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Strike Fighters Android Review

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Who here has a smartphone? Or a tablet device? Or more and more frequently, one of both? Chances are, especially as a member of this forum, where most discussion is about games based on a computer, you have at least one of what are commonly called "Mobile" devices.

 

More importantly, how many of you use these devices for something other than work? The majority of you do unless the device is company owned (even then that may not stop some of you).

 

Mobile smart devices have become an increasingly integral part of our daily lives.

 

And the numbers suggest they are becoming as important or more so than your computer. In fact, in 2011, half of the computing devices sold were mobile.

 

Even more interesting is the amount of revenue mobile gaming (defined as gaming on a non-dedicated mobile device like a smartphone or tablet) earns, over 8 billion dollars in 2011.

 

2011 also saw mobile gaming earn more revenue than Sony and Nintendo (PSP and DS) combined.

 

Does this mean PC gaming is dead, of course not.

 

But it does mean that mobile gaming represents a significant market to be tapped into. And some traditional PC flying simulation developers have decided to expand their Intellectual Properties (IPs) into this new market.

 

There is precedent for this move. Major gaming IPs such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or HAWX, already have a presence in PC, Console, Handheld, and Mobile space. Games that were once limited to PC/consoles can now look and play very well on mobile devices. Initially, they were dedicated gaming devices such as the Playstation Portable, but now smartphones can rock out with games like GTA III or Max Payne, not to mention other IPs.

 

Traditional PC flight simulations have tended to stay within their market (ie there is no Microsoft Flight Simulator console version or a DCS for the Nintendo DS). Usually due to the restrictions mobile devices put onto simulations, they haven't been very practical (lack of screen, keyboard inputs, computing power, etc). This has started to change, due to the increasing power mobile devices have.

 

Which brings us to today. ThirdWire (TW), makers of the Strike Fighters (SF) series of combat flight simulations, has come out with its first mobile gaming application (or app) called...you guessed it, Strike Fighters Android (or SFA).

 

 

Overview

 

Right out of the gate, you are not going to get a desktop simulation experience on a mobile device...period. Those expecting such are in for a major disappointment no matter what you play. But, once you get over that restriction, your experience can be surprisingly enjoyable if the app works well. How did TW do on its freshman app? Read on!

 

As a mobile app, the requirements are pretty short...in this case, this is only compatible with Android OS Version 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) or newer. The assumption of course is that any device running 2.3.3 or higher has the power to run SFA relatively well. It also requires 42MB of storage, which can be high compared to a lot of apps, but low compared to games like HAWX. The main reason for the size of the program is that all the content is in the program...there is nothing else to download, merely unlocked.

 

The price is perfect for everyone...free! SFA is based on the Freeimum business model. Basically, you get the game for free, with a basic aircraft (the F-100A). You earn additional aircraft by either playing the game and advancing, or buying individual aircraft at $0.99 each. The game is ad supported, but purchase just one aircraft and all the ads are removed. More on the 'earning' process later.

 

After the splash screen, this is what greets you:

 

Screenshot_2012-10-20-02-12-37.jpg

 

This is the main screen which most other navigation originates from. From top to bottom and left to right:

 

1. Yellow box - Level number

2. Green bar - Current points / Points until next level

3. Yellow key - Number of 'keys' available to unlock aircraft

4. Upper center box - Press to 'recalibrate' accelerometer

5. Gear - Settings screen

6. Campaign box - Campaign and current year progress (year disappears once campaign is complete)

7. Arrow keys - Used to cycle through available aircraft

8. Lower left circle - View specifications of current aircraft

9. Lower right circle -

  • Plane symbol = Go fly
  • Dollar Symbol = Purchase aircraft
  • Key symbol = Unlock aircraft
  • Lock symbol = Aircraft locked, no purchase or unlock key available (usually this is due to lack of internet connection).

Settings screen:

 

Setting Screen.jpg

 

Most settings here are self explanatory, with the globe symbol being a link to the ThirdWire website.

 

 

Specifications screen:

 

Plane Info Screen.jpg

 

Again, pretty self explanatory.

 

 

Before we go fly, lets expand on how you get new aircraft and progress in the campaign.

 

In the early game, keys are earned through level upgrades via points (100 points per downed aircraft) and by shooting down 5 bandits in a particular aircraft (does not have to be in the same game session). Every 5 shootdowns results in you advancing in the 'campaign' by one year. Note that as you continue to accumulate points, every level upgrade requires more points to get to the next level. Once you complete the campaign, the only two ways you can get additional aircraft is either purchasing them or earning points...the 5 shootdown accomplishment doesn't earn anything after ending the campaign. Also, even if you have keys available to unlock aircraft, the game will not let you unlock aircraft newer than the current campaign year. The only way to 'skip ahead' is to purchase aircraft. And those purchased aircraft do not unlock any other aircraft early (if you're in 1968 and you buy a F-16, you still can't unlock any other newer aircraft with keys).

