Friday, May 04, 2007

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Heatseeker (PS2)

Product Number: 144
How Much: £29.99 (PS2), £39.99 (Wii), £34.99 (PSP)
Where can I buy one:

Playing Heatseeker is like taking an instant trip back in time. First of all it took me to one year ago which was the last time I clocked more than a few stay hours on my Playstation 2. With it now gathering dust thank to the Xbox 360 and Wii the stray idol has done nothing but sit in the corner and cry so it was about time it got another outing to give it a purpose in life.

A few minutes in to the game and I was instantly taken back to my first experience with Ace Combat, which first was my first flight sim experience on home consoles. Much like the old school classic I found myself engaging in escorting planes, blowing up stuff, scanning enemy vessels and landing precariously on battleships. Sadly this variety hasn’t changed a great deal and it’s still an absolute nightmare to land on moving battleships until you find the exact angle.

Next I found myself catapulted to reruns of absolutely every flight movie that has entered my subconscious. From Top Gun to Stealth there’s homage’s a plenty and the game’s design is really helped by a mixture of influences. Heck there’s even one mission which sees you having to destroy enemy airbases which are built in to rockfaces, Thunderbirds anyone?

My nostalgia trip ended with Afterburner, a incredibly old arcade game which worked really well by constantly filling the screen with enemies and by keeping the action fast paced. Heatseeker succeeds fabulously in this area and constantly switches from barrages of land, sea, and air attacks to keep you on your toes. Because of this onslaught target selection can be a little tricky and it can be a pain to decide who to attack first but if you’re looking for some pretty engaging battles then you’ve come to the right place.

This arcade feel is further enforced by giving you two control options: Arcade and Professional. Although you’re asked to choose between them without knowing what they actually do you can switch between them by pausing the game. Essentially Arcade gives you smoother controls but will only allow you to tilt the plane 90 degrees. For those who want to play the game as intended Professional mode lets you fly upside down whilst making you suffer more sensitive controls. It’s a shame that you can’t adjust the sensitivity between the two modes as it feels like there’s an optimum control system somewhere between the two which is just out of reach.

To bring the game firmly in to the present there’s some nice visual trickery on offer such as a great blurring effect which occurs when your afterburners kick in. There’s also an ‘Impact Cam’ which shows enemy jets explode as your missile makes impact. Whilst sometimes this will cause a rapturous “Yeehaw” other times it becomes repetitive and breaks up the action. It doesn’t happen for every enemy yet it eventually feels like a poor action star repeating the same catchphrase over and over until it becomes tiresome.

The only other real problem is a crosshair which highlights both enemies and friendly units in red. This wouldn't be too bad if not for the hidden units on each stage which can be destoryed for bonus items. Often you stumble over the map and think you've found a bonus objective only to realise you've just bombed your own base and failed the mission.

As Calvin Harris would say "it was acceptable in the 80s, It was acceptable at the time",yet sadly Heatseekers' dated elements don't quite cut it today. Still it's not all bad and bound to give you at least a temporary shot of nostalgia. 'We've got hugs for it, as it was born in the 80s'....

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