IGN Review of After Burner: Black Falcon
These kidnapped scientists are ballsy.
My mission is to shoot down some enemy planes carrying the stolen brainiacs and then pluck the parachuting eggheads out of the sky with my F18. Now, if someone told me I was going to jump out of an exploding plane over rough seas and grab onto the wing of a jet at 4000 kph, I'd be pretty freaked out, but I'll be damned if these geeks aren't bailing out and yelling "Woo-hoo!"
These virtual pencil pushers are better men than I.
In 1987, After Burner burst on to the arcade landscape. The formula followed the tried-and-true method cabinet machines had been working for years - throw fast-paced action and power-ups at players and let them blast their enemies. Times change, however, and good arcade titles became more and more rare as companies packed stories and depth into their games.
After Burner: Black Falcon is a throwback to the old days of shoot'em ups and bonuses - and it makes for one of the best flight games on the PSP.
For 24 levels, PSP owners are treated to ready-to-be-blown-up blimps, lightening quick action, a wealth of options when it comes to customizing their flying fortresses and a level of challenge that hearken back to the days of quarter-eating bad-asses.
In short, if you've been waiting for a fun, accessible PSP jet game, your aircraft carrier has come in.
As loyal Greg Miller readers know - hi, Aunt Dell! - this is the third PSP jet game I've reviewed in my three weeks with IGN. My complaints with the previous titles included bland environments, misuse of the PSP's widescreen and boring single-player modes.
Black Falcon doesn't suffer from any of that. The environments are varied and take you over scores of environments from the Arctic to the Middle East; the PSP's screen pops with lock-ons, bullets whizzing by your cockpit and some gorgeous colors; and a tongue-in-cheek single-player story keeps you interested between airborne bouts.
Seems a secret military avionics division had been developing super-advanced jets but couldn't remember to keep the planes locked up. Thirteen rogue pilots have taken the machines, and it's up to you - as one of three playable characters - to bring them down by any means necessary. It's a pretty run of the mill backstory, but the folks behind the game recognize that and toss the cheering scientists and a mission that involves you saving a ship filled with "helpless fluffy baby bunny rabbits for Easter" to keep you entertained.
Each time you're given a mission you have a critical objective and a handful of bonus stuff that equates to more cash if you pull them off. You'll make a pass over the area you're bombing to smithereens, land on a carrier or base to have your health and weapons replenished and takeoff for another run at the bad guys. Repeat that process until the boss shows up with an EMP or equally massive weapon to try and cripple you.
Lots of games have tried to bring an arcade feel to their next-generation efforts, but it's rare to see someone nail it like After Burner has. As you speed along the screen - you're constantly moving forward, although you can adjust your speed - teams of submarines, jets and gunners appear in the distance and below you. Crush each team member with your missiles, bombs or guns before you speed past them, and a combo box appears from their destruction to reward your sharp-shooting skills with ammo, points, cash, afterburner refuel, the ability to slow time or health.
You'll have 15 jets to unlock and pick from as you wage your war against the rebels. Each plane has multiple skins and upgrade levels for its weapons that can be purchased with the mission cash earned. The game also tracks pilot stats such as total points, rank, planes destroyed and gas guzzled.
While the single-player mode excels, multiplayer is a mixed bag. Sadly, After Burner doesn't support game sharing, but if you can find one to three other After Burner-packing players, you can choose to go head-to-head or play through the game's missions cooperatively.
Although blasting through the missions and earning upgrades with a friend is fun, the competitive mode is weak. Because After Burner is all about jetting forward, you and a buddy can't dogfight. Instead, you play each other in a game where one person races ahead with their plane decked out to look like a cow, the other player shoots down the cow to become the cow, the former cow reappears directly behind the cow and the process repeats until the end of the level. Ugh.
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