You know what feels good? When you have something that lives up to the hype. Something surpassing it is rad as fuck, but given how often things crash and burn and don’t live anywhere NEAR up to the hype, it’s pretty fantastic when something you are hyped for lives up to all your expectations. And this game did just that. It was amazing. I haven’t played something this fun in years. A lot of games I’ve played lately have been just okay or mediocre, but this was such a breath of fresh air in my life. Ever wanted to RP as a pilot in Top Gun? I just got done rewatching that, ironically enough, so I did! This game gave me and a girly-mate of mine the closest that we’ll ever get to a dream we had, but can never have due to physical problems. For me it was a head injury and the fact I’m a giant. For her it’s being mute because of an illness. But we got to feel that rush. Lots to talk about, so let’s get down to it.
The plot of this game is set in the alternate universe Earth of Strangereal. Here, years after the Lighthouse War, the space elevator has been completed. But the completion of it brought strife between the kingdoms of Erusea and Osea. When Erusea declares war, it’s up to you as the silent protagonist, callsign Trigger, to bring an end to the conflict. The plot of this game is more window dressing than anything, so don’t take it too seriously. They just needed something to keep you invested. And it isn’t terribly done. There are some neat twists with neat ideas. Such as when the satellite networks of both nation crash and everyone is on their own. Wonder what would happen in the real world with such a situation.
What’s great about this game? Everything! For starters, the flying. This game, you can pick two methods of flying. You can have it be more simulation, or it can be more arcade. Both methods are fantastic. If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, I suggest going arcade. Trust me, it does nothing to hurt immersion. I haven’t played a fighter jet sim in forever, so that’s how I play. Flying in this game is intuitive and fun as fuck.
The environments are gorgeous! Though, there’s a caveat to that. See, the developers wisely chose to stress framerate instead of backdrops for more advanced consoles, so when you get up close stuff ain’t always pretty. But that was not an issue for me. Overall the environments are GLORIOUS! I play on a PS4 Pro, and holy fuck! This game looks amazing. The lighting is always pitch-perfect. No matter what time of day you’re flying, it looks stupendous. There were only a couple missions where the visuals bored me, but given the number of missions and all the parts of them that play a little differently, that is not a black mark against it.
So, what do you do in this game? Lots, actually. There are a couple basic types of missions. You have your straightforward affairs of going somewhere and accomplishing an objective, though you almost always have something coming into the mix to eff things up or making things more complicated. Then there are the dog-fighting missions, where you are pitted against foes, either the annoying-at-first drones, or ace pilots who are not playing around. Then there are my favorite types of missions – smashing shit up! These missions are typically wide open, and you are given one directive – blow shit up. Lots and lots of shit. You have a score you have to get to in order to succeed in the mission. These missions are awesome, and I would have liked just one or two more. It was great to just let out steam and go nuts.
Now, as this franchise has a pedigree of being very faithful to the fighter jets they are using, since while the world is fictional the jets are not, the big question becomes – what about the planes? I can say, they are amazing! For those of you who didn’t know, I live just down the way from an Air Force base, and my favorite days walking are when I get to see the F-22A Raptors flying around. Those things are awesome, so getting to actually earn and fly one was a dream come true. No joke, I was in love. I think I still am. But there are a TON of fighters, from models in America, Russia, Europe, and even China. Since the actual corporations who designed these things are represented, they clearly went above and beyond to get it right. The detail in the jets if phenomenal, and I cannot tell you how much I loved it. Which are my favorites? Alright, you greedy people, here is a list of my favorites, in order of my much I love them – F-22A Raptor, F-15C Eagle, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Have to show love to that last one, given that the Navy is my jam. Hooyah!
What are the downsides? The characters in this game are all stereotypes. Plus, there are plot points that go nowhere. Like one of your own having a person who was close to uncovering something killed, but they never tell you what and you never see that character again. I don’t hate them, but there isn’t a single memorable character in this game. The plot is also WAY melodramatic. I mean to the ENTH degree. That being said, it does keep you going. It was neat to get to the conclusion. Most of that coming from the well-animated cutscenes that mix in real world stuff with digital stuff. Neat effect, and pretty to look at.
Overall, this game was everything I could have asked for and more. It’s not the most complicated thing in the world, plot-wise, but that’s okay. The goal is to keep you invested to see it through and want to hop into the pilot’s seat again to dog-fight once more. Plus, since all levels have a score, you keep coming back to one-up your score and earn more currency to buy planes. It was hard to earn my F-22, but when I finally did, so worth it. Part of me wanted to be wearing a flight suit while I played. I felt the need. The need, for speed! This year is off to an amazing start, and this game has set the bar INCREDIBLY high. I love it so much. If you have even a passing interest in a fighter jet sim game, you CANNOT go wrong by getting it.
9 out of 10