Sneaking onto UK store shelves with the sort of stealth that ought to bode well for a fighter simulation, Over G Fighters - the latest in Taito's Japanese Energy Airforce series - is a mid-air collision of budget-game development and next-gen price point.
Apart from being a very lazy translation (you know, dull macho dialogue married to Engrish geography - the intro cut-scene zooms over Manhattan as we're informed that this is "North America - East Coast Area"), Over G is also a fairly tedious flight combat game.
The campaign and challenge modes, which form the bulk of the offline game, feature largely dull missions that take place in the skies above a lot of awfully boring places, leaving your wingmen to provide the detail - pointing out that they'd rather go and look at the lions and giraffes since we're above the savanna. Looks like Europe/Asia/all the other levels to me!
The objective, generally, is to point your sights at the horizon, wait for a few MiGs or tanks to rumble into view and then engage them. Except the other planes and targets rarely do rumble into view or even come close; you'll catch a few glimpses here and there, but generally you're just flicking between weapon-sets appropriate to the target (is it in the air? I'd better press Y again) and then waiting for the word "SHOOT" to appear above a green box in the distance. Sometimes the box is orange - on those days we celebrated. Most of the early missions involve throttling forward a bit, pressing Y and then pressing A and receiving 25 gamerpoints thanksverymuch.
And it's just as well the points are there to lure you in, because once the game starts asking you to manoeuvre it becomes rather more boring. The screen darkens whenever you go "over G!" as you turn, but you'll need to if you're going to stand a chance of wrestling the little plane icon on your radar into the firing line. So it doesn't help that the controls are really sluggish and the most complicated thing you have to do is make sure you've picked the right gun.
General flying is a piece of piss then, and taking off and landing isn't much harder - you just point your plane in the right direction, obey the prompts to pull up or drop your landing gear and coast your way in before braking sharply. That's if you're landing, obviously - you'd look a bit stupid taking off like that.
That's not to say the game isn't difficult. After you've vacuumed up about half of the available achievements points (helpfully dotted around the single-player game; unhelpfully easy to render unattainable by picking the wrong mission out of the handful available to you and closing off paths until you start the game again), there tend to be a lot more enemies in the sky, they tend to have worked out how to fire their own weapons (cue lots more darkening of the screen and the occasional explosion), and you tend to have to string it all together with the taking off and landing and managing of weapons, which sometimes take a bit of time to reload.
So it's not to say it's overly easy, but it is to say that where Over G Fighters is actually challenging, it's rarely interesting or exciting. Sense of speed is hard to do in jet-fighter sims when you're flying high above sprawling but unspectacular landscapes, and it's even harder when your only visible targets are items on your HUD. There are a few moments of fun to be had holding the fast-forward button during the replays for a Benny Hill effect, or piping Berlin off your iPod to replace the rubbish elevators-for-planes music, but very little you do in the game is remotely memorable.
The plane models are quite detailed, as you'd expect on the 360, but they're nothing to write home about ("Dear Mum, today I flew in a plane that was brown instead of grey!"), and they're a bit irrelevant since you can only really see them in the replays, which you won't spend much time watching. Multiplay is available for up to eight people, but this merely demonstrates how much more challenging things are when your enemies can dodge missiles too - and doesn't do anything about the problems with controls, graphics, sound and all the rest.
If you're in the market for a proper jet-fighter game, I'd recommend hunting down a proper PC simulation. I remember EF-2000 from about 1998 being about 1998 times better than this. And if you want an arcadey dogfighter, try Crimson Skies for Xbox 1 instead. It's even compatible with the 360. Perhaps they knew.
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