Strike Suit Zero – Director’s Cut: bring on the indie greats!

To kick off the Xbox One’s ID@Xbox programme, the next-gen console has been graced with the indie goodness that is Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut. It’s on the PS4 as well, but indie games have been big on the Sony console for a while now. I believe that I’m in the minority that, more often than not, enjoys playing indie games far more than the heavy hitters. That’s not to say that I don’t love games like the FIFA, Battlefield or Elder Scrolls series, though. For example, two of my most hotly anticipated games are Wulverblade and Hyper Light Drifter, both indie titles that might not be on everyone’s radar. But, then, I’m also really looking forward to The Elder Scrolls Online’s console début, as well as games like Tom Clancy’s: The Division. I love a good indie game because you can really see the time and the passion that goes into making them. They don’t have millions of pounds to throw at a game to make it work, just enthusiasm for their vision – and that really resonates with me.

Now, I’ve not played a spaceship fighter game since the Star Wars X-Wing series on the PC; and that’s a long old time. It’s not because I don’t like the genre, it was more because I never really saw a game that grabbed my attention. The closest I’ve come since then are the space missions in Star Wars Battlefront 2 – which I absolutely adored. For me, Strike Suit Zero rekindled that love which I’d somewhat forgotten since my days playing on my PS2. Me and my friend would play the campaign together, right up to the point where we’d reach the space mission, then it was every man (boy) for himself. Those missions gave you a grand sense of the scheme of the battle unfolding around you. I’ve never felt so excited to be a part of such a grand endeavour but, at the same time, utterly insignificant. The game made you feel like a pawn in a much bigger plan, and Strike Suit Zero replicates this feeling perfectly. It may sound like a bad feeling to have, but it’s actually quite comforting in a way. It’s rare that you play a game where the fate of the mission doesn’t rest entirely on your shoulders. In every single CoD campaign, for example, you play the hero who is forced to lone wolf it in a squad of at least four people. Your team mates are kind of like the garnish on a steak dinner – they look nice, but they’re a tad pointless because they taste like leaves. I think that’s the point I was trying to make? Anyway, unlike your salady team mates in CoD, the other pilots in Strike Suit actually have a use, and you can actually see them being effective. On a number of occasions, they’ve even saved me rather than it being the other way around. It’s not something that you often find in games, and it’s quite refreshing.

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The story for the game is well planned out, and it really sets the scene for the campaign. The long and short of it is as follows. Humanity set off towards the stars in search of ‘the beacon’ and in the process, begin colonising distant planets. Over time, the colonies became tired of colonial rule and called for the ability to rule themselves. Humanity was on the brink of an interstellar civil war but, in the nick of time, one of the colonies discovered the beacon. The colonies allowed Earth to investigate the beacon in return for their independence and everything was all fine and dandy, until Earth discovered something that they weren’t willing to share with the colonies. Surprisingly enough, this upset them somewhat and thus civil war was renewed. You join the story as a lowly fighter pilot, (though there’s clearly something a little special about you), in the middle of the conflict. Unlike most games, you are but a pawn in the master plan. You’re told what to do, and how to do it, but in many parts of the game your actions have very little influence in the scheme of things. You could spend most of your time focusing on destroying the enemy fighter pilots in fancy space-dogfights, or you could leave that to the other guys and focus your efforts on taking out the big cruisers instead.

The dogfighting aspect of the game is made even more appealing by the ‘Strike Suit’. Much like a Gundam space-ship transformer, the Strike Suit starts as a normal spaceship that, when you press the correct button, transforms into a giant robot. It destroys pretty much everything and anything in your path – so it gets pretty addictive to use, considering how awesome you become just with the press of a button. You’ll be given the occasional objective to destroy the cannons on a cruiser, but if you just do the odd missile bombing run and aim for its hull, you can destroy it outright. It’ll take you a little longer, your ship will take far more damage and some of your pilot buddies might get blown to cosmic dust in the process, but you can do it nonetheless. That’s what I love about the game, it gives you the odd nudge in the right direction, but for many of the missions you won’t be punished for spending your time swooping and diving in epic dogfights, if you fancy it.

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The graphics for the ships are quite basic, but they still look the part. Two things really surprised me though. Firstly, the scenery was incredible. The backgrounds were amazingly detailed, from destroyed worlds to blazing suns. They were stunning at times, and quite distracting when I was trying to focus my attention on taking out spaceships rather than admiring the voids of brilliant oranges and reds. The backdrops really make up for the slightly boxy graphics of the ships, not that the ship graphics are that bad, I’m just being picky. The second pleasant surprise was the voice acting. On occasion, voice acting in video-games can be pretty bland – even the big hitters suffer from the odd boring conversation or awkwardly bad character voices. You won’t find any of this in Strike Suit, however.  The voice-acting is surprisingly good, both for an indie game and a game of its genre. It’s engaging and interesting, it also tells the story really well and is succinct and to the point. There’s no dilly-dallying, this is space war!

Now, I won’t lie, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It can get repetitive at times and I’d imagine that, for a hard core fan of the genre, it will probably be a little simplistic. The missions are mostly based around the concept of ‘attack this ship’ or ‘protect this ship’. For those that love a good dogfight, this is their game. If you were hoping for a little more substance, you won’t be finding it in Strike Suit. ‘A little more substance’ is a bit harsh, maybe ‘something a little different’ would be better. I’ve read a few negative reviews on the original Strike Suit on the PC, which were a little harsh in my books – not that I’ve played it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing Strike Suit, but that might be more because I wanted something different from my usual video-game preference. And different it definitely was. If you’re looking for something fun to play in your off-time, I’d really recommend Strike Suit. If you’re looking for an epic game to consume your hours, maybe look somewhere else. Or buy a few of the indie games available, and flit between the lot of them. This is a perfect pick up and play game. Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut has kicked off ID@Xbox perfectly, so here’s to even more indie game goodness to come!