Strike Suit Zero from Born Ready Games, is another game seeing the light of day due the generosity and backing of the Kickstarter community, although in this case, failing to raise the funds requested may not have been the death knell with which some KS projects are faced. With most of the production complete, the team at Born Ready put forward their kickstarter project to raise the funding to finalise the project and get the games to our shelves, and with a large investment of time and money already poured into the development, the $100,000 funding is only a portion of the costs involved.
There is more than a little nostalgia in effect while I play Strike Suit Zero, and I’m pretty sure these nods to the great space combat and mech combat games are not so much about recapturing the style of those game, but ultimately its essence. In this aspect, Strike Suit Zero succeeds with gusto, and can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Freelancer, Wing Commander or even Zone of the Enders.
Graphically, SSZ is a phenomen rarely seen these days. The ship and mech designs are outstanding, led as they were by the vision of Junji Okobo. Having achieved recognition for his realistic aesthetic design to Mech’s in Appleseed, Gundam and Tekki (the original Steel Battalion), he has brought this same style across to SSZ. The transformation of the strike suit from ship to mech portrays functional believability, with each joint and section moving fluidly between one form and another, without loss or gain of structure, and as such these machines of the future appear inherently viable. With a graphical infusion that mixes styles, the vehicles have the over the top size and firepower loved by the Western audience, reminiscent of the ships from the Battlestar Galactica remake, while still including the beautiful Mech aesthetics common with an Eastern title. This technical and graphical marvel is only outshone by the environments into which it is placed.
The environment is awash with colour and vibrancy as you navigate what is essentially a three dimensional expanse with stunning static backdrops, that at moments had me sitting in awe of their simplicity and beauty. These not only contrast perfectly with the hectic and sporadic nature of the dog fights, with lasers and missiles filling your screen as you encounter wave upon wave of enemies, and bright vapour trails left in the wake of each of the ships, but also bring some life to the universe as you see massive battles rage in the distance, or visions of supernova’s and planet’s being destroyed as you progress through your mission. Such attention to detail given to the scene around you brings the universe of SSZ to life.
Honestly though, graphics can only claim part responsibility for this vividity, as it would not be possible if the audio did not stand up to the expectation levels set by the graphics. To this end the orchestral sections of the score are evocative of Freelancer, with the more modern sections drawing again comparisons to the BSG remake. This mix of new and old is balanced perfectly, and with Paul Ruskay at the helm this beautiful synthesis comes as no surprise. In addition to the musical underpinnings created with these large ensemble compositions, you would be hard pressed to find fault with the sound effects used throughout. The buzz of lasers, roar of thrusters, and clamor of alarms when missile locked all blend to suck you into the fast paced combat.
This is where the true strength of this title lies. The gameplay is chaotically addictive. Born ready have boiled down the controls to a level which harks back to the heydays of Space Combat games. Simplified but not diluted, the controls are smooth and responsive and utterly enjoyable. Although the namesake Strike Suit is the key tactical weapon for the majority of the game, you begin with your standard starfighter, with all the weapons and maneuverability expected of a space combat title, and these early missions serve as your introduction to the core mechanics involved. Upgrades unlocked through your performance allow some variation to these sections.
Once unlocked, the strike suit controls just like these previous vehicles, but destroying enemy ships replenishes your flux. Once a peak is reached, you can unleash the strike suits other form, reconstructing around you into the key Mech form of the strike suit. In this form, your maneuverability is reduced tremendously, but conversely your firepower is magnified considerably. Once in this form, you can target entire squadrons of enemies and unleash huge barrages of missiles. Each barrage reduces your flux and when exhausted you are returned to your original form. With this switch between low powered maneuverability and its high powered static counterpart, the flood of enemies can be somewhat overwhelming and difficulty levels can spike dramatically not only between levels but also over the course of a single stage. Get your timing right of when best to utilise the transformation and the game reaches a new level as the feeling of achievement in overcoming such unbalanced odds is hugely satisfying.
Sadly, the mission structure leaves a lot to be desired, crippled as it is with no true originality. You are tasked with destroy X targets or defend Y Resource from Z attackers. These two basic mission types form the primary staple of all the undertakings throughout the game. This said I could largely overlook this drawback due to the sheer enjoyment discerned from blasting waves of enemies into tiny little pieces of space dust.
The underlying plot is one of this games only other deficiencies, engaging in what can only be called standard Sci-Fi fare. The year is 2299 and the human race has taken to the stars thanks to “The Signal”, a mysterious unearthly communication that revealed the intricacies of interstellar travel to our somewhat backwards race. The distribution of the human race throughout the cosmos has caused independence groups to spring up, engaging in conflicts to remove the “unwarranted” control of Earth’s government over these far flung settlements, essentially exploding into full scale civil war. So far so Star Wars/Firefly/Gundam/(insert classic sci-fi series here).
You are placed in the role of Adams, a fighter pilot recently brought back into the fold of the United Nations of Earth following a leave of absence During an evaluation flight with your wingman, which serves as your tutorial on the primary controls, you find yourself and your fleet under attack from unknown assailants. With most of your fleet destroyed the remaining forces of the UNE most regroup and solve the mystery of the Colonials new world destroying weapon before it makes its way to Earth.
Tactile, Functional and insanely fun to play this game, despite its flaws, is a fantastic opening volley from a company that shows immense promise. Born Ready Games is one to watch and Strike Suit Zero is, without a doubt, one to play.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PC Release Date: 23/01/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Strike Suit Zero for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.