 

As you continue to advance in points, bandits' skills increase and they become more numerous. Their equipment gets better too. You can go back to play earlier aircraft (they are locked into a specific year) and you will encounter bandits appropriate to that year. Their skills and number do remain at the higher levels.

 

Available player aircraft get better as you advance in years, with more and better missiles, increased performance, RWR and decoys (expendables). One thing that is not so obvious is time to play also increases...you can start out at 1:30 minutes per session and be up to 4:00 minutes by the end...time is dependant on particular version of aircraft, not just general year and basic model.

 

Here's what it can look like once you'd played a few dozen times:

 

F-16 Screenshot.jpg

ZOMG! F-16 in USAF colors!

 

Enough about getting all the planes...how does it play?

 

The fastest way to describe it is if you have played any of SF series in Instant Action with most of the 'helpers' on, and in 'Chase View', you'll feel right at home.

 

Your typical screen:

 

MiG-17.jpg

The consequences of 'spray and pray'...

 

 

Look familiar? As folks who play the SF series of PC games know, TW tends to recycle a lot of stuff. SFA is no different, from the aircraft models and textures, to the terrain, effects, and even voices for 'Red Crown' and your (non-existent) wingman.

 

The terrain and weather both randomize...it looks like the IsraelME terrain, sometimes with different, green textures from VietnamSEA.

 

Bandits are shown with red boxes around them, with red triangles around enemy missiles. You'll see small red circles leading when enemies are close...basically they are 'aim dots' if you have a gun. When enemies are off screen, red arrowheads replace the red square, and a solid red triangle replaces the red triangle outline (when RWR is available) for missiles. The red arrowheads 'flash' when you are being shot at by an off screen bandit.

 

The radar is omnidirectional, showing bandits in green, and if you have RWR, your missiles will show in yellow and enemy missiles will show in red. One thing to note is the scale is not uniform...the closer ring has a higher resolution. In other words, the inner ring is about 2 units, but the middle ring is about 5 and the outer is about 10.

 

Screenshot_2012-10-19-09-47-30.jpg

ZOMG! Teh Sexplane!

 

Time to play is in the upper left, along with the pause button. Incidently, when paused, this is the only time you can change views and focused aircraft using the accelerometer and arrow keys on either side of the screen. When you are unpaused, it will revert right back to Chase View on your aircraft. No other views are available.

 

Screenshot_2012-10-18-20-12-02.jpg

I'm the guy in front...

 

Upper middle is the recalibration button.

 

Throttle controls, airspeed readout, gun and missile sights, altitude readout (including radar altitude when low) and weapons status/firing buttons are in the middle row of the screen...left to right to lower right corner. The throttle is sort of a blip type device....the aircraft defaults to near corner speed, and the throttle arrows are used to speed up (using AB if available) or slow down (using speed brake if available). However, once you release either, the aircraft will attempt to fly back toward corner speed on its own. The weapon status indicators are the firing buttons...just press them to fire.

 

The lower left indicator is your RWR/decoy status indicator/deployment button (if you have decoys). Deployment works the same way as weapons.

 

The accelerometer in your device is for roll and pitch control...there is no on screen joystick control available.

 

Aircraft tend to be accurate appearing, flight controls moving correctly, and effects like smoke trails, afterburner, and gun smoke looking just like the PC version. Plus, missiles appear to be mounted properly, and will disappear as they are used, on friendly and enemy aircraft. Sounds as already noted come directly from the PC version, including radio calls.

 

 

Gameplay

 

Enemy aircraft are like balloons, usually destroyed (with no debris other than an explosion sprite) with a single missile or gun hit. Your aircraft can usually take a few gun hits or 2 missile hits before being destroyed. There is no degradation of capability or visual damage when getting hit other than a 'pop up' red bar showing total damage.

 

No takeoffs or landings are included...you always start right in the action. The flight model is obviously more toward arcade as in stalls are not modeled (you merely mush down when you get slow with very little nose track). Aircraft appear to have built in G limits in that you can't over-G in either direction, which means your turn radius gets large and your nose track slows down as you get too fast. Notably, induced drag appears to be modeled...so techniques like unloading while accelerating appear to help verses just pitch and power modeling. Aircraft definitely have different FMs for each one...the MiG-17 is a hoot as a gunfighter.

