“Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut” is the latest indie game to fly its way onto Playstation 4 and Xbox One. This space combat game by Born Ready is your typical space shooter, except for one minor detail: You can transform the spacecraft into a humanoid robot. So, it’s pretty much “Transformers” in space. As the title alludes, this is not the first time this game has been released. It has been out for over a year on PC, but like any good director’s cut, this release features some new goodies. The premise is quite exciting, but now that the game is on a dedicated gamepad rather than a mouse and keyboard, how does the gameplay hold up?
Our full-blast adventure begins with humans colonizing other planets, and you play as the silent protagonist Adams. You are quickly thrust into a battle between Earth and the space colonizers, because we know how well things go between the homeland and its colonies — U.S. history, anyone? The campaign is pretty simple, but it does its job. It is split up into different missions, which are selectable on the menu. Each mission feels like a complete campaign, rather than just a bunch of objectives piled on together, because each mission has you engage different objectives with some backstory on why you are doing said objective. You fight other spacecrafts, protect fellow pilots and even take on huge frigates, and with all this frigate sabotaging, it feels like the “Star Wars” prequels all over again. Once you complete a mission, you are scored on how well you did, which is entered in an online leaderboard — which gives you more incentive to revisit missions and try and get the best score possible.
The amount of action that goes on is mind-blowing, and visually it is also pretty stunning. While some of the textures are not super-detailed, simply flying around space looks as boundless as real life in HD. There are huge explosions, someone giving you commands at all times and even a warning from your ship if missiles are on their way. It is hectic for sure, but that is what you want from a space combat game. Gameplay is brutally unforgiving, though, so make sure to be prepared to fail multiple times. Most of the time you must take on an overwhelming amount of enemies at once. I actually appreciated the difficult situations, because every battle became a real victory. You are equipped with the tools to succeed — it just takes practice.
The premise of the game should excite everyone’s inner child, but how does it translate to home consoles? The basic controls are fairly simple: Your regular weapons are set for the triggers, with the boost as the left trigger. You also move around using the thumb sticks, so the basics are as you’d expect them to be. Things start to get frustrating when you aim or use extra thrusters. The face buttons are used for auto-aim options — which you will need to use — and having to remove your fingers from either the thumbsticks or triggers in action-intensive moments is frustrating. None of these problems make it unplayable, but it is pretty obvious that the game was meant to be played with a mouse and keyboard.
The main draw, however, is the ability to turn into a Transformer-like robot, sort of like Starscream. This is called Strike mode. As a regular spaceship, you have a good amount of maneuverability, but you lack firepower. Once you transform, it is more difficult to travel longer distances. But you become more nimble if controlled correctly, and heavy artillery will enable you to take down the big ships. Strike mode has the same problems with controls layout as the regular ship mode: Having to remove your fingers from the triggers and thumbsticks is not ideal, especially when you need to constantly change your target.
The one place where I have zero complaints is the soundtrack. The eerie synth and sweeping, electronic vocals convey a tone that is both futuristic and epic, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the soundtrack portrayed a futuristic tone, which fit perfectly with a tale about space.
The title “Director’s Cut” carries a lofty amount of expectations, but thankfully the developers were listening to the fans’ complaints and made it worth its title. First and foremost are the checkpoints. As mentioned before, the game can be unforgiving, so they added more checkpoints in between missions so that you do not have to repeat frustrating parts over and over again. This is pretty huge because it changes the pacing of the game for the better. Then the developers added the downloadable content of the original game for free. That includes five new missions that are similar to horde mode, where you defeat as many enemies as you can before going down.
“Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut” has an interesting premise if you can muster the patience to learn the controls. The soundtrack, visuals and action-packed gameplay make for a fun experience. It truly is unfortunate that the controls have a tendency to be frustrating at times. They really hold the experience back from being something truly special, and in a game where you are forced to think fast, it is hard to forgive difficult controls.
Rating: 3 stars