December 16th, 2006, 17:39 Posted By: wraggster
The Afterburner series turned aspiring flight jocks into killer aces. It offered a level of destruction and speed that no game before it could match. So it comes as no surprise that Afterburner is every bit as classic as Sonic or Mario. Even today, with the likes of Ace Combat tearing up the skies, gamers still long for the days where a single heroic pilot could dismantle waves of enemy fighters and turn the tide of a losing war. And do it all using a single game token, no less.
Well, there's no need for tokens this time, since the latest chapter in the Afterburner saga will appear on the Sony PSP. It's called Afterburner: Black Falcon, and it's coming from developer Planet Moon, the team responsible for Infected and Giants. Afterburner is an interesting follow-up, to say the least. Sega recently dropped by the IGN office to show it off, and it's looking pretty sharp. More than anything, though, it definitely plays like an Afterburner game. There's no real-world physics, for starters. Players still rocket through the skies at obscene speeds blowing up everything in sight. Plus, the camera perspective and controls still retain the ease-of-use and responsiveness of older titles. Good thing, since it's hard to act like the Rambo of the skies with sloppy control.
Black Falcon introduces some interesting elements, too. Players can choose one of three characters at the start of the game, each of which has a unique personality. Not only that, the missions throughout the single-player campaign depending on character selection. It's not really clear if these characters change all missions, but Sega reps have said that each has their own special assignments, which is still a nifty incentive to play the game twice. Black Falcon will also include some 19 officially licensed planes, all of which a player can modify. The final build should include several weapons, paint jobs and yes, afterburners. Various engine components will appear as well, all of which improve maneuverability and make planes fly faster. Players can actually purchase these upgrades with cash earned through the single-player campaign.
In terms of story, players are tasked with the retrieval of 13 stolen planes. They're all high-tech and experimental, and each stolen plane makes up a boss fight in the game. After disabling each aircraft, players can then take them. It's a pretty straightforward setup. In addition to the major boss fights, Black Falcon also has a series of mini-bosses trying to stop would-be heroes from completing their mission. One such boss encounter has players battling a strange white aircraft resembling a super-streamlined passenger jet. It sticks to a player's six, of course, and really doesn't let up. Fortunately, each hero plane, including the F-14 Tomcat, F-15E Strike Eagle and F-22 Raptor, are more than up to the task. Each one can perform a bunch of cool maneuvers such as barrel rolls, loops and speed boosts. And they're all pretty simple to execute using the PSP's face buttons and analog stick.
The lone analog stick actually controls the movement of the plane, as would be expected, and the camera sits behind the plane. The face buttons control the afterburners and whatever weapons the plane happens to carry, where the shoulder buttons manage the maneuvers. Again, it's a nice set of moves and they all perform well during combat. Good thing, too, since in addition to bosses and mini-bosses, the game also has numerous targets on land, sea and blazing through the air. The demo showed everything from tanks and battleships, to missile batteries and enemy jets. Locking on to targets is relatively simple - just "paint" each target by moving the reticule over them and let the missiles fly. That's all there is to it.
Fortunately, Black Falcon also has a collection of wireless multiplayer modes. The first lets a player progress through the single-player campaign with a friend, using the PSP's ad-hoc functionality. At this point it seems only some of the campaign missions will be available for co-op, but this may change. There are also numerous competitive multiplayer modes, too. Players can expect classic dogfights and air duels, as well as team-based matches. The sad part is no one at IGN could try these modes out, since the game has a ways to go before it ships. But it all sounds groovy regardless.
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