 

Collision between aircraft do not seem to be modeled, but ground impact is...both you and bandits are vulnerable to cumulus granite.

 

Bandits start out as slow turning 'ducks' but get increasingly higher aspect and more aggressive as you advance...tending to come at you waves of 2 to 4 aircraft, up to a maximum of about 10 bandits on screen at a time. They seem to employ missiles properly.

 

Missiles are limited to reflect real world loadouts. Guns are unlimited, with a twist - when you run out, you get auto reloaded...but it can take up to 15 seconds. That doesn't sound like a lot of time...but when you total gameplay time at most is only 4 minutes...it can be an eternity! Especially since you run out just as you get into optimal firing position (see first gameplay screenshot for an example of how NOT to use your ammo).

 

Decoys are also limited...use wisely. They appear to be 100 percent effective when used. Missiles can also be defeated by maneuver...usually attempting to force a missile overshoot is the best way. Sadly, you won't be that effective against later missiles.

 

Missile tactics are probably the most interesting part of the game. Infrared (IR) missiles have a round circle that shows up in your HUD...semi active radar homing (SARH) missiles use a diamond cursor. The cursors are auto targeting and will tend to home in on the closet in parameter target in front of you. To simulate the early IR missiles that were not all aspect, they won't try to track a target if the aspect angle isn't met. Both types of missiles have max and min ranges...outside those parameters, the seekers won't track either. Finally, SARH missiles work like the real thing...if you turn away from your target, the missile will break lock, unlike IR missiles which are fire and forget.

 

IMG_20121009_170011.jpg

BlueJay 4, do you have the target...?

 

After all that, there are still more considerations. Once a missile cursor is tracking a bandit, a percentage counter starts winding up, giving you a probability of a hit if the missile was fired at that instant. Once it reaches 99 percent, it and the cursor start flashing. For IR missiles, 99 percent also means the lock 'tone' increases in volume. Most of your shots are guaranteed at this point. The problem is that early missiles have relatively slow cursors that are easy to pull off the target, resulting in the counter resetting. The counter itself is slow in the early missiles. It forces you to be smooth while tracking a bandit...assuming he's agreeable and assuming his friends don't take advantage of the 'rope a dope'. The game also penalizes the launch if you are pulling too hard or if the full up lock is transitory (say if the bandit breaks hard into you just after you fire). Considering some of the aircraft have no guns and not a whole lot of missiles (CF-104), it means every shot needs to count. Later aircraft have all aspect missiles, faster moving cursors and faster countdowns. But all your opponents have the same improvements...and they outnumber you. I have not been able to tell if bandits have expendables.

 

RWR indications are as noted before but aircraft without RWR will still get a 'Missile Launch!' call and will get the red triangle outline on the missile if it is visible. Aircraft RWR will get the familiar 'lock on' and 'missile launch' tones from the PC version.

 

Later aircraft have ECM listed, but I have not seen if that makes a difference in gameplay.

 

Once you are done with your flight, this is the debrief screen.

 

Screenshot_2012-10-19-09-50-21.jpg

Guess which aircraft I was in...

 

Again, very familiar looking. This is also where you will get notified if you have earned new aircraft/progressed in the campaign, etc.

 

The game uses the Unity 3d engine, and my experience was very stable, no glitches, crashes or force close occurred with all the playing I did. It was smooth, only bogging down sometimes when the number of enemies exceeded 12. This has been fixed in a recent update.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Is this game worth getting? Value wise, considering it is free, it is hard to say it isn't worth at least trying. Buying aircraft is a different question. All aircraft can eventually be earned, so you don't have to spend a dime...just a lot of time doing the same kind of mission over and over.

 

Is this a reasonable simulation? The answer is no...it is more an arcade game, though the missile employment shows some good simulation like aspects. Two excellent examples of flight simulation for mobile are F-Sim Space Shuttle (a shuttle approach and landing sim) and X-Plane. Both are much closer to actual simulators...and X-Plane has multiplayer! But no combat.

 

Is this a good air combat game? The answer is yes, but with caveats. In some ways, it can be considered more like an 'air Quake' because it's basically you against everyone else, and the type of mission remains the same, with no takeoffs, landings, air to ground missions or cockpit view. But, the variety of aircraft is second to none, with many aircraft you can't find anywhere else on any platform except the PC versions of SF.

 

Screenshot_2012-10-19-09-36-56.jpg

ZOMG! Commie planes!

