AirForce Delta Storm
Love and hate are powerful words. With a single uttering, they can convey such a depth of meaning that it might take pages of written word to express it otherwise. To this end, I'll start with giving you the briefest look at my review that I can. I love certain things about AirForce Delta Storm, but for the most part, I can't stand the rest of the game. Actually, scratch that, there's only one thing that I really like about this title.
AirForce Delta Storm is one of the Xbox console launch titles from Konami, the same people who made such wonderful games as Metal Gear Solid 2 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Inherently a fighter sim, AFDS puts you in the role of a fighter ace, flying against a foreign military in a future war. Geared towards the arcade market, AFDS features simple, easy to learn controls, and quick, mission based gameplay with a dash of storyline and a whole lot of enemies. You'll fly the skies over the fictional Alexxy Peninsula, fighting for the side of the Allied Forces against the overwhelming might of the United Forces.
Set in the near future (something they laughably refer to as 'year twenty and some'?), the forces of science across the globe have finally mapped the human genome, giving them incredible control over the worldwide health of humanity. For a short while, the earth was like the Garden of Eden, where even the most virulent of diseases were of no consequence. Then, the troubles began. Mass starvation, brought about by rampant overpopulation, caused people to rapidly deplete the earth's resources. In one of the affected nations, a coup succeeds in seizing control of the local government, which then forms the United Forces. Pledged to divide all of Earth's resources equally among the nations, the United Forces quickly gain followers from the nations that have few resources. The nations that possess abundant resources then form the Allied Forces, to oppose the might of the United Forces. You're an Allied pilot.
Matching forces at the Alexxy Peninsula, the coming battles will decide the fate of the world. Each army has a massive strike force of naval vessels, ground forces, and a large air force. Only control of the skies will decide the victor in this battle.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The first part of AirForce Delta Storm takes place on a large map view, which shows you the different 'hotspots' of violence on the battlefield. Your aircraft is the icon you move around the map and each of the little hotspots you move through are either small battles, mission objectives, or a home base from which you launch your missions. They're all connected like a small web and your movement from mission to mission requires that you move through a few of these different spots.
When you make it to a base, you've got the chance to re-arm and re-supply, purchase new planes, or accept a new mission. The missions they offer will open up new spots on the world map and reward you with a significant amount of cash for your trouble. There are over twenty different planes, most of which are replicas of real-life aircraft, and depending on what base you're at, you'll be able to purchase more and more advanced fighters.
After accepting your mission, it'll be up to you to travel to the location specified and complete the objectives. These missions can be anything from destroying an enemy base to shooting down a bomber squadron. Bomber squadrons and other mobile missions move from spot to spot, requiring that you chase them down with a faster fighter. Once you've finally caught up to your objective, you can enter a 3D battle mode, which is where the majority of your game will take place.
The 3D battle mode is a second person perspective dogfight. You only need worry about how fast you're flying, which way you're flying, and how many weapons you've got left to fight with. You won't need to worry about how tough your aircraft is, given that you're unlikely to get shot down unless you really try to get blown up. For a slightly more realistic flight sim experience, you can switch to a cockpit view of the action, but given the dumbed down gameplay in this title, you won't need to worry about doing that often. There are a good variety of enemies to shoot at, with a limited number of missiles and unlimited machine guns. From ground craft to aircraft, you'll need to maneuver your aircraft with a bit of thought if you expect to take on the enemy and win. The only opponents that you need to worry about being shot down by are the naval ships, as they tend to pack a few guns and missile launchers, but the aircraft, while never much of a threat, are occasionally very hard to shoot down because of their maneuvering.
These missions, aside from their linear and uninspired construction, feature the occasional highlight in the form of landscape design. In one mission, you assault a fortress bridge, which has many different parts that must be destroyed to cripple enemy supply lines. The bridge itself is mighty impressive and, after you spend the few enjoyable minutes it takes to complete, you'll be back to the same repetitive gameplay as always. When you start the missions, you'll want to spend a few moments getting to know the AI that controls the other aircraft. They're by far the most annoying things to attack as they can maneuver out of your way and can evade missiles, but the AI is dumb and slow and never change their patterns, making them easy to shoot down once you've learned the moves.
I won't bore you with more description of the storyline, as there really isn't any. Think of it like Area 88, only not quite as fun.
Finally, the aircraft that you've got available to purchase are the best part of the game, in and of themselves. They've got ratings for speed, attack, mobility, range, and hit points. Each design is at least inspired by, if not a direct translation of, real world aircraft. You can fly the S-37 Berkut (a Russian next generation fighter), the famous F-15E Strike Eagle, and even the F-14D Tomcat, the plane showcased in the film Top Gun. Collecting these aircraft and using them in battles is the best part of AirForce Delta Storm.
AirForce Delta Storm's graphics are what I can only call standard fare for an Xbox title. With wide-open vistas, there is rarely much to look at other than your own aircraft. Designed to be played in a second person perspective, most of the time you'll be using a view that sits you behind the tail of your plane and gives you a good view of its entire structure. This is definitely the most enjoyable part of the game, as it lets you see each of the aircraft you'll be able to purchase in the game. The aileron and flaps move realistically, and there's even an airbrake on each plane, some of which look mighty interesting, even if they are a bit unrealistic.
The sound effects are relatively so-so, quiet enough to be unobtrusive and unappealing to the ear. In combination, AFDS features a mediocre soundtrack that sounds like a poor quality imitation of the Top Gun soundtrack. I'm sure I'm not the first reviewer to say this, but I really wish this game had the ability to play songs from the Xbox's internal hard drive, so that you could construct your own soundtrack for gameplay.
Over all, this is a mediocre game. While I really, really enjoy collecting the fighter planes available in this game, I could always start a new Micro Machines collection. Although I might rent this once in a long while, if I were really looking for "lite" fighter sim, I wouldn't add this to my collection unless it was a gift. All I ultimately have to say is this: Why can't they make really good launch titles? Why?