Monthly Archives: March 2013

Instead of God, I Chose Strike Suit Zero

*Please note that have been several patches for Strike Suit Zero that attempt to address the game’s major shortcomings. This article was accurate at the time of the game’s launch on January 23rd 2013.*

Short review: If you really like spaceships, then you should go play Strike Suit Zero (SSZ). It has spaceships in it. They fight a lot. Oh, and the one you play as can TURN INTO A GIANT ROBOT. It’s pretty rad like that.

P.S – This game is broken in almost every way imaginable, plus a couple that aren’t. You have been warned.

Unnecessarily long and personal review: When I was a kid, I attended a VERY religious school. Specifically, one that embraced a funky British offshoot of Christianity called “Quakerism” It’s pretty much the same as run-of-the-mill Christianity, only with a gigantic hard-on for silence. Oh man, did they love themselves some good ‘ol silence. In fact, every week the whole school would gather together and enjoy a jolly good communal silence-off, which was about as exciting as you might expect. “What were you meant to do during these moments of silence?”  you might ask. Isn’t it obvious? We were to contemplate our almighty Lord God, of course!

The general idea was that if we sat around long enough thinking about how bloody brilliant God was, one of us would eventually become possessed by the Heavenly Father himself and proceed to deliver some grandiose proclamation to the rest of the group. Sadly, God never saw fit to bless me with his divine influence, possibly because I chose to spend my moments of silence thinking about other, far more important things instead.

Shot0

I chose to think about robots. I chose to think about robots and spaceships. I chose to think about robots, spaceships and lasers. I chose to think about robots (that may have also been spaceships) shooting lasers at spaceships (they were probably robots too) in space. At least a couple of Dragon Ball Z characters may have also been involved, but let’s just put that thought aside for now. Was this Sacrilegious? Probably. But when you’re a kid, you quite frankly don’t give a shit. At that age, robots, spaceships and lasers are literally the best thing EVER, and omnipotent, all-seeing super beings just can’t compare.

I’m told you’re supposed grow outta that kind of mentality when you get older, but that’s a load of bullshit, ‘cos I sure as hell never did! I’m well into my twenties at this point, and I’m still constantly wasting my time thinking about ridiculous space robots/ships fighting in equally ridiculous space robot/ship wars. If anything, I’m probably even more obsessed than I ever was before, something that a casual glance at my shelf full of Gundam action figures will quickly confirm.

What I’m getting at here, is that I think SSZ is a game I’ve been waiting most of my life for. In terms of visuals, it’s EXACTLY what I’ve been picturing in my head all these years. This is the thing my adolescent brain chose over God, the thing I’d STILL choose over God today. And who can blame me for that? Just look at this damn thing; it’s frickin’ gorgeous! “Awe-inspiring” isn’t a phrase I use lightly, but….dude. Consider my awe officially inspired.

Shot2

I really wanted to “wow!” you guys with some screenshots in this article, but it ended up being surprisingly difficult to snap any decent ones. This was likely due to two major factors standing in my way:

1) Taking my hands off the controller and reaching over to the Print Screen button often resulted in my shiny space robot getting blasted into shiny space-dust.

2) A screenshot could never truly convey my childish glee at watching a fleet of totally dope space dreadnaughts (plus swarms of equally dope space fighter planes) unloading a quite frankly irresponsible amount of ordnance against one another, set to some of the most incredible backdrops since Homeworld 2.

Jeez, and then there’s all the sexy vapour trails, explosions, lenses flares, motion blurs, Battlestar Galactica-esque music and…….and……. okay, so, basically, at any one moment in SSZ, there’s a billion things going on at once, and they’re all bloody amazing. It’s everything I’ve ever hoped for in a video game; a ridiculous space war to end all ridiculous space wars. So, screw silence! All I care about now is the beautiful melody of spaceship on spaceship/robot action!

Well, there you go then. Review over. 10/10. Hands down best game ever. This game > everything else. Move along now, nothing more to see here!

……..

Ugh. Wait. Much as I’d love to stop right here and now, I have an incy wincy confession to make first. So..uh…actually playing SSZ……*sigh*…..kinda sucks. A LOT.

Shot1

I honestly don’t know where to begin describing the innovative ways SSZ managed to both disappoint and frustrate me at every turn. Should I start by moaning about the utterly naff storytelling? The dry, soulless voice acting? The limited array of enemies? The scant selection of playable ships? Oh! How about the awful level design? Yeah, that a good’un!

Space shooters aren’t around anymore for one reason above all others: nobody likes crappy escort missions. Nobody. Yeah, I know it seems crazy ‘n all, but it turns out that booting a player to the “game over” screen every time a suicidal, uncontrollable AI snuffs itself out ain’t exactly fun. Shame the devs never got the memo on that one.

At any one moment in SSZ, you can reasonably expect to be escorting AT LEAST ONE pea-brained AI of some form or another, a task the game’s core mechanics feel in no way prepared for. Normally I wouldn’t link to another publication’s article, but I can’t help but mention SSZ’s review over on Eurogamer, in which journo Rich Stanton requests his tombstone be inscribed with the phrase “The Arcadia has been destroyed” in tribute of SSZ‘s all-too-common reason for a game over screen. All I can say is…….I feel you bro. I feel you so hard.

You’d think game would at least notify you when a bunch of armor-shattering torpedoes are making a beeline for your mothership’s sensitive underbelly, but apparently even that’s too much to ask. Instead, your best bet is to just mash the “target nearest priority” button periodically and hope it locks onto any torpedoes in the area (spoiler: sometimes it doesn’t) before you end up chucking your PC out the window in frustration. And God forbid you let even one torpedo spewing corvette get within spitting distance of your carriers, ‘cos apparently they’ve got no qualms about unloading those ballistic suckers at point-blank range!

Shot3

Hey, don’t leave! I ain’t done bitching yet! The above complaints are just a small sample of the many absolutely baffling design faults I encountered during my time with SSZ. Other such gems include, but are not limited to, your shields being utterly decimated should you even so much as lightly tap an enemy ship, no saving during any of the hour+ long missions, ship upgrades being tied to near impossible achievements, no in-mission ammo resupply or repairs, abysmal checkpointing and – my personal favourite – an instant game over if you cross any invisible, constantly moving, totally undocumented boundaries that could be absolutely anywhere in every level!

But you know what? Despite everything, I………I still like this game. I really do. I’d still rather play it than waste a single moments thought on God, Vishnu, Xenu, Richard Dawkins or whatever other deity you care to mention. I guess that probably says a whole lot more about me than it does this game, though.

But come on; it has hyperspace jumps! Flak cannons! Naval tactics! Ion Beams! Firing solutions! Plus, all kinds of other sci-fi bullshit, and it’s all just so damn glorious. Who cares if it ain’t exactly smooth sailing in the gameplay department? Whatever! This game lets you fly a crazy robot spaceship thing headlong into an enemy armada, weave through oncoming laser beams, transform into kick-ass robot, unleash an absurd volley of micro-missiles, and then sit back and bask in the resulting explosion like it’s an end of season finale. I tell ya buddy, that just speaks to me on some deep-ass level.

Would I recommend SSZ to anyone who isn’t an obsessive man-child like me? Eh, probably not. I’m not even sure I’d recommend it to myself! That’s not to say I regret playing SSZ; watching my childhood dreams unfold before me is something that I’ll treasure for a long time to come. No, the thing I regret is trying to convince myself that those dreams could in any way justify all the things SSZ got wrong, that it could somehow bring me to call it a “good game”  It ain’t a good game. It’s a bad game. It’s a VERY bad game.

Instead of God, I chose a very bad game.

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