STAFF REVIEW of Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut Box art Xbox One finally has its first Indie game through the anticipated ID@Xbox program: Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut. What makes this such a success story also is that the game was originally launched on PC, though only after a successful Kickstarter. More than four thousand people backed the game and the $100,000 goal was almost doubled. If you’ve played the PC version, know that in the Director’s Cut, there are new textures, lighting, missions, and even the ships have been tweaked to look even better.

It seems the space shooter genre has really dwindled in the past few years, as the last few good ones are quite dated now. If you’re looking to scratch your space shooting itch and loved Homeworld, Wing Commander, or Freelancer, you might just want to look into Strike Suit Zero. While it’s far from perfect, Strike Suit Zero definitely fills the gap in a thinning genre and may have you overlook some of its shortcomings in turn for some freeform space flying.

Even in the year 2299, a civil war continues to threaten Earths destruction. You are pilot Adams, a voiceless protagonist that is thrust into a situation where Earth chances of survival rest on your shoulders. To do so you’ll have to trust an AI that seems to hold many secrets and wants to have you follow her orders. You’re given control of a unique ship called the Strike Suit. This unheard of technology allows you to not only pilot it much like a normal space ship, but also has the ability to transform into a Gundam-like suit that is lethal against any enemies.

With this Director’s Cut, not only do you get all 13 missions from the original release, but there are also five standalone missions that you get to play that is meant to flesh out the story a little better and explain a few key moments in historic battles. The campaign will have you flying in many regions of deep space, but it’s not the completely black space that you may normally think of. Instead, Strike Suit Zero is actually a quite vibrant and colorful game that has some very artistic backdrops that are a wonder to just admire.

As for the campaigns mission structure, I wish that I could say it was done as well. Instead, you’ll be bouncing around from dogfights, to escort missions, to protect missions, to more escort missions, and then finished off with another escort mission. Each level plays out very similar, which I’ll get into below, but the poor writing and poorer voice acting doesn’t help keep you interested either. There aren’t many cutscenes aside from the constantly used ‘enemy slip spacing into our region’ and the majority of the dialogue and story is given through radio chatter. Needless to say, you most likely won’t be playing Strike Suit Zero for its story, but the gameplay and genre instead.

Being that Strike Suit Zero is a space combat shooter, you’ll be engaging enemy fighters, ships, capital fleets, and more. At times you’ll be facing dozens of enemies at a time or some massive cruisers that can quickly destroy you if you don’t strategize your attack plans. This is where piloting your Strike Suit will come in and keep you alive.

The Strike Suit has the unique ability to switch between regular ship mode and its Strike Mode that makes you feel like you’re playing something straight out of Gundam. Once you get the hang of the controls, not only for the game and aiming, but specifically how to utilize the Strike Suit to your maximum potential, it can become quite fun. Strike Suit mode allows you to instantly lock onto enemies, launch a massive array of missiles, and quite maneuver in or out of combat.

To transform your ship into Strike Suit mode though, you need to build up Flux Energy by shooting and destroying enemies and targets in your regular pilot mode. Once you have a certain amount of Flux Energy in the reserves, you can transform whenever you like. Instead of the typical time-based meter that depletes, instead your Flux meter will essentially turn into your ammo counter for Strike Suit mode. This allows you to almost endless fly in your Strike Suit, but you want to use your ammunition efficiently so that you can take out as many enemies as possible before being forced back into your regular ship mode.

It is going to take you a few missions to get used to the awkward controls in Strike Suit Zero. It took me about four or five missions before I really got the hang of it and didn’t have to think about what I wanted to do before doing so. I wasn’t fond of the default controls initially, so I tried another set, but those weren’t working for me either. I eventually settled on setting everything back to default, but even after a few hours into the game, it still feels awkward. Unfortunately there’s no options to change specific buttons to the way you would want to play with, but are instead forced into one of the few preset options for controls. That being said, once you get over this very steep learning curve, you can begin to pull off some awesome looking maneuvers and tactics.

The main campaign has thirteen missions, though aside from the final mission, almost all of them feel very similar to each other. Essentially most of the missions will come down to ‘kill everything before you die’, ‘protect this asset’, and ‘escort this ally’. It becomes very predictable a few missions in and you know that as soon as you’re done your main objective, a fleet of enemy ships are going to warp into your sector and you’ll have to take them all out to proceed. Sadly at times, it just becomes boring. The five extra missions included in this Director’s Cut are a little more interesting, but are incredibly much more difficult as well. I actually wasn’t able to complete them, as the checkpoint system frustrated me greatly (more on that shortly). Eventually missions will boil down to throwing a ton of enemies at you while you need to perform some objective on a massive structure, where trying to stay alive is the hardest task of all.

Pacing and difficulty greatly fluctuate, as some levels are a simple cakewalk and the next will have you retrying multiple times. The worst culprit though is the final level. I’m not going to spoil anything, but when you’re playing a game for a handful of hours, slowly learning new tactics, generally the final level is the culmination of everything you’ve learned up to that point. Not here, as the final level is nothing like the game up to that point. Factor in a nonexistent checkpoint system and you’ll become frustrated very quickly if you make it to that point. Speaking of checkpoints, I took great issue with them in Strike Suit Zero. In the early stages of the game you’re given a healthy amount of checkpoints should something terrible happen. In the latter half of the game though, they are very infrequent and when, not if, you die, you will have to redo complete sections, sometimes losing a half hour of progression.

The soundtrack is done quite well, and while it may not be completely memorable, it definitely set the tone of the missions and completely fit the setting. Your standard audio effects are what you’d expect from an Indie game, along with its mediocre visuals. It’s a mixed bag though, as the backdrops and color visuals are at times gorgeous, but the texture and ship models look quite dated and very blocky and unimpressive. I understand it’s an Indie game funded from Kickstarter, but the ships seems to stick out like a sore thumb against the beautifully drawn space backgrounds.

Even with some major slowdown and framerate issues when some massive explosions occur, I still had fun for the most part with Strike Suit Zero. Once I learned the tricks to controlling the Strike Suit well the game seemed to play quite differently once I didn’t have to think about the controls any longer. The problem is that you have to stick with it until that point, and that takes time and patience. While it may be flawed, there aren’t many games in this genre these days and it will mostly likely fill that craving you have for a decent space shooter.

Overall: 5.7 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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