System Requirements: Windows XP (SP3) or Vista (SP1); Pentium 4 (3.4 GHz) or Athlon 64 X2 (3.0 GHz) CPU; 1 GB RAM (2 GB for Vista); 256 MB graphics card with Shader Model 3; DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card; Multiplayer requires LAN or broadband connection
Genre: Flight Sim FPS
Release date: June 9, 2009
More than a decade after the publication of the first game in the Battlecruiser series, developer Derek Smart and his company, 3000 AD, return to the Battlecruiser universe with its latest incarnation, All Aspect Warfare. I recently had the chance to play a beta build of the combination air combat\FPS, and what I found had me smiling and frowning in equal measure.
The plot of the campaign mode of AAW is intriguing. After years of battle with the Gammalons, Earth defense-force leaders have decided to take the fight to the enemy’s distant homeworlds, Gamma-1 and Gamma-2. When their first engagements go all pear-shaped, Earthling commanders decide on a desperate strategy: they try to slip a vessel containing a doomsday weapon into a vital spot in Gammalon territory. The ship barely survives long enough to make landfall on a Gammalon military installation, where its planet-killing cargo is deployed and activated. You play as a member of a squad of Terran soldiers marooned on the target planet. Your task: either find a way to escape back to the fleet, or locate the weapon and disarm it.
In the beta build that I played, the campaign was replaced with a sandbox mode that allowed me to explore a portion of the massive, 400-square-kilometer game world. SAM sites stood silently, awaiting intruding aircraft, while the landing field was littered with all sorts of air and land vehicles, each of which I could take for a spin. But the bulk of the real gameplay in this build is found in the Instant Action missions. The 12 scenarios are divided almost equally between flight combat and ground conflicts. In the dog fighting missions, I took control of a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) fighter and joined my three wing mates to protect a vital star base. In the FPS scenarios, two of my squadmates and I tried to fight off enemy forces long enough for our fourth comrade to arrive and extract us.
Even though there’s virtual parity between the shooter and the flight sim elements of AAW, it seems that the focus of the game is squarely on the latter. The instrumentation in the fighter cockpit is shown in great detail, including two large info displays and an expansive HUD that show you all the things you need to know to keep your plane in the air and pointed at the enemy. A pleasant yet urgent female computer voice keeps you informed of your vehicle’s status and details about any incoming threat, reinforced by a beeping sound that becomes almost cacophonous during combat. As the fight progresses and you run out of missiles (which for me was often), you can dock with the star base (provided it has survived the invasion), and replenish your arsenal and repair your fighter.
In comparison to all of this Top Gun-style mayhem, the FPS missions are tame. You and your team have to fight your way across an airstrip, with enemies with sniper rifles and rocket launchers trying to snuff you out before your rescue craft arrives. It all seems rather dull and uninspired next to the frenetic adrenaline jolt of the air combat missions, especially when you feel the rush of finally shooting down your first enemy plane.
Fans of the Battlecruiser games will be pleased with what they find in AAW, and if newcomers give it a chance, with a bit of patience and tenacity I suspect they’ll get some enjoyment from it as well. But my inability to get a peek at the real story mode and the blandness of the FPS component (as opposed to the thrilling and engaging air combat mode) make me wonder if the final product is going to deliver on the promise of its excellent storyline. But not to worry; all will be revealed when All Aspect Warfare hits virtual shelves in June.