It’s quite a sight watching a Eurofighter Typhoon screaming over your head, its afterburners bright orange, the smell of petrol washing over you as your ears get bombarded with a Eurojet EJ200 engine throwing over 20,000 pounds force straight into your ear canal.
Needless to say it’s hard for a video game to convey that feeling into your Xbox controller, and through your 5.1 surround sound, although many have tried. The latest game that attempts to coerce the little pilot inside you to come on out is Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters, or JSAF.
Jumping behind the controls of either an FA/18 Hornet or the Aardvark things start to look promising. The aircraft looks nice enough, not quite as good as other simulators, but it’s by no means bad either. The runway you start on is very bland on the other hand, the scenery looks good, but the buildings are white panelled boxes, and my major gripe with most flight simulators is there is no activity in the background. Even a few planes on a taxiing loop or a couple of fire engines roaring past would make for a refreshing change, alas JSAF leaves you with nothing but the bare minimum.
Taking off, one of the games biggest flaw very quickly comes to light, you can’t change your viewpoint. If you pause the game you can change the camera from third to first person, but you cannot do this in flight. To make this matter much worse, the first person view lacks a cockpit, which is a crying shame as most recent flight simulators today let you view instrument panels that change depending on what you’re telling your plane to do.
With that said, your HUD is quite bare, and isn’t a choice for the more hardcore flight sim fans, but for those just wanting a quick blast it’s perfect. Speed, weapons, health, radar and altitude, that’s all you need to operate and that’s all the game gives you.
The tutorial is pretty run of the mill, and before to long you’re jumping straight into the game’s campaign. Sadly this campaign lacks any real imagination. You’ll find that missions do not really vary, and with only 15 levels you would have thought the creators could have used some imagination. If you’re not having a dog fight with a constant stream of MiG-21’s or 29’s, then you’re trying to dodge 32 Ground to Air missiles coming from 12 different SAM sites – it soon gets repetitive very quickly.
When you do find yourself being hit by missiles or cannon fire you’ll soon notice that your aircraft has nothing to show from the assault, bar your health bar dipping slightly. You’ll sit and wonder why bullets doesn’t affect your aircrafts fuselage or why missiles don’t blow a couple ailerons off. It doesn’t end their either, as your aircraft seems to be able to withstand a massive amount of damage, bordering monumental. In the third or fourth mission you’ll find yourself taking on a C5 Galaxy and it will take around 24 direct hits from your Cobra missiles to down the beast. JSAF may be an arcade style flight sim, but seriously that is beyond believable. We all know one well placed Cobra can bring down a C5, just a shame it never happens in the game.
Even if you do manage to fail at a mission (more than likely due to time constraints or you flying into a mountain, as being shot down very rarely happens) then the checkpoint system will have you basically regenerating from the point you died. At least you have no ground to make-up, but sadly it also results in missions lasting barely ten minutes a time.
Let’s talk about the multiplayer. What multiplayer you’ll soon be asking yourself. JSAF boasts 16 player dog-fights, games of Rabbit, Online co-op and more. Sadly you will never be able to find a game. You can quite literally spend hours scouring online and not find one single joinable game. This is a total letdown as it all sounded pretty neat, and if anything it could have been this game’s crowning glory.
The aircraft on offer are quite varied it must be said. You can choose to fly an ageing Phantom F4 or Mikoyan Gurevich 29 Fulcrum, or perhaps you’ll opt for a more up to date Lightning or Typhoon. Whatever tickles your fancy there will be a plane to suit your needs. Speaking of which, choosing the right plane is also something that you need to think about when jumping into a mission. You’ll be told in your mission briefing whether you need to use a Bomber, Multirole or Fighter. If your flight involves taking out multiple SAM sites then it’s easily going to be the A10 Thunderbolt or a MiG29 fitted with a Wyvern Air to Ground missile. If it’s all about the dogfights then why not go a bit retro with a MiG 21 and a few Cobras.
Back to a bit more bad news, this time in the form of bugs which the game seems to be riddled with. After playing the game for two hours you’ll be hit with random game freezes and your controls will lock, the game will continue but your aircraft will not respond to any button stabs or joystick turns. Your weapons won’t reload correctly and the game lags – yes, in offline mode it actually lags. All of this manages to knock a fair bit of shine from the game.
JSAF could have been a great game; it had the vast map to fly about in, the wide variety of aircraft to fly. The various weapons needed to complete each of the missions, and even boasts sixteen player dogfights to the death. The reality is that it falls short of the mark, by quite a considerable distance. The game is too easy, too buggy, too quiet online, too dull in campaign and too repetitive all around to keep anyone interested. Missions are both short, not very plentiful and lack any real imagination. The online world is so completely dead that the creators may as well remove the online selection from its navigation. Your choices may have an impact on a mission, but they are still far too easy. The fact that the enemy has an unlimited supply of aircraft again makes for a very laborious game.
It can be exciting in bursts, but when you look back at it, Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters is barely fit to be sold in any retailers bargain bin.