IGN Review of Rebel Raiders: Operation Nighthawk
Flight games haven't really had too hot of a record thus far on Wii, and it's a real shame. After two years with the system, the most users have seen is an extremely simple casual flyer in Wing Island, a Xbox port of Blazing Angels from Ubisoft, and an extremely basic current-day mission-based dogfigthing game in Heatseeker. Like Heatseeker, Rebel Raiders now lands on Wii, attempting to pull off an Ace Combat-like experience (mixed with a more arcade feel) for a budget price, and while a few of the ideas could have worked nicely, the game is plagued by sketchy motion controls and an overall cheap feel. You're better off leaving this budget title on the shelf.
Rebel Raiders: Operation NightHawk is actually a PC/PS2 game that released mid-2006, and was reviewed pretty poorly by our own PS2 site, so when we popped in the game for Wii, we weren't expecting much. Currently the PS2 game goes for under $2 used online, and if the Wii version is any indication of how the other console versions played, we can understand why. The entire package, be it from the unresponsive motion control to the oblivious AI and lacking visual production, screams rush job from start to finish. At times, the game even seems to take itself pretty seriously, having a player-controlled opening sequence where you fly about an open world during credits, or scripted intros for enemy fighters as they cruise into the battlefield, but in the end it just doesn't work.
The game packs a decent amount of content into the box for $30, but while there may be over 20 fighters, 30+ missions, and a bit of variety in each of the plane's abilities and weapon payload, it just doesn't play well. Like Heatseeker, tilt control is used to maneuver your plane around the sky, and again like Heatseeker, it's all done with the nunchuk controller. We've seen this work a few times already (even if the gameplay wasn't spot on, both Heatseeker and Blazing Angels worked just fine with it), but with Rebel Raiders it's far less than perfect. The controller is responsive, but the player movement is extremely stiff, as the animation pops from pre-set position to pre-set position, tilting slightly vertical or banking left or right, only to pop to a perfect 45 degree angle for it's turn "animation." The actual fluidity of flight isn't there, which in turn makes dogfighting, precision flying, and general plane movement an annoying task, rather than the core entertainment in the game.
Along those same lines, the game just doesn't come through where enemy AI is concerned, so while some players may learn to live with the far-from-perfect controls, there isn't really a strong core experience to dive into. Your wing men fly around with no real drive towards the objective, and enemy planes swoop in similar paths around the area, sometimes engaging your teammates, but other times just patrolling with no real sense of aggression. At times you'll become victim of missile lock (seemingly random, since we never saw tailers behind us), and even then it's more of a mini-game than a trial of evasive maneuvers. Missiles line up behind you like a red shell in Mario Kart, and once the fire behind it changes, you simply tap the analog stick either left or right to do a barrel roll and evade. Then it's right back to your hunt-and-peck of enemy fighters.
On the audio/visual front, Rebel Raiders is less than impressive for Wii, as - surprise - it hasn't changed since its release on PC and PS2 two years ago. The game runs in 480p, but only 4:3 display, and the visuals don't live up to even the screens on the back of the box. Explosions are low frame and look worse than Heatseeker, and while there's a moderate sense of speed, the enemy craft and environment geometry detracts from the experience considerably. Combine that with the aforementioned animation issues with flight maneuvering, and you've got a game that not only feels aged in design, but looks it too. There's a bit of chatter to be heard during missions, but it's limited to scripted sequences, so you won't get any pleas for assistance from your wingmen, and likewise won't receive any accolades from team members when you save their butts from enemy fire.
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