Uninspiring air combat is propped up by a promising competitive mode
JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters is a jet combat game developed by Trickstar Games and published by Evolved Games. The game promises to be an intense aerial warfare that combines a robust campaign, that can be played with up to three friends, with a suite of competitive multiplayer modes. What JASF actually delivers however, is much different.
Let’s start with JASF’s story. The plot revolves around Azbaristan, a fictional island engulfed in a civil war between the North and South. The North is under the control of dictator Chairman Borzai while the South is a democracy and as such they are being aided by Western forces. Players assume the role of Razor, a Western pilot who works with The Southern Azbaristan Democratic Front of South Azbaristan (SADF) to defeat the evil Northern People’s Party (NPP).
However, you won’t end up caring about any of it however as the plot is rather generic and thus isn’t very engaging. JASF begins by explaining the history of the conflict and why the West has intervened. At first the SADF is losing against the NPP, yet with the West’s aid its fortunes begin to change. However the plot is not very imaginative and loses its intrigue very quickly. The opening informs you on what is happening but it doesn’t give you a reason to care. It’s also rather predictable and there is never any real sense of danger or excitement. Characters can be difficult to invest into as they’re incredibly two-dimensional. I’m sure Razor is a nice guy but he has about as much emotional depth and complexity as a teaspoon.
All of this could be forgiven if JASF’s gameplay were exciting. However, while there are one or two positives here and there, the game’s offerings aren’t very diverse.
Before each mission begins, you select your jet. One of JASF’s greatest strengths is in how it manages to make each and every aircraft feel different from one another. A Thunderbolt II bomber for example will be slower and harder to manoeuvre than a F22 Raptor Jet. Yet with the Thunderbolt, I’ll be more effective against ground targets while at the same time vulnerable to flanking enemy fighter jets. Each vehicle has its own strength and weaknesses. By completing each story mission, you unlock a new deadly airplane to use, which soon gives you plenty of choice in how you want to fly.
JASF also controls relatively well though at first it feels clunky and imprecise. Flying around and trying to accurately hit a target can take some getting used to. But as time goes on you will gradually master the ins and outs of the system and it eventually becomes second nature. Once you combine this with air-to-air or air-to-ground combat, it becomes a little more interesting.
JASF eschews realism for a more arcadey experience. You fly through the air and shoot down enemy bogeys, while also dodging incoming fire and deploying your own counter-measures. You also take on the role of an aircraft bomber, dropping your payload on those below you. Bombing is interesting, as the your speed will have an effect on the distance at which your bomb can be dropped. If you accelerate, your range increases. If you slow down, the opposite occurs. This means that when you’re slowly hovering above your target to drop your payload you will be exposed to enemy fire. However, your bomb will land much more quickly whereas bombing from a distance means that you will have wait longer for it arrive at its destination. These interesting mechanics aren’t enough to solve JASF’s tedious mission design however.
There are four things that you are always doing in JASF’s single player campaign: Flying, shooting other planes down, bombing, and reconnaissance. Turning and twisting through the sky with enemies on your six can at times be exciting, but after a while it becomes repetitive and mundane. Not only that, but taking down an enemy bogey isn’t very rewarding. All you do is merely lock onto them when you’re in range and keep your finger on the missiles button. This can be satisfying at times but it never feels like there’s any depth to it. All in all JASF’s gameplay never feels terribly engaging, rewarding, or profound.
While the single player is trite, JASF multiplayer offerings do offer some promise. Unfortunately, nearly no one is playing online. I tried as best I could to get into a match, yet to my dismay there were only a handful of people playing online. This meant that I was spending far more time in lobbies, waiting for at least a single person to join me, instead of playing the game.
There are several modes available in JASF – Dogfight, Team Dogfight, Rabbit, Base Assault and co-operative missions. Dogfight and Team Dogfight are standard deathmatch modes, where you have to kill as many opponents as possible. Rabbit is an assassination-like mode, where one player is the rabbit and everyone else must chase him down and destroy him. When they do, they become the rabbit. In Base Assault you must work your way past enemy defences to destroy an enemy base. Co-operative missions allow you and three others to team up and take on the single player missions together.
Unfortunately with only one or two others to play against, each match that I did manage to get into was over very quickly. However, each game that I did play was rather enjoyable and demonstrated that JASF’s gameplay is fun when you’re playing against others online.
As I previously stated, the combat isn’t very skill-based and therefore isn’t very rewarding, but playing against intelligent human opponents is always satisfying. Some balance tweaks could be made, with some planes feeling like they’re overpowered when compared to others. All in all the multiplayer doesn’t stand toe-to-toe with other franchises that offer more deep and robust experiences, but it’s not bad by any stretch.
Completing missions in co-op is also entertaining, especially if you have three friends that you could co-ordinate with. The lack of a larger online community does mar the experience however and does raise the question of JASF’s multiplayer viability. The developers have highlighted it as an important feature of JASF, yet with no community to support it, all of their work could have been for nothing. It’s a shame as roaring through the skies is more fun when playing with others.
Speaking of roaring, JASF’s sound design is unremarkable. Apart from a single energetic dance beat that plays while you’re engaged, the rest of the score is unexceptional. The voice acting is also poor. Characters consistently sound like they’re bored and uninterested. They never give their performances any semblance of believability or sense of drama.
Visually, JASF is a mixed bag. The jets themselves are well modeled and are affected by light and shadows as you move through the air. The user interface is also functional, but it can become rather cluttered when there are too many objects in front of you at once. However, everything else is rather lackluster for a game of this generation. For example, the texture quality of the fields, mountains, seas and other landscapes from afar looks good but once you get closer you see that it doesn’t have a lot of detail. The vastness of the maps does make this forgivable, but JASF certainly looks a bit dated when compared to other games.
JASF also suffers from numerous performance issues. At times the frame rate may stutter and stop, other times the ground disappears in a big black vortex. These technical problems occurred frequently throughout the game and on one occasion I was forced to restart a mission.
JASF is currently not worth purchasing at its full price. The campaign is boring, the gameplay is interesting but over time becomes tedious and the visuals are lackluster. The multiplayer is standard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Without a community to support it however, you may not end up playing it for all that long once you have completed the story. On top of that it also suffers from numerous technical issues. There are one or two moments here and there that are enjoyable, but those moments are too few and far between and aren’t in any way enough to hold JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters above the quality of other titles.
Tested on 360
Review Copy Supplied
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