The PC is usually the place to go to get an flight simulator fix, with its many keys available to represent every dial and switch from a real cockpit. The games that usually filter through to the console market tend to have an arcade-like feel and execution, what with H.A.W.X and Ace Combat blazing the skies or alterations of classic PC games like IL2 Sturmovik. Well we now have another action packed flight simulator appearing on home consoles in JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters, but should we care?
It is never a good start to a gaming experience, especially for one you are reviewing, when the game fresh out of its retail clear plastic packing, struggles to work on the PS3; so it comes as a surprise that this game struggles right from the start, with the menu screen showing a reasonably detailed plane flying over an ocean, while staggering and skipping like a damaged CD would. Sounds are also to be found dropping in and out and the screen momentarily freezing. Thankfully this did rectify itself once moved away from the main selection screens, but still, first impressions do count.
Once passed this false start things do get better. The single player mode is based in a fictional war torn country of Azbaristan; the Northern People’s Republic of Azbaristan control most of the country, with only the Southern Azbaristan Democratic Front trying to defend their borders and their oil rich lands. As a hot shot pilot call-sign “Razor”, you are called in to assist the Southern Azbaristan Air Force and protect the borders and prepare for war.
The action is pretty much identical to any other console flight game, you take off, fly to the highlighted coordinates and then destroy pretty much everything you can see, though actually seeing something is rare as the majority of enemies you come across will be just mere specs in the distance, with only a huge red HUD missile lock buzzing away letting you know something is there (a problem with most games of this genre). Each of the missions offers a mixture of air to air, bomb runs under radar and of course, escort missions and offers some thrilling moments and any signs of the stutters from the intro long gone.
Even for a console flight simulator the aircraft controls are basic and very arcade in feel than other games of this genre, from the never ending supply of missiles and rockets and an automatic landing gear retraction to the three speeds, slow fast and afterburner, it’s a bit too simplistic for my taste but it does allow you to concentrate on performing breakneck moves. This however is really offset by the difficulty settings that are all over the place, seriously struggling to complete the second level on normal with what is the first of many escort missions. What was not clear initially is that you are able to change planes at the start of each mission, with swapping around and testing out each one really helping in the end, but that takes time to work out what is better for each mission, it’s either arcade or not!
Each plane on offer has a variety of pros as cons, hosting different speeds and armour plus their own weapons load out, with air fighters like the MiG-21 and F-22, ground attack craft like the A-10 that had the ability to drop bombs to the multipurpose jets like the F/A-18. There are loads of planes to unlock and try out, with some having great benefits to complete some of the later levels.
JASF also offers a pretty solid set of online modes and although games are sparse at the moment, they are still quite fun and a decent time killer when you can find a full lobby. Dog fights offer a free for all in the skies, while team dogfight offers some fun group based battling. Also included is a Rabbit mode, where one player has to last as long as possible, with whoever takes you down becoming the new Rabbit; Base Assault tasks you with destroying the enemy teams base and then the remaining pilots. Each game mode can be played over seven combat areas based on locations from Azbaristan. JANE also boasts a four player Co-op mode, allowing you and your mates to take on the games missions as a team, with you all unlocking new planes and missions along the way just as you would in single player.
The country of Azbaristan always looks good, with the patchwork countryside bleeding into rivers and huge canyons all looking good from pretty much any height.
What JASF does well is in the graphics department, with some really detailed fighter jets shooting out plumes of smoke from their missiles and a decent sense of speed, especially when hitting the afterburners with slight blurring occurring around the edges of your sight. The country of Azbaristan below always looks good, with the patchwork countryside bleeding into rivers and huge canyons all looking good from pretty much any height, only let down by the rather basic looking building that populate the cities.
The main view is very uncluttered, with a green HUD detailing altitude and speed and such is very short-sighted when it comes to camera options, giving you either a third person view or a first person view (pretty much the same screen but without a plane in front of you) it feels really basic. There is also a follow missile camera view but this is just broken, with the missiles image glitching all over the screen.
There is only a small selection of flight simulators available for the home console market and this is one that, unless you have played all of the others, is going to really struggle to appeal. It’s a shame that this is the case, as it’s good enough and with decent gamer support for the online modes could be a lot better.
Rating: AverageReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
You can order JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters from ShopTo on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.