Fun is a fantastic thing. Nothing else quite manages to chase off the workday blues and inject pleasure into your lives quite like Having Fun. Some games around here wouldn’t know fun if you Sellotaped their eyes to giant balloons with pictures of rabbits and clowns on them. It’s all 'reverse the genetic splicing machines before Armageddon’ and 'defeat the evil lord of horrid things with your manly chin and cold, hard stares’. Pah! Make things 'splode, crack a joke or two, job's a good ’un.
Yager is exactly that. A game of sheer fun from start to end. Flying about in some typical sci-fi world, not taking things seriously for a moment. The more you play, the more you grin - just as it should be.
Simply put, you’re a mercenary pilot, trying to earn a few yen from the local military, scooting about in your futuristic hoverjet thing and shooting pretty much anything that moves. It's gorgeous to look at and easy to play. And it's fun. In spades.
Ooh, Ah, Cantona
To give you an idea of how far into its cheek Yager has its tongue planted, there's a moment during one cut-scene when a character quotes Eric Cantona (as in ex-Man Utd, seagulls chasing the trawler boat, kung-fu kicking, footballer Eric Cantona). Which, for a game based in The Future concerning the adventures of a freelance combat pilot shooting robots, is pretty good going.
At times Yager comes across like a really well-written comic book, with quality dialogue and a suitably pot-boiled plotline The dynamic between the central character - Magnus Tide - and his hostile leading lady provides some of the funniest in-game banter I've heard for a long time. Everything about the game’s setting just seems to work - Tide's infectious good humour transferring through the screen and into your gaming experience.
And what an experience! OK, we're not looking at the finest game ever made (that would be Operation Flashpoint, says me, but Half-Life, says you), but as arcade-based hovery-flying shooter things go, Yager continually delights.
The action begins at a sedate pace - shooting lumbering hulks that barely move - but quickly moves on to waves of zippy bad guys with Neo-Fascist overtones.
Sure, you're not always entirely clear as to what the hell’s going on - mission briefings are often hazy at best and the handling of your floaty-ship isn't always the easiest (especially when you switch from the helicopter-style 'hover’ mode into the full-on 'jet' mode). But it doesn’t matter a fig since there’s almost always going to be a smile on your face as you play (except when you're gnashing your teeth after succumbing to the insane difficulty level for the thousandth time and realising the last save point is miles back).
The levels are for the most part brilliantly paced, and the level of freedom is balanced just perfectly between free exploration and linear guidance. But mostly it's that spirit of enjoyment that keeps you coming back time and again. One annoyance is that the multiplayer modes are seemingly offline until further notice, meaning that once Yager is over, it’s over. The replay factor isn't the highest. But while it lasts, what a ride.
When he finally stopped gibbering about Star Wars Galaxies long enough to draw breath, Richie's second order of business on returning from E3 was to tell us about this great-looking futuristic flight sim. Going by the working title Yager, details on gameplay are still a bit scarce, but we do know that the game puts you in the cockpit of a bunch of science fictional fighter craft and sends you on missions varying from escorting supply ships to all-out dogfighting. The most appealing part of the game is the design of the aircraft, which in motion looks very cool, as does the arsenal of futuristic weaponry. The team at Yager Development in Berlin has put together a capable engine, as the level of detail in both the aircraft and environments is rather impressive, as are the frame-rates and draw distances shown during the high-speed combat and pursuit The setting is a typically bleak industrial future filled with toxic waste and wrecked installations, populated by aggressive and unpredictable robots left over from a forgotten military conflict.
The single-player campaign will be strongly narrative-driven, interweaving a complex story through the mission-based structure, while multiplayer modes include deathmatch-style dogfighting as well as various tactical team-based modes. Yager doesn't appear to be breaking into any daring new territory, but the pure level of fun and exhilaration involved look set to make it an extremely tantalising title.
Imagine Ace Combat 04 (or Air Force Delta Storm, if you will), only set in the future and with more of an emphasis on story and ground-level combat. Throw in mission objectives that change dynamically depending on your play style and some really pretty visuals, and the result is a title that should have fans of aerial-combat games clenching their flight sticks in anticipation.