Source: Review Copy
Where To Get It: Steam
Sometimes, a game needs more polish. Sometimes, it needs a clearer direction. Sometimes, you get games like Vector Thrust. Vector Thrust is, I’m sorry to say, neither fish nor fowl. It has the simpler control scheme of the arcade flight games like Ace Combat, but mastering it requires memorisation of planes similar to a more tactical simulation. It also doesn’t have any tutorial that I could see. This, in a sense, is one of its two core problems: It doesn’t really appeal to either core audience.
Picture it, if you will. On the one hand, we have Arcade Pete. Arcade Pete loved games like Afterburner or G-Loc, but never landed his plane in F-119, and scratched his head at Janes Combat Simulator. He only has a passing familiarity with planes, just enough to recognise that maaaaybe attacking a B-52 Flying Fortress with close range weaponry is a bad idea. Pete will wonder why he isn’t able to control the skies, why planes will pass him for more important targets, and why he keeps losing this bloody escort mission. In the campaign, he’ll itch at the chatter beginning the missions every time he loses, and even in multiplayer, he will be outmaneuvered and outgunned. In frustration, he’ll turn to something different.
Then there’s Simulator Jane. Simulator Jane is used to a flight stick, using the majority of her keyboard at one point or another, and has played all the classics. She’ll know her planes, know how to deal with them, and furthermore, won’t be fooled by the relatively basic AI. She’ll dominate the campaign, dominate multiplayer, and… Won’t feel satisfied. There’s not really a whole lot to keep an eye on. G-Force is only a minimal consideration. The damage for each craft is a straight health bar. There’s no wing shake, and missiles seem to be somewhat arbitrary compared to what she’s used to. Shrugging, she’ll go straight back to something worth her time.
Both will admit the planes are pretty with the cel-shading being a nice stylistic touch. Both may or may not get annoyed at voice actors who occasionally slip out of accent (Assuming they don’t skip the static cutscenes and mission briefings.) Both will find the “variety of planes” to be… passable, as many are variants on the same families of craft (starting with the MIG, Joint Strike Fighter, X-35, , expanding to 45 families of craft for 260 craft overall), and generally, the later variants will be the more useful in each family. While both will most likely agree that separating the campaign and multiplayer unlocks to be a fair design choice, they’ll find the campaign somewhat dull, and the maps to be fairly ugly and featureless. Both will agree that not including some form of easily accessible information on enemy craft and the lack of any sort of tutorial a mistake. They might find some fun in the challenges though, which include bombing runs, balloon shoots, and acts of aerial acrobatics. But both will also agree that target switching is painful.
In short, this game asks £19 for… Not being friendly to new players, not currently fulfilling the hopes of either sim fans or arcade flight players, and being inconsistent in quality to boot. It’s a game that’s come out of Early Access too early, and it really needs to work out the kinks before I can solidly say if it’s any good or not. Alas, a reviewer’s job is not to say when a game is done, but what the state is at the present time, and, although it’s definitely better than release… It currently feels, as I’ve said, like it’s neither fish nor fowl. And that makes me sad, because it definitely has potential.
The Mad Welshman growled as the missile sped past. He wasn’t as well aligned as the gods demanded. He threw another goat on the sacrificial pyre, and tried again. BETTER.