 

A great example of the features I would like to see in a future mobile version of SFA is Air Navy Fighters for mobile. It has cockpit views, multi cameras, realistic takeoffs and landings, and a terrain/mission creator. The amount of flyables is small (F-18, F-14, and C-2), there are no air to air missions, and the air to ground weapons seem a bit too magic.

 

In conclusion, for a freshmen attempt to get into the mobile space, SFA is solid offering. Blending arcade action with variety of aircraft that no one else offers, reasonable price to unlock aircraft, and a gaming mechanic that makes you want to earn 'just one more unlock!', you will find SFA a way to have some SF goodness anywhere you have your Android phone.

 

Now if can just get enough points to unlock that guns only Mystere...

 

Reviewed on a HP Touchpad running Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

  • Like 2

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Great review with lots of info - will no doubt try the iFad version when its out.

 

So will I, but Air Navy Fighters is awesome. I've been playing that a lot lately. My only gripe is that it has no good air-air combat - you can only shoot down helos, which are sitting ducks when your flying a Tomcat.

:airplane:

The major disadvantage of any mobile SF is that you can't download any add-ons, which are what makes SF so awesome in the first place!

Edited by eaglef15strike

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Great review Harold, well written, covering all aspects of the app!

 

Is this a reasonable simulation? The answer is no...it is more an arcade game, though the missile employment shows some good simulation like aspects.

 

100% agree, guns-on-guns are lot of spray and pray tactics but the missiles makes gamer think before release

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I wish maybe in the future Thirdwire would lean towards Air Navy Fighters type of game... just saying (opinion based on lite version of ANF only)

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Thanks guys! Yep, ANF is pretty cool, and would be killer if it had real air to air combat. And it does take user built missions/terrains! I tried a few, one of them I couldn't even start...kept exploding as soon as the game started. So the terrain builder could be a plus/minus thing.

 

Addendum to the review...X Plane DOES have limited combat options. Certain aircraft come with adversaries you can fight. But, other reviews of this part of X Plane say the air to air is very uneven..the AI just isn't that good. I may have to buy a few planes to check it out. But, XPlane also comes with a Viggen for free! Hell, the only reason I know that is my son found it....at first I thought he bought it! I tried to get the multiplayer to work to see if you could have air to air multi combat but no dice.

 

I'm thinking about doing reviews on a few other mobile flight games since I'm sort of stuck on mobiles for a while (the SFA review was actually written on my Touchpad).

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Cool, thanks for the review. Good Lord man! writing all that on a touchpad? You are a masochist!

 

Since I'm reading it on wife's work iFad (thanks Migbuster), I'll be trying it out on that one day, I hope. Duke University won't mind having such a cerebral game on their machine I'm sure...

 

Hey! F-104. I guess this once and for all dispels that rumor about the Lockheed copyright problem.

Edited by arthur666

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Well, to be fair, the review was written on the Touchpad. I used my Dropbox account to keep a text file synced across my laptop, server, and my Touchpad. Of course, the screenshots were also on the Touchpad. I did have to use my laptop to upload the screenshots because the Touchpad kept giving me an error. The new editor is unfriendly to Android users I've noticed for anything other than pure text documents.

 

Once the text file was done, I merely copy and pasted the whole article. That way if I lost my connection, I didn't lose the article (at which point I would have thrown the Touchpad out the window...).

 

FC

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still, masochist :wink:

 

(and it's a premiere example how to write a review)

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can someone give me the list of Planes? my primary now is the F-4 Phantom (because of 8 missiles and no gun.. i like missiles)im just wondering if they have these aircrafts : F-15A/B Eagle , AV-8A/B Harrier I and II, Su-27 Flanker , MiG 29 Fulcrum , Tu-28 Fiddler (the biggest fighter built, almost as large as a bomber, so basically, it is designed to shoot enemy bomber formations), Su-15/21 Flagon (one of the most controversial aircraft of the cold war, since it shot down a commercial airliner) Dassault Mirage F1, Super Etendard and the MiG-25 Foxbat.

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You can download the app and see for yourself...however, of all the aircraft you listed, only the F-15A and MiG-25 Foxbat are in the game.

 

FC

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They have the Mig 29 but no Su-27 which is one of major pet peeve. Also attaining keys to unlock aircraft at times seems unreachable. The app gives you the option purchase aircraft at .99 a pop which is what they really intended for users to do.Once you make the first purchase, you won't get anymore of those annoying advertisement.

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sf android.. this is the first game in strike fighter... i started to fall in love with this game and now i found my self flying pc version... this is owesome games best and fun aircraft simulator i ever play...

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