The original Airforce Delta Storm was in short supply over here in North
America when the Xbox made its debut. Since it was the only combat
fighter game, it got classified as the one and only flight simulation
available at the time. While I didn't think it was a phenomenal game, I
did think it wasn't worth the $100+ US price tag that people sold it for
over eBay. Here's Airforce Delta Storm coming again for the Game Boy
Advance and I'm sure this time, it won't be selling for much higher than
the suggested retail price.
Airforce Delta Storm on the Xbox was played from a behind the plane
perspective. Mixed in with arcade action, it resembled your run of the
mill console treatment of jet fighters. Airforce Delta Storm on the
Game Boy Advance, on the other hand, is a top down game where you look
at the top of your combat jet. Thus, a cursory glance will trick people
into thinking it's a shoot ‘em up title. But it's not.
The developers have factored in the z-axis to make the action take place
in a three-dimensional setting. By virtue of this, the directional pad
will control the yaw and pitch of the aircraft, rather than simply going
forwards and backwards on the screen. If I'm still being vague, it
means there are altitude and height factors in the game. It also means
you'll be able to making bombing runs like dive-bombing Stukas.
Prominent instrument panels let you keep track of your altitude as well
as your airspeed. For example, you can descend to altitudes beneath
cloud cover or ascend above it when you cruise. However, don't let the
instrumentation fool you. You may not have direct control over the
speed of your aircraft but elements like controlling airspeed are still
fairly rudimentary. You can brake or add thrust by using the shoulder
buttons. The final effect is similar to someone who believes they are
driving stick via Tiptronic.
I'm going over the mechanics so much because it plays a great deal in
the game. The abundant amount of instruments, some of which I
personally believe are too large, get in the way of the subtitles for
conversation. At best, you'll be able to see two or three short words
at one time on screen. That's how much room they left for subtitles.
Luckily, most of the missions are pretty straightforward. Rather than
pit you against hundreds of enemy aircrafts and ground targets, you'll
have clear cut mission objectives, such as taking out SAM sites,
disabling carriers or wiping out combat patrols. There's a tutorial to
help you get started and if you are still scratching your head over the
mechanics, it is best advised you should take up on it. This isn't
Disney-fare where it starts off serious and then suddenly breaks into a
The 3D setting adds a lot of depth to the game but it also adds an
unexpected angle of hassle. Specifically, the z-axis, totally
unrestricted as it is, will make it difficult for air-to-air combat.
Dogfighting can be tough if you can't even find your opponent, much less
line up your sights. Luckily, the AI, for the lack of a better word, is
pretty dumb in this game. They may make the pretense to swerve and get
out of your way but they hardly change their altitude, which makes it a
simple affair to chase them down. The ground targets are a little
trickier in comparison. I found out the best way was just to assume my
aircraft was a Luftwaffe Stuka but the end result was a little silly.
You would think modern tactics have improved since, like hugging the
ground below radar or employing the use of radar jamming technologies.
I understand that this 3D environment is supposed to bring the
simulation qualities to fore. However, in practice, it becomes more of
a gimmick and it doesn't necessarily make the game more realistic.
Sure, the graphics look like they are maps pulled out of a military
planning room but aircrafts that turn on a dime? Incessant
dive-bombing? These forces counteract the sway towards realism.
This is no doubt an interesting title but it's not something you can
just jump into. The developers have that part of the simulation genre
down right. All the while, I kept thinking how this game might be
better if it was turned into a behind the plane action game; like the
old Afterburner or the Xbox Airforce Delta Storm. Because of this one
design decision to include a z-axis with limited controls in a confined
space, the ramifications to the rest of the product are even greater.
The solid mission structure and good visuals, for example, are worthy of
commendation. Unfortunately, by faltering at such a crucial juncture,
Airforce Delta Storm fails to realize its full potential - a title that
can't quite get off the ground.