Much of my childhood was spent playing space combat sims, whether it was the slower paced X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, or the much faster paced Rogue Squadron. There was something extremely empowering about playing as a small space fighter, going against the odds, and coming on top. Come to think of it, that's probably why I love the Dynasty Warriors series so much. But the genre has been in decline over the years, and not until recently are we seeing a resurgence with games like Strike Suit Zero, Star Citizen and Eve Valkyrie. Strike Suit Zero, however, harks back to the space combat games of old. You won't find yourself flying to various star systems, shooting down convoys with precious material that you can then sell off to the highest bidder. This is pure and unadulterated space combat from start to finish.
The game will pit you in numerous missions that typically consist of multiple objectives. Escort a convoy safely, attack a giant cruiser or just simply survive an onslaught of enemy fighters as you dodge and weave through their laser fire and tactically take them down with your own ship. The titular Strike Suit is the weapon of choice and comes in a variety of unlockable flavors, each containing its own set of strenghts and weaknesses. Each Strike Suit is also outfited with various weaponry that can be switched out and upgraded as you complete missions, ensuring you have the right weapon for the right situation.
The standard Plasma Gun is a slow firing weapon that can be toggled to fire three beams at a time, but ultimately can't be fired constantly as each shot consumes power and can be overheated. Alternatively, those with worse aim can switch to the Light Machine Gun that sprays a hail a bullets on the enemy in a wider area. However, when lasers can't do the job, leave it up to the missiles. With the ability to lock-on to enemy fighters and ships, you'll be able to deal some massive damage with a well placed missile shot.
But the Strike Suit's hidden weapon is the ability to transform into a nimble mech with insanely powerful firepower. The ability to transform is governed by a resource called Flux, which is obtained by destroying other ships. Once transformed, your ship becomes a force to be reckoned with, as each shot does devastating damage, eliminating any fighters that dare get close. It's smart to save the transformation when in a pinch, however, you'll gain Flux relatively quickly, meaning you'll get to transform multiple times during a mission.
Each mission also has some secondary tasks such as destroying every piece of debris or taking out a number of corvettes in order to unlock various upgrades for the Strike Suit from four categories, Performance, Shield, Armor and Energy. The best thing about these unlocks is that they're universally unlocked for all fighters once you get access to them, eliminating the need to grind.
Visually Strike Suit Zero doesn't push the console's (PlayStation 4 or Xbox One) graphical capabilities to the max, but this is one case where it doesn't need to, as the action far outshines the need for the game to dazzle visually. With that said, it is a bit jarring for a game that doesn't look visually stunning to suffer from some slowdown when things get especially hectic on screen.
I also found the controls to be extremely confusing at first, mostly because the default controls swap the functionality of the analog sticks. The left stick controls the ship's yaw while the right stick controls its roll. It's weird because traditionally the left stick will fully control the ship's capabilities to fly up and down and then roll, while the right stick would handle the yaw. In games like these, I would perform turns by rolling my ship to its side with the left stick and then pulling up in order to turn in that direction. Strike Suit splits these controls in half and outright confusing my brain.
The game does allow you to switch so you can perform rolls with the left stick, however, doing so also switches the shoulder button controls. So while my brain is now satisfied with the ship controls, it's confused by the fact that weapons are handled by the left shoulder buttons and the speed by the right shoulder buttons. It's really a no-win situation, and players who will need some time to adjust to this will have to pick one control scheme and commit. Because after beating a few missions, the default controls did start to feel more natural.
At $19.99, Strike Suit Zero is definitely recommended, unless of course you've already played this on your PC. It comes with the expanded Heroes of the Fleet missions, packing in even more hours into the attractively priced title. It's no show stopper, but I appreciate the game's commitment of sticking to the genre's old-school roots.