A modern vision of space brings images of vast chasms of emptiness, faint possibilities of new worlds, and opportunity for scientific discovery. Strike Suit Zero, an upcoming PC game by Guildford based Born Ready Games, provides an insight into the depth of human creativity approaching the distant atmosphere of space as a location of infinite potential. Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to get a hands-on copy of the early beta release, and have a chat with the Community Manager, Jamin Smith.
My own, personal memories of space-fighter combat simulator games consist of that Star Wars arcade game with the large joystick where you could choose to fight Darth Vader lightsaber to lightsaber, mano-a-mano, or fly the X-Wing against the Death Star and an array of annoying TIE fighters. I hope I’m not alone in confessing that I was absolutely terrible at that arcade game, and therefore from an early age was dissuaded from playing or investing in any of the space combat greats. It is these games, Freelancer, X-Wing vs. TIE fighter, born in the 90s, that the development team from Born Ready enjoyed and loved, and provided a great deal of inspiration in the creation of Strike Suit Zero, a modern approach on the old classics; an attempt, Jamin says, to ‘bring back a genre which has been dormant for quite a while’.
Drawing from my past experiences of space-combat games detailed above, needless to say I was terrified that I would make a fool of myself attempting to play this game; fortunately, this was not the case. At a base level the gameplay mechanics are fairly simple; perfect for a rookie like myself to gain a grasp on the basic controls of the game, and it’s also compatible with the Xbox 360 controller pad if you find that simpler. A thruster meter allows for an extreme but limited burst of speed for both evasion, and crossing the large expanse of space in order to reach objectives. The game even tells you where to shoot on the screen to hit your target, which is crucial due to the hectic nature of space combat with fast moving and evading enemy ships.
The feeling of dog-fighting with a small army of enemy fighters and tracking them down one by one is exhilarating and addictive; particularly as the enemy ships are clearly intelligently programmed. In one instance after dropping the shields and half of the hull of one opposing heavy fighter with my energy weapons, he performed a series of evasive manoeuvres to the extent that it was almost impossible to hit him, until his shields regenerated and he attempted to turn around and re-enact vengeance. He failed, miserably, but that’s not the point. Strike Suit Zero is everything you would expect from a space-combat game, and much, much more.
That’s all very well then. But that’s not where it ends for Strike Suit Zero. Jamin explains that ‘new elements which make it fresh and relevant to today’s idea of gaming’ are brought to the table, including the Strike Suit itself. The Strike Suit is a technologically advanced fighter ship which has the ability to transform into a high powered, super-mobile mech. The credibility of the mech is held up by the designer, Junji Okubo, who has worked on projects such as Steel Battalion and Infinite Space, and is very practical in nature; each piece of the ship visibly moves and transforms to create the mech figure. The Strike Suit enables multiple target selection with instant lock-on missiles, and there’s nothing more satisfying than watching a swarm of 40 individual streams of dazzling blue lights race towards the enemy. This ties in with one of the game’s strongest assets, as Strike Suit Zero brings a wonderfully vivid mixture of vibrant colours through the style of the art, which is light years away from the dull, dark void of space we would normally envisage, to the point that occasionally the backdrop of intergalactic war is easily forgettable. Whether this is the desired effect or not I can’t say, but I personally love it.
In the background of this beautiful carnage is an original soundtrack composed by award winning Paul Ruskay, presenting a successful and unique fusion of East and West, which perfectly complements the driving force of the game; a united Earth. And if that wasn’t enough, later in 2013 Strike Suit Zero will be launching a separate release of the game, compatible with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, of which the cockpit and HUD will ‘really lend itself well to a VR experience’.
I don’t want to say too much about bugs and problems with the game, as it is still in a beta state and isn’t representative of the final game, but I have experienced a couple of minor setbacks. Firstly in the later levels, the combat can potentially get very fast paced and hectic, with many entities present at once; this is a real drain on processing power which affects the performance of the game. Having said that there isn’t an option to decrease the graphics settings just yet, which will definitely help performance issues. The rest of the game seems to suffer at times like that as well; at one point the audio of characters transformed into the Microsoft Sam voice, which was actually highly amusing at the time.
Nevertheless, the future is most certainly bright for Strike Suit Zero. With the re-incarnation of a long-lost loved genre with an injection of modern-day twists, and a hefty following of fans through social media, I’m confident that the game will make a great impact early next year after its January release on Steam.