By: Jared Black
It never fails.
Developers get a shiny new piece of hardware to play with, one which
will allow them to push graphical boundaries to new heights. And
yet, in their rush to get a game out the door at the launch of that
hardware, they forget that there should be a solid playing game to
back it up. Thatís the case with Airforce Delta Storm
(AFDS), a game that clearly focuses more on technical merits than
providing a great playing experience.
Set sometime in
the near future (the year 20X1, which is an excuse not to provide a
specific year), AFDS finds you in the realm of a mercenary. The
world has been divided into the Haves and the Have Nots,
and naturally the two sides are at war with each other. This is your
opportunity to profit, so you set out to conquer 50 or so missions
and earn yourself lots of cash. And thatís basically it. Thereís
little character development throughout the game, and you find
yourself with no other motivation than to earn more money and buy
better looking planes. Compared to the storyline in Ace
Combat 4: Shattered Skies, itís a joke. Strike 1.
The gameplay is
about what youíd expect. As you travel through the 50 different
missions, youíll be able to earn up to 70 different aircraft to
control. What sets this game apart is that each mission map is set
up almost like a platform game (think Super Mario Worldís
map). You move across this map through the use of move points, which
only allow you to fly over a certain number of hot spots at a time.
Thereís one objective on the map that you must reach and conquer,
but along the way youíll have to fly through various "hot
spots" and take out objectives there. Generally this objective
is just one specific target, so all you have to do is find the
object on your radar that highlights red and blast it. There are
other targets that you can take out just for fun (and extra cash),
but they donít need to be destroyed to complete that hot spot.
This actually adds a bit of strategy to things, as youíll need to
pick the right plane (based on its HP, armor, missile capacity,
etc.) for the job. And while you can return to your base and repair
your plane in the middle of a mission, youíll often have to fight
your way back through areas that have been reoccupied by enemy
All of this is
OK, but what messes up the gameplay is that itís extremely
mindless. For each mission destination and hot spot, you basically
just follow the arrow on your screen until you reach the
objective(s). Once youíre within range and your missiles lock on,
just fire away. Thatís pretty much all there is to the gameplay.
Acquire objective #1, blow away objective #1. Rinse and repeat. Of
course running out of missiles will make things a bit more
difficult, but all you have to do then is take them out with your
unlimited ammo machine gun. And running out of missiles rarely
happens if you use them with any degree of skill. This wouldnít be
too bad if your enemies had a brain, but unfortunately they do not.
Avoiding enemy machine gun fire is a very easy task, and youíre
given plenty of advance warning to maneuver before an incoming
missile makes it to you. Strike 2.
Where this game
does shine is in the graphics department. Each of the planes is
based on a real-world counterpart, and looks extremely realistic.
Everything is self-shadowing, and flying straight into the sun will
blind you in a very realistic manner. The weaponry and explosions
look awesome as well, and put to shame those in other games in this
genre. All of your flaps react realistically as you pilot your
craft, as do various enemies (land, air, and sea based). The area
each mission is set in is vast, with a good amount of detail on the
ground. However, youíll be doing most of your flying from high
altitudes and from there everything on the ground blends into a
fairly generic mass. There are a few distinct landmarks scattered
here and there, but a few more wouldnít have hurt (the mostly
empty areas certainly arenít testing the Xboxís power) and wouldíve
helped to make it seem like more of a living world.
The sound is
nothing special, and is found lacking compared to other games in the
genre. The most glaring problem is that there isnít a single bit
of radio chatter to be found. Compared to the abundance of quality
voice acting found in Ace Combat 4, I just get a real lonely
feeling whenever Iím playing AFDS. Are my enemies coordinating
anything? Do my allies even speak? Engine and weapons sounds are
very generic. While they arenít terrible, itís clear that the
real thing wasnít sampled here. The music is forgettable, with a
mixture of lame guitar tracks and generic 80ís rock beats. Strike
graphics, with only some generic landscapes to mar the
- Although itís
mindless, watching your enemies go down in a ball of fire is
- Good mixture
of land, sea, and air targets.
- Combat is too
mindless, and everything boils down to simple hunt and peck
- The music is
pretty lame, and voice acting is nonexistent.
- No storyline
to serve as extra motivation or to give a sense of purpose
(other than making money).
is by no means a bad game, but itís clear that technical merits
were given higher priority than the actual gameplay. If youíre a
big fan of this genre and donít own a PS2, then AFDS isnít a bad
purchase to make. For everyone else, I suggest you go check out Ace
Combat 4 (or skip the genre altogether for now) instead.