entry. . .
When I was about 10 or 11 my brother purchased a second-hand Amiga 500 (upgraded to 1MB of RAM!) which came with tonnes of games. There were platform games, racing games, strategy games (my first introduction to turn based strategy with Laser Squad), but my favourites were the flight sims! And chief among the flight sims were Cinemaware's 'Wings'
and Microporse's F19 Stealth Fighter
. Both of these were immersive games, which dropped you into the role of a aircraft pilot flying in a conflict bigger than you and your aircraft.
A few years later I was old enough to start earning some moneym and I soon treated myself to playstation, which came with G-Police
again, a fantastically immersive game, but something was changing. Instead of the 4-8 missiles that you could carry in F19, the Cobra gunship was equipped with 60. By the Time I excitely rushed out and bought Ace Combat 3
the situation had quite frankly gotten ridiculous. With payloads numbering in the hundreds and missions starting over the combat area offering no sweaty handed perspiring brow moments where an enemy patrol threatens to jump you before you've even got close to the target zone!
Fast forward to 2005 and I was idly flicking thorugh the usual websites reading reviews for Ace combat 5 (and lamenting the number of missiles you were still equipped with) when in the 'if you like this you may also like' box was an entry for 'Energy Airforce: aim strike' "steep learning curve" lamented the reviewer, "punishingly small payload" "incoming missilees almost impossible to evade" "half hour missions" "Difficult landings" I got no further through the review as I had to excuse myself a go to the toilet for a few deep breaths and a splash of cold water!
Energy airforce is a realistic flight sim, on the PS2. or as I call it, mana from heaven. You play the role of a pilot in a non-descript airforce in a war against a military dictatorship of a non-descript country.
After passing a couple of the flight training levels (not mandatory, but highly recommended) I started the first mission. You attend a briefing, then arm your aircraft, and your wingman (tactical choices later, such as arming yourself for ground attack, and your wingman to cover you in the air are possible) and on to the mission: Patrol for enemy aircraft, simple. take off, follow the waypoints, patrol the border for 5 minutes, then RTB for tea and crumpets, meat and two veg to a seasoned flight sim player like me!
After twice crashing whilst taxying to the runway (once by overshooting the tarmac and destroying my landing gear, once by crashing into my wingman's arse because i didnt brake soon enough) I finally got my plane lined up, recieved permission from the tower, engaged afterburners and was away.
Instantly it was obvious that this is meant to be experienced as much as played. The game makes great use of the dual shock's rumble feature, giving you a great feeling of speed as you accelerate and lift off the runweay, the vibration suddenly lessening as you leave the ground. Your allies and wingmen engage in both mission related communications, and idle bitching chit-chat as you head for the first waypoints (by the way, you WILL be too slow to get there, and you WILL be told of by the AWACS controller, not because its written in the game, but because you aint got the hang of it just yet!). The cockpits of the aircraft are highly detailed, and the game employs a virtual cockpit freeview system where you can look all around you (vitally important, as your radar has blind spots).
The handling of the (officially licenced) aircraft feels right. Not over-sensitive, but at the same time responsive. you'll also suffer black-outs and red-outs if you start to manouver too sharply (holding your breath and grunting doesn't help) an element missing in so many console flight-sims right now. The ground detail isn't particualrly astounding at zero-zero, but it is created from real radar mapping, and meant to be viewed from high-altitude, where it looks just fine and dandy.
The biggest plus for me of this game being on a console, is that the controls have to fit on a PS2 joypad. This has made sure Taito only keep the controls that are neccesary, and throw away anything that overcomplicates things. They've done a fantstic job of this, you can control everything that (I feel) a flight sim needs; landing gear (flaps are lowered at the same time) ,arrestor hook, target and weapon selection, wingman commands, and even countermeasures to avoid missiles, (though this takes A LOT of practise and mission restarts to do). As I mentioned before, you can only carry a realistic payload of missiles & bombs. However, whilst Ace combats myriad missiles have a 3km range, the Energy airforce missiles can be fired at realistic ranges of around 30km for amrams and 12-15km for sidewinders.
Which leads me on to the combat. The first few times I attempted the first mission I was mercilessly slaughtered! Like taking down Lobstermen on TFTD, you need a bit of practice before you get the hang of combat. Flying in, locking on, ordering your wingman, firing, switching targets, and evading any incoming missiles in the space of 5 seconds takes a bit of juggling, and enemy AI is quite advanced. But when you get there. . ooooh it's so satisfying! and the first time you wipe out the final mig using nothing more than machine guns gives you a sense of achievment that is missing in most video games in general, let alone flight sims.
Then after the mission there are replays, with multiple camera angles and the option to save them to memory card (though at half an hour each, you'll need a lot of space).
Overall, it's hard work getting to grips with this game, but for me it was a labour of love. If you enjoy flight sims, buy it now!
Interstingly, this is ine of only a few games released in the west that is compatible with the PUD J5A headset (pictured below) allowing you to look around the cockpit by moving you head. It's also a very space concious way of watching your DVDs on a huge screen. unfortunatley my budget won't stretch to importing one from Japan, but any donations kindly recieved!
the games website is Here
and features some great 'pigeon-engrish'
p.s. I know it's 'quick' game reviews, it started off quick but I had to mention this, then that, then this then that, and suddenly it was long