[Note: This review is for the PS3 version. Multiplayer/co-op may vary per console.]
With the airspace for flying games pretty full this season, what makes Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters, or JASF for short, stand out from the other flight games? Boasting 30 different jets, online co-op, online multiplayer, and a lengthy campaign to engage in, JASF has a lot to offer fans of the genre.
The campaign takes place in a fictional country, Azbaristan, during a brutal civil war. Your character, a pilot named Razor, steps into the cockpit of some of the worlds finest pieces of machinery to help reclaim the land. The missions mostly range between bombing runs and air-to-sir combat missions, with a few mixing into a “multi-role” format or recon missions. The flow is very back and forth, but the length of them seemed to of dragged on a little too long for my taste. At certain points in these stages I kept thinking “this is a perfect stopping point”, but it turned out to be halfway in.
The forgettable plot is detailed through the voice overs before the missions and through the radio chatter during gameplay. In each stage, you take control of more and more of the fictional country for your side and eventually finish the mission with a “dogfight” against a tank-of-a-plane at the end. Not to spoil things but, sadly, it was far too similiar to Ace Combat for me to take it seriously, and the lack of character during the story segments gave me no sense of emergency for trying to save civilian lives. While the missions themselves are quite fun and enjoyable, the story is anything but.
I played on Normal difficulty and I still died quite a few times. It wasn’t overly difficult, but knowing what plane to choose makes the difference when a 20 minute mission sometimes lasts 40 minutes, especially during some of the early bombing runs. An important part of JASF is picking the right plane for the mission. Doing so will make things a lot easier, which I found out later on. In the beginning, I was simply picking the “coolest looking” plane, which is a terrible idea, mind you.
The planes you choose will change from mission to mission. Later on, you’ll unlock a few amazing multi-role planes that can handle any mission you throw at it. The game advertises 30 planes, but half of them, give or take a few, are variations of the other planes. The variations each have a different paint scheme and different weapon load out, making them usable in other situations. I flew with quite a few different planes, and there are some drastic differences between some of them, but others are similar in certain areas. While they all feel unique enough, it came down to what weapons were on the plane that was the deciding factor. None of them handled or flew bad enough to say, “this plane sucks, I won’t use it.” Instead, I found myself saying “this plane doesn’t have enough ground targeting missiles, I’m using this one instead.”
Some of the best touches in the game are the subtle physics and feedback JASF offers. For example, if you set your controller down, the plane won’t sit on a straight path and just fly. Granted, it won’t veer off in a drastic manner either, but it’s the little swaying motion the plane makes that makes it feel like the wind is a variable. A lot of the missions make you fly under the radar (represented by a fuzzy bar at the top of the screen that starts to turn red when you fly too high), so you’ll be flying low, but if you start getting too low, little vibrations through the controller will scare you into raising altitude just a hair.
Initially, I really disliked the bombing missions. I would pick planes with two different bombs and one set of air-to-air missiles, and the missions would take forever. I fly in third person because, let’s face it, if you’re flying an awesome jet, you want to see that awesome jet in action. When doing bombing runs, unless you are using guided missiles (which take longer because they are weaker), the plane gets in the way of the targeting reticule used for bombing. Doing some serious dive-bombing, that’s fine, but when fending off other airplanes in the midst of bombing, it gets a little over-complicated. Using the more powerful bombs, I set the view to first-person, which has to be done in the pause menu.
Air-to-air combat is really fun, but the cannons are not only hard to use for a rookie pilot like myself, but the bullets look terrible. Everything else about the game looks fantastic and realistic but as soon as you fire your cannons it looks like the gunfire from a mid-life cycle PS2 flying game. Thankfully, I rarely used the cannons because they were a real eyesore.
Multiplayer is non-existent. Unless you know someone with the game, you won’t be playing online. Period. For the past week, I have gotten online every single night and searched for a lobby, only to find myself creating one. So I would sit in the lobby, and wait five to ten minutes. Nothing. It’s a shame, too, because this game would benefit with co-op. Some of the missions get overwhelming, and having a wingman or two on hand would make things work smoother. Playing through the game, some missions made me think they were designed with co-op in mind, but I never got a chance to test that theory.
On a personal level, it’s irritating when small games like this offer multiplayer and have quite a few multiplayer trophies. I want to play online and I want to accumulate more trophies, but the non-existent online portion of the game keeps me from doing both of those.
Featuring some of the best planes in the sky, and some intense dogfights, JASF flies on its own level in most regards. However, with a plot that leaves a lot to be desired and a lack of active online play, it loses the points that made it special. It still is worth a flight, if flying games are something you enjoy, because the flying is a treat and the planes are top notch.
- beautiful graphics (minus the cannons of course)
- THE best planes in a flying game on PS3
- lack of imaginative plot
- no one is playing the competitive or co-op online
Score: 3* out of 5