Strike Suit Zero is a Kickstarter funded game that takes place during an intergalactic civil war between space colonies and Earth over the rights to investigate ancient ruins in space, developed by Born Ready Games. The player takes the role of the Strike Suit pilot Adams as he to races to the Earth to save it from the colonies’ new and destructive weapon. The game itself focuses on dogfighting in various space crafts, but also introduces the “strike mode” element in which the titular space craft may transform into a humanoid-shaped mecha.
I’m not going to lie; the narrative is mostly nonexistent and serves to simply provide some sort of aim for the sequential missions which the player unlocks. The story itself isn’t very inspired, and frequently disappears in the background as the player fights waves upon waves of enemies. The pacing isn’t great either, which isn’t helped by the lack of awareness of where in space the player is. Perhaps a map during the loading screens would have suited better; showing where the player is in relation to their goal: Earth. Certainly, it would have been more useful than a title screen that’s ultimately reminiscent of when a game’s demo ends.
Each mission is comprised of multiple objectives that the player must clear sequentially, opening up new objectives. These objectives often amount to just defending a target (read: escort mission), or just shooting down a set number of other targets. Generally, the player’s approach to the objectives will usually be the same, regardless of what they are. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that the escort missions aren’t tedious. Quite often, the player will have to break away from combat to hunt down a set of four torpedoes every minute or so, as the friendly AI is generally incompetent during these battles. Similarly, the enemy AI isn’t entirely better either.
Simply put, the enemy crafts are very easily dispatched. The title’s lock-on system allows the player to filter targets down to a select type of enemy, and the targeting reticule also highlights where the player should aim to hit a moving target. Occasionally, they may fire a missile, but that’s very easily disabled with a simple press of the ctrl key. Meanwhile, the enemy AI feels rather passive and rarely seems to bother the player. Instead, they usually spend their time twirling around trying to avoid fire, before being shot down due to their pitiful shield and armour. They’re nothing more than cannon fodder. There’s little challenge in the dogfights and the only danger is when the number of enemy crafts rise to ridiculous levels.
Quite often, the player will receive damage from an unknown source, communicated to the player by the screen becoming rather fuzzy. There’s no indication of where the damage came from unless the enemy fire is from directly in front of the player. There are no real evasive manoeuvres either, and the best solution is usually to just activate the thrusters and flee from the battle. It’s very effective too; nobody can catch up to the player when thrusters are enabled – even enemy crafts that use the thrusters to escape the player are slower. What this results in is a single craft that has complete dominance on the field, even when outnumbered. The crafts only take damage after the shield is down, with constant alarm noises ringing through the player’s ears to warn them that they are vulnerable. These shields regenerate quickly after a brief period in which the player receives no damage. Combined with the player’s speed, they are almost invincible against even the most overwhelming odds.
Of course, that’s not always necessarily the case. In stark contrast, when the player has to then confront the cruisers the game suddenly becomes incredibly frustrating. These cruisers are armed to the teeth and, unlike the cruisers belonging to the player’s side, are not so easily dispatched. As the only pilot worth a damn, the player must almost single-handedly wipe out the cruiser’s defences so that more bombers can blow it to pieces with torpedoes. This usually involves swooping down, picking out a turret or cannon to destroy, and assaulting it while zooming past.
Unfortunately, Born Ready saw fit to increase the difficulty in later missions by equipping these cruisers (and later even the frigates) with plasma cannons – a super powerful weapon capable of both deadly precision and range. Even burning out the thrusters of the Strike Suit, the player may still be in range for those attacks, and they come without any sort of warning. Instead of balancing this new and adverse weapon, the player requires some luck in order to get away, constantly hoping that the other plasma cannons do not target them as well. This is extremely detrimental to the experience when the player is confronted with a cluster of plasma cannon-wielding ships, especially in combination with the horrible checkpoint system that sometimes requires players to accomplish two or three objectives all over again. Intentional design or not, this does not constitute a fair challenge and simply amounts to Strike Suit Zero feeling rather cheap in its attempt to be difficult. However, once the plasma cannons are no longer part of the equation, cruisers suddenly become giant coffins due to the inclusion of “strike mode”.
In order to activate strike mode, the player must first shoot down enough enemies to collect “flux”. Once the player has enough flux, they may transform the Strike Suit from “pursuit mode” to “strike mode”. In strike mode, the Strike Suit closely resembles a humanoid mecha and consequently plays differently. While the machine may not be able to “pursue” enemy targets as easily, it is also far more versatile with side thrusters serving to permit evasive manoeuvres, allowing the player to dodge in almost any direction. In strike mode, the Strike Suit is equipped with both a machine gun and a bunch of missiles, each with its own cost in “flux”. Once the flux gauge completely dissipates, the Strike Suit disables strike mode and returns to pursuit mode. In strike mode, the Strike Suit can lock-on to multiple targets, allowing the player to decimate the utterly defenceless enemy crafts, and is more than capable of rendering a cruiser powerless. Flux can be recovered when an enemy is destroyed, allowing the player to stay in strike mode for long periods of time when picking off the weaker forces.
Ultimately, strike mode serves as a change to the player’s approach to the battle. Whilst it may be incredibly over-powered – and can even be sustained for incredibly long durations when the player is careful about their attacks – strike mode enables the player to get in close to the more colossal crafts and really do some damage. Meanwhile, pursuit mode is a great way to gain distance from dangerous targets, and to also hunt the small fries. Strike Suit Zero is at its best when you are battling a battalion of enemy Interceptors while launching in close to enemy cruisers and letting loose a mass of missiles. During the faster paced fights, even breaking away from the action to quickly shoot down enemy torpedoes can be exciting. Unfortunately, the game rarely achieves that perfect moment.
Unlike the relatively uninspired narrative and the dull missions, the backgrounds are very visually appealing. Sure enough, the maps are comprised of just an image in the background and enemy targets, but given the budget of this game that is entirely acceptable. The textures are very basic, but the actual designs of the various crafts are very nice. Whenever the soundtrack kicks in it makes for a very ambient and pleasant, sometimes dramatic, experience. Of course, that’s when the soundtrack kicks in. The vast majority of the time it is just far too easy to forget that a soundtrack exists, which is a waste, since it seems to be a good one.
While a potentially a good idea, Strike Suit Zero can be incredibly dull as a result of the lacklustre missions and non-existent story. The Strike Suit is well executed and each mode contrasts nicely, but gameplay still generally leaves more to be desired. The title isn’t particularly challenging, but occasionally suffers from some severely cheap difficulty spikes that, when combined with the awful checkpoint system, could likely frustrate the player enough to completely ruin the experience. It’s a shame, because this game could easily have been far more.
5 strikes against this game out of 10