Reviewed: July 22, 2006
Released: June 29, 2006
When it comes to flight games on the console most gamers have to settle for action titles like Ace Combat and Blazing Angels, while the simulations pretty much stick to the more powerful PC’s. Ubisoft wants to change all that…sort of…with their latest release, Over G Fighters. Already out in Japan for quite some time, now we finally get a taste of some Top Gun action 360-style.
For whatever reason, designers rarely attempt a sim experience on consoles, but Over G definitely tries to break the typical action barriers by introducing a lot of sim-like pre-mission configurations as well as a bit of RPG stat-building for your pilot, while throwing in a whole squadron of modern planes and even a few futuristic prototypes.
Over G Fighters offers more than 30 planes including the F-22A Raptor, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Viper, or even a Mig-29 Fulcrum or an F-117A Stealth Fighter, plus dozens of weapons, and more than 75 missions. Taito even worked in a functional story, although the game plays just as well if you skip it. After all, you’re a pilot here to follow orders – not question why.
So just how do you know when a flight game is a sim and not an action title? Well, depending on your realism settings you can now blackout and redout depending on the negative or positive G’s you are exerting on your pilot. That alone is something that a lot of PC sims don’t even bother with. As you fly more missions you’ll build up your G-force endurance and be able to withstand more G’s before these effects kick in.
And for those of you who are annoyed at those planes in Ace Combat that can carry 50 missiles and still get off the ground, in Over G Fighters you can expect more realistic numbers as well as a few variations when it comes to reloading your ordnance. Depending on your chosen difficulty you’ll either have to wait for your missiles to slowly reappear, or on the hardest skill setting, you’ll actually have to land and reload, just like they do in real life.
From the opening menu you can dive right into the story mode or fly in a series of Challenges that you get to configure to practice and hone your skills and get a feel for new planes. Obviously, the Scenario mode is where the core game lies and where you will spend most of your time as you work your way through dozens of missions, unlocking new planes, weapons, and improving your pilot’s attributes.
One thing is for certain. Realism doesn’t always translate to fun. There are some missions, just like in real-life, where you’ll take off, fly to one or maybe two targets, fire your missiles, and it’s mission over…just that quick. If you skip the landing and the takeoff procedure some missions are less than a minute. The damage model is also severe with your plane losing speed and handling after taking certain amounts of damage. Often, it’s better to just restart the mission than try to finish with a shot-up plane.
The only problem with having more than 75 of these missions is that the designers apparently ran out of ideas so you’ll see some missions that are insanely easy and short and other that are painfully long, and others that simply repeat the ideas and situations of previous mission only with a new target or in a new locale. I appreciate the scale of the campaign but some variety and structure would have been nice.
As with games of this type you are given specific missions goals required to complete the mission, then you have a few secondary goals and then you have the above-and-beyond goals that really earn you the big scores. Obviously, you’ll want to do as much as you can in the time allotted to get the best rank and unlock the most planes and weapons for use in other modes like multiplayer.
Some missions force you to make some tactical decisions, especially the ones where there are far more enemies than you have weapons. You can either try to dogfight which guns – not that easy, or order your wingman to use his ordnance to take down the enemy. Using your wingman becomes even more critical in the later missions, both for protection and distraction, as he seems pretty invulnerable to damage, or at least getting totally shot down.
The multiplayer dogfighting works surprisingly well over Xbox Live despite a lack of game modes or options. There also doesn’t seem to be a lot of people playing, even several weeks after the game as been in stores. There is a nice ranking system in place that tracks your kills and posts them to the Xbox Live leaderboards.
Over G Fighters looks pretty good with only one exception…a total lack of speed. Even skimming the terrain at Mach 2, you never feel you are going as fast as the HUD indicates. Most of this is simply due to a lack of ground detail, since our perception of speed is relative to what is moving past us, and for the most part that is blue ocean or green or brown turf that looks like it was ripped from a PS2 title. It’s this lack of sensation of speed that makes it quite startling when the red and blackout effects kick in.
The planes are exquisite with fantastic 3D models, detailed textures, and fully working control surfaces that move in total responsiveness to your controls. You can fly from an ultra-realistic cockpit view, HUD view, canopy view, or even from behind the plane if you enjoy watching all the moving parts and the blue-red glow of the afterburner. The cockpit view offers the greatest level of immersion and you even get rearview mirrors so nobody can sneak up on your six.
Between missions you are given results, new objectives, wingmen selection, plane selection, and ordnance selection using boring newspaper-style pages. The actual mission briefing have these little 2D inserts with enemy icons moving around. It’s really primitive compared to the 3D stuff Ace Combat has been doing on the PS2.
The camera work is excellent with all sorts of extra cutscenes tossed in (that you can skip) as well as a replay mode allowing you to watch your mission unfold from any of several camera angles. Framerate is super-smooth, but that is more a testament to the low detail of the landscape than the game engine.
Do yourself a favor and turn off the music in the sound options before you even start the first mission. This is generic Japanese rock on an epic scale of badness. Go rip your soundtracks to Top Gun and Iron Eagle to your HD and have those play instead. Nothing says “death from the skies” like Kenny Loggins and Queen.
Nobody broke the budget when the cast the English voice actors for Over G. What little speech there is, mostly briefings and occasional radio chatter, is awkward and poorly acted. This leaves you only with the hiss of your engines and the sounds of weapons fire and a variety of alarms for low altitude or excessive speed. The potential for a rich 3D sound experience was totally lost in this game.
Expect a good 12-18 hours to finish all 75 of the campaign missions. Some are easy and fast and others are long, hard, and will have you flying them over and over again trying to avoid random damage from unseen AA installations.
The online modes are lacking but at least they are fun – sometimes more fun than the solo game if you can actually find people playing Over G Fighters on Xbox Live.
Those looking for Achievement points, you’ll have a challenging time unlocking all 38 goals, most of which include competing missions with specific criteria to unlock rare and special rewards, usually planes, to get the points added to your gamer score. There are some Challenge achievements as well but surprisingly, nothing for online play.
I had high hopes for Over G Fighters. While I enjoy a good flight action game I have always been partial to the more serious sims on the PC and I thought this might actually bridge that gap, but Over G proves that serious isn’t always fun, especially when the presentation it lacking in both visuals and especially sound.
The planes look pretty and they fly with precise controls and accurate physics, but that’s about all you can say nice about Over G. We can only hope that Namco brings their Ace Combat series to the 360 soon, as this system is severely lacking in flying games.