Genre : Action
Release Date: September 14, 2004
Pre-order 'YAGER': Xbox
Yager’s protagonist is Magnus Tide, and he kicks ass. He will tell you both these things about every forty-five seconds during the time you spend with the game, either by boasting to other characters or in celebration of yet another kill.
He’s not entirely wrong, though. Yager takes a little while to get used to, but it can be a lot of fun. It’s an aerial FPS, like Air Force: Delta Strike or Secret Weapons Over Normandy, so you’ll be engaging in multiple dogfights and destroying targets on land and sea, but it’s quite unlike either of those games.
For one thing, Yager’s pretty. You won’t have a lot of time to just take in the scenery, but you’ll spend your time flying a finely detailed ship above equally detailed oceans, bases, islands, and boats. The technical designers at Yager (and yes, weirdly, the developer and the game have the same name) have outdone themselves.
More importantly, Yager’s central hook is that the plane you’re flying, the Sagittarius, is a transformer of sorts. By clicking the right thumbstick, you can change it from a surprisingly fast jet to a hovercraft and back again, which has the side effect of instantly bringing you to a full stop. It’s an advantage that no one else in the sky has, and lets you pull off some impressive moves in the middle of a dogfight, such as immediately braking and going into a 180-degree turn.
Magnus is flying this ship as a freelancer for the government of the Proteus Islands. A while ago, an “incident” – which really wasn’t Magnus’s fault; he’s very clear on this point, but the way he acts, I get the feeling that very few things actually are his fault – left him broke, planeless, and single. It’s taken him a while to get his act back together, and to get his hands on a new plane, but he’s had to take this job with Proteus for the sake of a quick buck. What makes things more complicated is that Proteus’s dispatcher, Sara, is the woman who left him after his accident, and she has no particular interest in picking up where they left off.
To defend Proteus against whoever threatens it, such as pirates and other nations, you’ll be flying alone or as part of a fighter group over the course of twenty-two missions. You’ll get into aerial combat fairly often, punctuated by battles against heavily defended ground and sea targets. Often, if you’re crazy or talented enough to try something stupid, you can earn bonuses or fulfill unspoken objectives; for instance, if you can whack the third mission’s boss with one shot, by flying straight into the hollow heart of an enemy submarine and firing at its fuel depot, you’ll earn skill points.
The Sagittarius comes with a standard laser, but can also be equipped with unguided rockets, machine guns, railguns, napalm launchers, and a target marker, several of which also have a secondary mode. Pickups can be found scattered around the landscape, glowing faintly, which gives you a reason to explore (at first, I typed “explode,” but that actually works too) your surroundings. There’s a lot to see and shoot.
Yager’s biggest problem, as of this build, is that it doesn’t control at all like you’d think it would. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, especially in hover mode. You’d expect the right thumbstick to rotate the camera or your jet, but instead, it controls your altitude. You’ll probably have a few frustrating moments in the tutorial mode before you get up to speed.
If you’re willing to overcome that, Yager is a challenging sci-fi shooter with amazing technical designs. It’s already something of a cult classic in Europe. If you’re into aerial shooters or you just like planes, keep your eyes open for it.
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