A war for the colonies.
Space shooters are a dying breed. You will hear veterans like myself cite Colony Wars religiously whenever the genre is mentioned, and for good reason; there haven’t been many titles as impressive since it came out nearly 20 years ago. Strike Suit Zero had a solid run on PC, but now it is landing on the new consoles, and even has the distinction of being the first ID@Xbox title on Xbox One.
The game opens with a pretty epic intro, but after that things get a little stale. Players take on the role of Adams, a new recruit in the United Nations of Earth. Within a couple missions, Adams is chosen to pilot a brand new type of fighter known as the Strike Suit. The story feels familiar and never really aims to surprise or take chances. Still, it is a solid narrative that makes sense in the context of the experience.
Strike Suit Zero is a space shooter, for better or worse. It never deviates mission objectives and relies heavily on the player enjoying what it offers in the first ten minutes. Every outing involves either escorting large ships, shooting down waves of fighters, or larger ships and depots. There are 13 missions with a side campaign that hosts five more. Each one feels like the last with some new environments sporadically, but all taking place in the void of space.
Thankfully, the game play is solid, and makes the drab mission design more enjoyable. Controlling the Strike Suit is fluid. Ship controls are what I expected, focusing on pitch and yaw with some nice maneuverability. The Strike Suit can also transform into a bipedal mech with more mobility and the ability to dash in all four directions. It also has a better lock-on system that makes taking down multiple enemies quick and painless. The developers balance this by requiring players to build up the “Flux” meter in order to transform into mech-mode. Flux is earned by taking damage as well as destroying other ships. Switching between ship and mech is easy and fun.
The upgrade system is something I wasn’t a huge fan of. It requires players to complete specific objectives during missions in order to unlock better firepower. There is no RPG system in place, so grinding older missions will earn nothing but better scores for the leader boards, or Achievements/Trophies for each console.
Difficulty was one of the main concerns with the original PC release, and the team has done a nice job of making tweaks that make the game more tolerable. For example, the aiming reticule in the Strike Suit was originally extremely loose and inaccurate. That has been cleaned up for this release, as well as tons of small balances including stronger armor and damage ratios. All of this won’t make a difference to those that haven’t played the original, but for those thinking of a double-dip, it is a huge change.
Checkpoints have also been cleaned up, but still offer some questionable positioning. There were times when I died on normal (and players will die on normal) and had to repeat up to 20 minutes of game play. It can be frustrating, but the majority of the time I didn’t run into issues.
The Xbox One version also hosts some weird glitches, including making me sign in every time I load up the game. There were also weird crash bugs that would cause some frustration – nothing game-breaking, but still noticeable.
Visually the game looks good at times, and not so good at others. The bland look of the ships really stands out, and the empty environments of space can start to wear on players. There are exceptions that stand out of course, but most of it looks simply uninspired. There are also some really poor textures in spots and minor drops in frame rate. I also wish the explosions of larger ships were more impactful, something Colony Wars did extremely well.
Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut is a decent game that simply needs more variety. The controls and combat are enjoyable, but the mission design is so uninspired that it is hard to play for extended periods of time. I also found myself forcing my way to the end. There is a substantial amount of content, but I never felt the want to keep trudging through it. Still it is a space shooter; something we rarely see, and it was refreshing to be playing something different. Those looking for a new experience on their shiny new consoles would do well to check it out if they enjoy these types of experiences.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox One.