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Reviewed: Aerial Strike
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: April 7th, 2005
Page: 2

On the inside cover of Aerial Strike's box is a quote: "Air Combat Never Looked So Good." After playing the game, I'd have to agree - if nothing else, Aerial Strike is GORGEOUS. Even more impressive, it manages to maintain an incredible level of beauty on modest system requirements: the tricks are all in how the game's arranged.

Combat all occurs close to the ground in Aerial Strike, which means that there's no skimping on the detail. The screenshots below will give you a good idea of what to expect - objects that need them, are given enough polygons to do the job, and the rest is filled in with T&L on textures. The result is a gorgeous game and graphics that are simply amazing for the game's modest system requirements.

The menus are basic, but they get the job done.

Flying in over home base; note the detail level.

Missions are passed around "on the fly" through in-screen briefings.

Audio-wise, Aerial Strike is mediocre, but it's not BAD. The music never intrudes, though it's nothing tremendously noticeable. The voices are occasionally overacted, but it's a budget title, and that's to be expected to some degree. To their credit, none of the voice actors break character. Getting yelled at by the base's comm officer is something to be expected and smiled at.

Landing, or engaging in specific tasks, occasionally shows off the outside of the ship.

No, that's actually a cutscene. Yes, they're that well rendered.

The water effects, while not being up to cutting edge, take full advantage of what T&L can show off.

Load times are a bare minimum, and most of the game's mission briefings are accomplished "on the go." It's pretty much standard "go here, get this, blow this up" fare, but it's an arcade shooter, so expecting much more is pushing your luck. Even so, the graphical brilliance of the game makes it hard to want to stop; indeed, Aerial Strike gets players into the game with the eyes.

So what's the problem?

Unfortunately, and sadly, the designers of Aerial Strike screwed up on the control system, in two important areas.

In the first part, whether using a keyboard, mouse, or joystick, the ship itself is just unresponsive. Even ramping up the Mouse interaction to full speed with a Razer Viper mouse, the ship's turning radius is slow; if this were a simulator game, sure, I could bite on it, but this is a dogfighting arcade shooter involving a craft that's got a "hover" mode, and it ought to turn on a dime. The alternate mode, "jet" mode, basically involves hurtling forward at a slightly-out-of-control forward speed; you've got some brakes, but they're limited in what they can do.

The second part, and the real headache, is the targeting reticle. Unlike most dogfighting games, Aerial Strike features lock-on shooting; get the reticle close enough to a valid target, and the reticle will shrink down and attach itself, indicating a lock. That's your cue to fire your weapons until they run dry. It's also incredibly vertigo-inducing, because years of flight simulators and FPS gameplay have taught players that the one item that NEVER moves in the HUD is their targeting reticle; to have it randomly zooming in and out of the screen is almost certain to throw gamers for a loop.

But is it worth buying? Well... I'm STILL tempted to say yes. It's only $20 to pick up, less if you find it in the bargain bin. And as a bargain bin title, it's a steal.

If not for the controls, they could have sold this for more, and it would have sold well.


Added:  Thursday, April 07, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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