Having already been released for PCs, Macs, and Linux, the downloadable space flight combat game Strike Suit Zero is now coming to both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as the Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut. But apparently the fourth and fifth time aren’t the charm since this game’s fundamental problems undermine what might’ve been a solid space shooter.
Set hundreds of years in the future, Strike Suit Zero casts you as a spaceship pilot who gets into a series of dogfights during a civil war between Earth and its colonies.
For those who didn’t play it on a computer — present company included — Strike Suit Zero takes a unique approach to the space dogfighting genre by having controls that are midway between arcade-y and simulation-style. While they’re decidedly less sensitive than they would be in a realistic pilot game, they’re not nearly as forgiving or simple as they would be in an action-oriented shooter.
Strike Suit Zero also takes the same approach to your weapon systems. Much like an arcade shooter, you can switch on the fly between two different missile launchers, or between two machine guns, with one of the latter having an unrealistically infinite number of bullets. But in a nod to simulation-style games, your weapons have realistic limitations. Your enemies can outrun or outmaneuver your homing missiles, for instance, while one of the machine guns is only effective at close range.
Your ship also comes equipped with an EMP, which can take out incoming missiles, though you have to trigger it manually when an missile is nearby.
As if having four different kinds of weapons and an EMP wasn’t enough, Strike Suit Zero also lets you pilot a Strike Suit, which can transform from a fighter into a Gundam-esque mech. In this form, you not only have more powerful weapons — including guided missiles that can target multiple targets simultaneously — but also have a sideways dash you can use to avoid incoming attacks.
The downside of this transformation is that you don’t have an EMP when your ship is in this form. You also can’t stay in it indefinitely, or go into it whenever you want, since you can only make the conversion when you have enough of a specific energy type that, oddly, you only get by killing enemy ships.
Regardless of which ship you take into battle, and what form and weapons you use once you’re there, Strike Suit Zero still treads familiar ground. While there are story elements that change your motivation, you’re still going from one dogfight in space to another in the both thirteen missions that comprise the campaign and the five challenge missions that will really test your flight skills.
Unfortunately, though, what will really test your flight skills in Strike Suit Zero are the controls. While there are different configurations, none of them work perfectly. While “Default” has the machineguns and missiles on the right trigger and right bumper, respectfully, it also puts pitch and roll are on the left thumbstick, and pitch and yaw are on the right one, which makes it hard to steer. But while the “Colonial” layout makes it easier to maneuver, since it places pitch and yaw on the left stick and pitch and roll on the right one, it oddly moves the machineguns and missiles to the less convenient left trigger and left bumper for no apparent reason.
Admittedly, this won’t bother everyone, depending on your preferences. And, truth be told, after a couple hours, I got used to it to it…but only to a certain extent. At no point in my career as a Strike Suit pilot did I ever feel like I was in total control of my ship. Which is why I only found myself wanting to play a mission or two before I felt like taking a break to do something else.
Though this just created its own problems because later, when I’d come back to play some more, the game would often crash while loading. And once it did work, it would reset my options and sometimes not even notice that I was already signed into my profile, forcing me to sign in again. Granted, these issues will probably be fixed soon with a patch (at least I hope so), but they were still annoying.
Then there are Strike Suit Zero’s superficial issues. Such as the visuals, which are rather underwhelming. With graphics that aren’t all that detailed, this looks more like a Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 game than an Xbox One/PlayStation 4 one. But what’s worse is that the ship designs are rather dull and pedestrian. While the frigates resemble the Sulaco from Aliens, the fighters look more like supersonic jet airplanes, while the Strike Suit’s mech form looks like something you’d see in a generic anime.
The same goes for when you play the game from the first-person perspective, as opposed to third-person. While the game works well in both, making the choice more of a personal preference than anything else, the look of the ships’ cockpits are fairly rote.
Then there’s the music. Bad enough that it also sounds like it comes from a generic anime, but it repeats the same short refrain over and over and over, while the default setting (which you can adjust, thankfully) is set so loud that you can’t hear your commander.
Strike Suit Zero also has a problem so common these days that I now just cut and paste this paragraph into almost every game review I do: the type is too small. Unless you sit really, really close to your TV — y’know, like your mama told you not to — you’ll have a hard time reading the mission briefings or the captions.
Even with all these issues, though, Strike Suit Zero still manages to be fun — well, in short bursts, and even then only if you can get a handle on the controls — in large part because its battles are often frantic and unpredictable. This is especially true when you’re start taking on the bigger ship. Not the local fighters, mind you, I’m talking about the big frigates now. But I’m making that adapted reference intentionally because while Strike Suit Zero does an admirable job, it pales in comparisons to such classic space dogfighting games as 1998’s Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, 2001’s Star Wars: Starfighter, and others that don’t have the words “Star” and “Wars” in their names. And that, sadly, isn’t all that charming.