Flying games have been staple diet for gamers for a long time and whilst PC flying games have come in all shapes and sizes, incorporating aircraft from a number of time periods in a number of fictitious and real scenarios there are definitely two distinct play styles on offer. For PC users especially, there are various flight simulators which offer aircraft such as commercial jets to attack fighters. The simulators provide for a more realistic approach and due to the keyboard/mouse set up allow gamers to literally have many buttons or keys which have specific commands. This level of depth is simply not viable on home consoles as console gamers don’t have access to extra buttons that a keyboard can offer.
The second style of flying games is geared towards a more arcade experience where obvious technical details are overlooked to create a more accessible experience. I think for many gamers the Air/Ace Combat series from Namco personifies flight games on consoles especially as the series has seen various games across multiple generations of console.
Taito who are famous for some great arcade classics have brought to Xbox 360, Over G fighters or World Air Force as it was known in Japan. Xbox 360 owners have recently had the WWII inspired, Blazing Angels to provide aerial combative game play; however this leaned towards the more arcade side of play and was great fun but provided closer ranged dogfights (no missiles were used on planes during WWII). Over G takes things into the modern age and offers players the chance to partake in various tactical missions over land and sea. In Over G, players get to fly most of the hi tech planes of our time and includes aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle, Su27, F-22 Raptor, Hornet, Tomcat and the F-117A Stealth Bomber to name but a few. Prior to each mission players can choose their aircraft from one they have unlocked and then kit them out with a number of differing missiles and bombs. A wingman is also available for each mission and you can customise his or her set up as well as giving some orders during flight. Missions generally revolve around destroying air based targets such as bombers and attack fighters, although there are a number of mission objectives which require bombing ground targets as well as ships. So, basically you get to do all the cool stuff that you’d want to in a fighter aircraft. Some missions can last minutes and other a lot longer depending if you a re aiming to beat your own score.
At first glance Over G appears to veer towards the Arcade side of things although there are moments of simulation morphed into the game play. For starters and one that really does cry out Arcade is the fact that on beginner difficulty at least, players have an infinite number of missiles and bombs. This is hardly a realistic feature as missiles magically get replaced mid flight however I can appreciate that having the game re-spawn weapons for the player makes the game more accessible for gamers less keen on simulation flying.
The controls are very fluid and with multiple views on offer including a rather excellent looking cockpit view complete with dials, switches and pilots legs means that most gamers will be able to fly the aircraft with relative ease. A neat addition and one that adds a simulation aspect to Over G is the fact that players can land at any time at an airport or aircraft carrier to refuel or re-supply weapons or simply for the hell of it. Landing on the carrier is quite a feat and so a great feeling of accomplishment is had when landing successfully, well that’s how I felt at least. For the Arcade player there is an option to auto land the plane in auto pilot but to me this takes away part of the fun of flying. Its nice to have the option there for those players wishing to get into the combat as quickly as possible.
Flying games have a reputation for repetitive combat where players simply follow the targets that appear as squares on the heads up display and then shoot missiles when they are in range. I think for modern flying games this is simply the way things are as this is no doubt how modern air battles are fought. Over G Fighters attempts to address this somewhat by making certain enemies suddenly appear out of nowhere which certainly wakes up the player. Now some people might scoff and say that it’s a cheap trick and to a certain degree I agree, however it does add an extra dimension of fear knowing that death could be mere moments away.
Still on the death issue, Over G Fighters does feature some un-forgiving situations where once a missile has been fired by an enemy craft it becomes very difficult to avoid being hit and blown to pieces. In most, if not all cases, a single missile is enough to destroy the players’ aircraft and so avoiding missiles is paramount to success yet so hard to pull off with any degree of confidence. Players simply have to learn to position their aircraft to avoid being locked on and offering themselves a good position to be able to shoot a volley of missiles first.
With the beginner mode offering an Arcade experience most gamers will have little trouble beating missions and scoring reasonably high (you are rated after each mission). Over G fighters takes on a completely different guise once the options are adjusted and the game is played on Expert difficulty or above. With the options set so that players now have to land and take off manually and flight controls being less arcade leans Over G into the simulation side of flying games. What is more, on expert difficulty, player weapons do not re-spawn meaning players have to land, re-supply and then take off again to get back into the fight. Whilst the game play doesn’t change radically in expert mode or when you fiddle with the options, it does offer a more engaging experience for those players who want it.
Over G features a storyline which in my opinion feels a little tacked on as the real deal is getting some air and blowing stuff up. In this respect the story simply felt like a minor distraction between levels. There is also an arena mode where players can choose a aircraft and then take to the skies and destroy as many aircraft as they can to rank up. Players can also customise missions and simply free fly the various maps that are unlocked through the main story portion of the game. There’s certainly plenty to do and whilst flying games might only appeal to fans of the genre its good to see that Taito have opted to provide some longevity to the experience.
Graphically Over G fighters is a mixed bag; on one hand you have massive open environments with impressive draw distances, cloud, water, lighting effects and some impressive aircraft models. Yet on the other hand you have some horrid textures and blocky buildings which are very low quality close up. In its defence Over G Fighters does look very good in fact excellent at times especially when flying at high altitude when things appear far more detailed than they do when close up. The sense of speed often feels a little on the slow side yet this depends on what height players are flying and what craft they use; the Raptor for example has some very impressive attack speed. Over G Fighters is very polished as there are no screen tearing or frame rate issues, well I never encountered any of these problems. In this respect players can expect a smooth playing experience throughout.
I guess Top Gun the movie has a lot to answer for or is someone else to blame, who knows? Over G fighters features some cheesy rock music which for some reason people want to associate with fighter jets. Luckily the music only plays during the menu screens and not during game play. Every thing else sounds as you would expect whether it be the launching of missiles or the sound of jet engines and provides an aural experience you shouldn’t forget. I’ve often heard the ringing sound of a lock on in my head even after the game has been switched off! The voice acting which predominately comes in the form of radio banter or a mission brief is average and perhaps a little on the cliché side however it does provide for some sort of aural atmosphere.
Over G Fighters features a campaign that requires multiple plays to not only unlock those all important achievements, but to also play and unlock the aircraft. The mission structure is such that you are able to choose from several hot spots on the map if you choose one hot spot then the others disappear until you try again after finishing the campaign. The Arena and Strike modes offer even more play time and sometimes is nice to simply mess around and take off and land in free flight. Over G Fighters features some online play where players can duke it out with players across the globe in versus modes as well as Arena mode in teams of two with up to 8 players. This offers plenty of great gaming opportunities although there are some issues with balancing so hosts are advised to set the rules prior to game launch so that certain players don’t abuse the Raptor or long range missiles.
Over G Fighters is a flying game which sits comfortably between Arcade and simulation. For those of you wanting a more realistic experience then with a few tweaks of the options and playing on Expert difficulty nets you some semi- realistic aerial combat. For those players who are more used to games such as Ace Combat then the beginner level with all options set to Auto, offers a fun and entertaining playing experience. On a negative point, as mentioned earlier, flying games are probably best described as an acquired taste and so won’t appeal to everyone. Over G Fighters does nothing drastically different from other similar games. It also has a fairly steep learning curve especially where missile evasion is concerned. I’ve enjoyed playing Over G as a gamer and as a fan of Jet Aircraft and I suggest for gamers unsure of the title but are looking for something different then Over G Fighters is well worth a rental to try before you buy. If like me and you love modern aircraft and a challenge, then Over G Fighters is well worth a purchase. I doubt there will be many if any similar games released for a while.