I am not a fan of the flight combat simulator genre, unless we are talking about the aerial sections in the Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank games; I eventually ‘got good’ at those after crashing five times! Wait, those don’t really count do they? Well then I guess I’m really not the biggest fan of this genre, but hopefully that will change after putting a ton of hours into Delta Strike: First Assault… right?
That said, I didn’t know what to expect going into Delta Strike: First Assault. All I knew was that it’s from a developer I’ve never heard of before. At a glance it looks like an arcade version of Ace Combat, but with less open skies and more tunnel like locations; basically, a lot of city and desert-like highways to fly through. After many hours of playing and pondering, I can say that this is a game that had the potential to be good, and could have been a great introduction for newcomers to the combat flight simulator genre – but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
I think I’m jumping the gun a little though; the first thing you need to know is exactly how the developer, Cerberus, will introduce you into their world of planes and explosions; one that could even make Michael Bay shed a tear.
Delta Strike: First Assault starts off with you being introduced to the protagonist of the game. His name is Leroy J. Walker and he is fresh out of the Air Force academy, holding the rank of second lieutenant. Your character meets his commanding officer, a man by the name of General Duncan Steel. One thing I like about the character design is that it looks very anime influenced and I appreciate that. I’ll be honest though, the story in this game is the least important aspect. This is the type of game that has gameplay as the focus.
As for how things play out, your character reports to the General and he gives you orders to go out on missions. The major goal of these missions is to bomb an enemy base or transportation with cargo on board. When you accept your first mission, you’re brought to the customization menu of the game. There you’re introduced to your first plane, the Spitfire – an aircraft that Britain and it’s allies used during World War Two.
Each mission starts off in a site that is randomly selected, which could be either a city environment at two different times in the day or a desert highway; yeah not a lot of variety there. You start at a certain point on the stage with the goal of each mission to get to the end of the stage and bomb the major target. On your screen you can see a radar and a meter that tells you how far you are from the goal. You have a Gatling gun with unlimited ammo at your disposal, alongside a set of missiles that have a limited use – but are also a guaranteed hit when the enemy is targeted.
Enemies in each of the stages can vary from tanks on the ground, to helicopters and jets in the sky. There are also other obstacles; such as a moving laser grid, and people on the ground shooting at you as you go by. At the end of every mission there is quicktime event to bomb the main goal; if you don’t press ‘x’ at the right moment then you fail the mission. The quicktime event was annoying and dumb at first, but when you get use to the timing you feel a little less aggrieved. A little.
The gameplay itself doesn’t feel that great. Shooting down enemies gives me some enjoyment, but the fear of easily dying outweighs this as the game employs a ‘three hits and you’re out’ kind of mentality. The reason it’s so easy to die is because of the plane models and camera view, with the planes feeling way too big on my Vita’s screen. I always find myself getting hit, and even when I successfully dodge I feel like I missed getting hit very narrowly.
No matter if you complete the mission or fail it altogether, after every mission you are given a certain amount of money and experience. You can also pick up orbs in missions to get extra money and experience if you wish. The money can be used to upgrade your planes and weapons, and can also be used to buy new planes. The experience points you earn goes toward leveling up and getting a higher rank in the Air Force; you can go all the way to level 99 and acquire the rank of General if you wish! Yes, that’s right, you too can become the same rank as the real American, Duncan Steel if you really try. Leveling up in the game also gives the player skill points – which are redeemable for new pilot skills. With these your pilot is able to learn moves, such as how to do a barrel roll, or turn your plane invisible like Wonder Woman.
The level system and customization in the game are two of the things that I actually did like about this game, but there are times I feel they’re disrespectful to the player’s time. The amount of money from one mission doesn’t seem enough for one upgrade most of the time, making going into another mission seem like the only choice. It comes to a point where Delta Strike has a lot of replay value, but it comes at a cost of getting boring real fast. The game makes you wonder why you’re still playing, and there is no real end goal in the game which makes it even worse.
One more problem I have with the game is the controls. I know inverted controls and planes go hand in hand, but I would appreciate this game more if there was the option to change it. It seems very limiting if you only have your game control one way, especially since it’s a game (not a painstakingly accurate flight sim).
Graphically the game looks just like an OK game, nothing jumped out at me that made me think ‘wow this game is very pretty looking’ or anything. All the models and environments look very basic and the audio in the game is nothing amazing either.
Overall, Delta Strike: First Assault is neither a good nor a bad game; it’s just pretty average in my opinion. It’s a good time waster that doesn’t take a lot skill, and the missions in the game have their enjoyable moments. If you’re a fan of the combat flight simulator genre then there is something here for you to enjoy. For newcomers of the genre however, I wouldn’t recommend getting it – I’d recommend spending your money on something else, as it will more than likely be at least a little better than this game!