Strike Suit Zero Preview (PC)

As the very first display when you walked through the door at Rezzed, Born Ready Games' Strike Suit Zero could not have been better placed for either developer or organiser. Indeed, the beautifully colourful space combat simulator set an extremely upbeat tone of quality for many attendees that swarmed straight to the monitors, most of whom came away with nothing but praise for the Colony Wars style mechanics.

Perhaps taking its queue from those console-oriented titles, it’s apparent that Born Ready Games is looking to cater for as many control schemes as possible, with the traditional keyboard and mouse ably supported by PCs that had either Xbox controllers or flight sticks attached. After waiting our turn we were shepherded towards the stick and assured by our enthusiastic guide that it was “the best way to play”, and after sampling the other controller types later on in the day, I’d have to agree. You can play Strike Suit Zero with almost anything, but nothing offered up quite the same immersion as that first time.

Shortly before you're "transformed"

And if you do follow that path (fortunately for those of us lapsed on the flight genre) there’s no need to be intimidated by the hardware either. Strike Suit Zero eases you into proceedings by taking you through a basic flight school set alongside your own massive armada, allowing you to tease out the extremities of the stick, learn how to control thrust, pitch, yaw and roll, and also how to lead a few basic targets and destroy them with your onboard cannon. Despite the complexities of the stick and re-learning the motions, by the end of those steps you feel pretty much ready for anything.

Or so you’d think. As the demo gradually ramped up in difficulty, it became apparent that Strike Suit Zero will offer up a decent level of challenge for those that want it. Enemy attack ships rarely follow a set path and will frequently spiral and turn sharply, attempting to lose you to the best of their abilities. It makes targeting somewhat of an art. Careful use of the throttle to tighten your turning radius and always aiming ahead of your opponent will get you so far, but it’s obvious that there’s a lot to learn here. With only a promised three hours of campaign gameplay but multiple paths for replay opportunity, suffice to say that there’ll probably be ample opportunity to hone those skills.

As we moved further into increasingly difficult waves of attack, it became apparent that there was a rather significant element that could turn the tide of battle in our favour. Every enemy kill fills up a chunk of a mysterious red power meter, and when it’s full, you unlock the quite amazing ability to turn your spacecraft into a giant mecha robot (designed by Anime heavyweight Junji Okubo). After witnessing your craft disassembling itself into a floating pillar of death, time slows to a dilated crawl, your canon becomes ridiculously powerful, and you’re able to spit out hot plasma justice faster than your enemies can breath.

Another day in the core

It’s a wonderful mechanic from both an aesthetic and gameplay perspective, and it’s lucky that we’re introduced to it right before a number of epic cruise ships loom into view, complete with their own squadrons of minion fighters filling the air like oh-so-many annoying gnats. Repeated attack runs and barrages of firepower aimed at weak points manage to eventually take one of those behemoths down, but just as we’re making the transformation back into our more lithe and nimble aircraft state, a suicidal attack ship ends the demo for good.

As one of the first things I got to play at the show this year Strike Suit Zero stuck in my memory throughout. It’s fantastic to look at, plays intuitively and looks set to offer up a decent learning curve in exchange for piloting what amounts to a cross between an X-Wing and Starscream. Although details of pricing, campaign longevity and other modes are still a little sketchy, even if Born Ready Games ends up putting out a game that’s only three hours long, if they hold to this quality, it’ll be totally worth it.

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