Lock-On Failed

Heatseeker tries to blend arcade gameplay with realistic planes and unfortunately ends up doing a nosedive.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 4, 2007
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There are certain genres on certain systems that are tough to bust into because, well, the competition is so good. It would be impossible to mention an arcade flight game on the PlayStation 2 (or even the PSP for that matter) without mentioning Ace Combat in the same breath. Namco's flight combat series has managed to expertly skirt the line between simulation and arcade by providing real-life planes and then plopping them into a fantasy world constantly torn by political turmoil. Though the missions start off pretty normal, by the end of the game you're often making strafing runs on giant super-weapons with almost futuristic aircraft.

It's impossible to drive a wedge between the series and the genre because Namco just plain does it right and even when the games aren't as good as some of the previous offerings, they're still as good as the genre gets. Everything else either has to take the balls-out arcade approach or go for the stuffy, strictly simulated route. Which is probably why Heatseeker feels like Ace Combat's special ed little brother. Though it arrives with an earnest enthusiasm and eagerness to deliver something high-energy, what with its unlimited ammo and simple controls, there isn't one thing that it does better than its big brother, which is why pity was really the only thing that kept me going.

Start with the game's mission briefings, rife with developing international turmoil and complete with sometimes painfully bad live-action "news reports" of the developing situation. It's obvious that developer IR Gurus wanted to build at least some semblance of a story behind all the mid-air explosions, but to be honest it really wasn't needed, and it certainly isn't well executed. But again, it doesn't really matter since it's just filler between the missions that have you blowing up stuff and blowing up other stuff while blowing the first stuff up (usually the incredibly courteous waves of planes the enemy that keep you from being totally overwhelmed).

And really, that was supposed to be the appeal here: stuff blows up real good. In our earlier preview of Heatseeker, we likened the approach of the game to "Burnout in the air" thanks to the much-vaunted Impact Cam that gives you a front row seat as your missiles, torpedoes and bombs arc their way towards a target. Kicking it off couldn't be easier; just hold the fire button and away it goes, tugging you along for the ride and showing the target tearing itself apart at high speed in a trail of fiery chunks. There are a handful of different explosions for the planes, but within about an hour or so, you'll probably have gotten over the novelty and will instead only see it when you accidentally hold fire for too long, and even then you'll probably panic, let go and not get a chance to see your munitions forcibly introducing themselves to the tailpipe of your target.

Now, you do have guns too, of course, but the idea here is that you try to keep your accuracy as high as possible to maximize the end-level rewards (which range from new weapons to pretty pretty skins for your real-life Boeing and Lockheed Martin aircraft). Using the guns can be a satisfying way to mix up kills, since it doesn't take too many hits, but it'll absolutely kill your average. Luckily, since most of the rewards can only be used outside of the story missions in the Arcade Mode, you're more than welcome to jump into a re-skinned F-22 Raptor to chew up enemies with your guns if you so choose.

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