Strike Suit Infinity is the little brother of January 2013's Strike Suit Zero, which was a story-led space combat simulator in which the player, piloting the titular experimental fighter craft, sets out to save the Earth from the ravages of interstellar war. Infinity simplifies the formula, moving the setting into a combat simulator, stripping out all story elements and pitting your pilot against waves of enemy combatants over a series of progressively difficult rounds.
Essentially, it is a horde mode in everything but name. While such a creation could easily have been slotted into the existing game as a piece of DLC, the publisher/developer, Born Ready Games, has instead released this as a stand-alone title: albeit one at a low price point comparable to what would be reasonable for a DLC in any event.
It's a good idea, as it not only functions as an extra way for fans of Zero to enjoy the fast paced space combat the game features, but at its lower price it also is more appealing to those who are not sure about the game and want a sampler before committing to the main event. But, arguing whether this is a full game in its own right or a stand-alone expansion is an exercise in semantics. What really matters is this: is it any good?
Each round consists of several waves of enemy vessels, which much be dispatched by you and your AI controlled wingmen. Enemy vessels vary in type, ranging from small and fast Interceptors, to gigantic, heavily armed, capital ships that must be disabled piece-by-piece. Battles are fast and furious and the tide of battle can turn against you in an instant, and with the slightest mistake.
Controlling your Strike Suit is extremely well realised, with thruster control, maneuverability and weapons targeting all being equally important in staying alive and earning those valuable points to compete on the leaderboards. Well integrated control schemes are available for mouse and keyboard, control pad, and joystick setups; so regardless of personal preferences, everyone should be able to enjoy the combat on their own terms.
Three different unlockable Strike Suits are available, each of which has noticeably different strengths and weaknesses and allows for a different approach to combat. A more agile, but less defended, craft will be suited for fast hit-and-run gameplay; whereas a slower, but better protected, ship will be able to survive in the thick of the enemy for longer.
Scoring is key and points are awarded for kills, allied kills, player assists, and for taking down 'special' targets such as enemy transports and capital ships. Further rewards are granted at the end of each wave based on the time taken to dispatch the enemy, which awards a multiplier, and for allies still alive at the end of each round.
Getting combos for quick successive kills is a particularly effective way to boost your points, and this is where Strike Mode comes into play. Get enough kills to fill your meter and you can enter this killer mode, in which your ship transforms into a bipedal, robot killing machine. In this mode, you can use your targeting system to automatically spin and face the nearest enemy, then unleash hell with super powered weapons and missile strikes. Entering Strike Mode at the right time in a cloud of enemies can see entire squadrons decimated in seconds and significantly boost your score, as your ship spons on its axis and annihilates everything within range.
Between rounds you can choose upgrades for your own ship, spend your points on recruiting and upgrading ally ships for the upcoming round, and swap out your weapon loadouts. New weapons are earned by destroying enemy transport ships and your Strike Suit can be outfitted with two primary and two secondary weapons at any time.
Weapons are suitably varied and appropriate to individual situations and combat styles. Some use ammunition, of which you have a limited amount per round, while others consume your ship's energy. Depleted energy will recharge over time, but overheating the weapons will leave you vulnerable and without the ability to use your thrusters to escape from a dangerous situation.
You can recruit allied ships between rounds from a variety of different types, including squads of Fighters or Bombers, or larger individual ships such as Frigates and Carriers. You can also 'level up' your allies by spending a significant amount of your banked points. Unfortunately, there is little information given on exactly in what way levelling up your allies helps. Sure, they seem to survive a bit longer in a round, but when you are dropping all your hard earned points in taking your Fighter squads from level two to level three, it would be handy to be given some information on exactly what is being improved.
Similarly, levelling up your own ship doesn't have the feedback that may be desired. When first selecting your Strike Suit you will be given a breakdown of your ship's stats, such as energy rating, shields, armour, maneuverability etc. At the end of each round you get to boost a single one of those ratings, but you'll never see the stats breakdown again, so you'll never know exactly what area of your ship is lacking and exactly how much each upgrade improves things by; except for what you can determine by 'feel'.
Ultimately, while the combat is good, things inevitably get repetitive, and without any story or dialogue to lead the game it's hard to disguise the fact that it's just a constant grind against seemingly never-ending waves of attackers.
It's also very tough, and the points system actually makes the game harder for less-skilled players. Your ability to purchase much-needed ally support and to keep them appropriately levelled is directly tied to the amount of points you earn in the preceding rounds. So, if you are not very good and perform relatively poorly in a round, the next round will be made that much more difficult by your having less points to spend on assistance. Essentially, the better you are at the game, the less challenging it will be.
Given the heavy emphasis on high scores and leaderboards, it's understandable that little tolerance is given for poor performance, but the way the difficulty is inversely dynamic depending on performance will make this a difficult game for newbies to the space sim genre to break into.
A further side effect of this is the effect of the inevitable game over screen and subsequent restart. While you can select from any previously unlocked round and pick things up straight from there, you will start off with a substantially smaller amount of points to invest than you would have earned if you had starting at the beginning and carried them forward. You also miss out on the between-rounds upgrades to your own ship.
This means that if you pick things up from, say, round seven; it will be a significantly more difficult round to complete than if you had started again from round one and suffered the long slog through the first six. It also means you are far less likely to be able to compete on the all important leaderboards without starting from scratch each time.
Ultimately, Strike Suit Infinity is an accomplished space combat simulator let down by a number of less-than-perfect factors. Whilst the combat and controls are tight, fast paced and enjoyable it fast becomes an exercise in repetition and loses its lustre as a result. The lack of feedback on ship and ally upgrades, and a frustrating difficulty that means one bad round makes it very difficult moving forward, both also contribute to this being less than what it could have been. It's far from perfect, but at such a low price it's certainly worth considering for space fans.
Strike Suit Infinity (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Strike Suit Infinity is the little brother of January 2013's Strike Suit Zero, which was a story-led space combat simulator in which the player, piloting the titular experimental fighter craft, sets out to save the Earth from the ravages of interstellar war.