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Heatseeker

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 2, Wii
Genre: Action
Publisher: Codemasters

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PS2 Preview - 'Heatseeker'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 11, 2007 @ 9:08 a.m. PDT

Heatseeker will strap you into the pilotÂ’s seat and deliver an exhilarating white-knuckle ride thatÂ’ll have you clutching the joypad as you engage in face-melting 6G turns and fight against a seemingly-impossible amount of airborne enemies.

Genre: Flight Simulation
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: IR Gurus
Release Date: April 1, 2007

First-person shooters have a number of different kinds of protagonists. Some are realistic, dying in a few hits and encouraging caution and stealth. Some have the ability to soak damage with a shield or defense, but fall quickly under sustained fire, such as Halo's Master Chief. Finally, there is the seemingly normal hero who can survive wave after wave of bullets, carry hundreds of guns and mow down foes like a scythe through wheat, like the Space Marine from Doom. If Heatseeker were a first-person shooter, it would put Doom's berserk-packin' protagonist to shame.

While Heatseeker is, at heart, a flight simulator, it throws most of the conventions of flight sims out the window. It's easier to classify it as an "arcade shooter" along the lines of Afterburner or Blazing Angels, but even those games seem accurate next to Heatseeker. Although the player is taking control of one of a number of modern planes, their video game counterparts are quite a bit more powerful.

Each plane is armed with an infinite number of missiles, machine guns and bombs that can tear through all but the strongest enemies in a few blows. Likewise, the plane itself is so heavily armored that it can sustain almost endless amounts of damage without slowing down. Even then, your plane is so well equipped and agile that it is about to perform a number of evasive maneuvers in order to avoid oncoming attacks, ranging from difficult aerial acrobatics to deploying chaff and other countermeasures against oncoming missiles. In short, Heatseeker puts you in the role of the proverbial giant among men.

The controls in Heatseeker are designed to be understood in a matter of moments. Players can choose from Arcade or Professional control setups, with the former being more simplistic, while the latter offers a greater degree of control. However, even on Professional, the game offers simple and easy-to-pick-up gameplay. Even without the in-game instructive tutorial, one should be able to master flying within a few minutes, and shooting down swarms of enemy aircraft shortly thereafter.

Perhaps the coolest feature is Heatseeker's signature Impact Cam. When firing a weapon or performing a particularly cool maneuver, holding the button allows the in-game camera to change to the "Impact Cam," which is a more cinematic view of the action. You can watch a missile fly in slow motion and impact against a particularly annoying enemy — an incredibly satisfying feeling. While not quite up to the level of an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 title, it's still very gratifying to watch an enemy bomber explode in slow motion. Additionally, once you complete a level, you can watch a replay of the level from various camera angles, further improving the cinematic feel of the action.

Beyond your own plane, you'll occasionally be aided by wingmen. Although not as powerful as the player's unit, they can both provide useful support and distract the enemy while the player makes quick work of them. It's easy to control them: a simple press of a button, and they're on their way. Like most of the gameplay in Heatseeker, controlling these wingmen is designed to be as easy and unobtrusive an experience as possible. Giving them commands takes only a few seconds and doesn't take you out of the gameplay at all.

Each mission tends to have different objectives, ranging from protecting a civilian medical transport to bombing an enemy base. Each mission had different objectives, but of course, they mostly come down to the same thing: Blow up everything in sight. Thanks to the unstoppable power of your plane, the enemies will fall by the score, and no foe can stand in your way. Your enemies tend to focus on quantity instead of quality, sending countless numbers of weak enemy planes to halt your progress.

Beyond the main objectives of that particular stage, each level in Heatseeker offers a secondary objective. While these missions don't have to be completed to finish the stage, finishing them unlocks a number of the game's numerous bonus features. Ranging from new planes to unlockable cheats like instantly rechargeable weapons, dedicated gamers are certainly going to want to go out of their way to unlock all of these. Unlocked planes can then be used when replaying a completed mission, allowing you access to different weapons or simply just a higher-quality machine.

The only complaint I had for the preview build of Heatseeker was that the controls felt a little loose. Otherwise, it is shaping up to be an excellent "pick up and play" entry into the flight genre. While those looking for deep or realistic gameplay may be disappointed, if you just want to pop a game into your PlayStation 2 and blow up some bad guys, Heatseeker may be just what you need.


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