After Burner: Black Falcon Review

After Burner: Black Falcon is a boring game with a serious identity crisis. With a story of a rogue squadron that has stolen top secret aircraft from Dreamland, you begin with the impression that you’re dealing with some serious stuff. But then when your objectives are to "pwn" a number of radar dishes and then to "repudiate" a few B2s, you’re left to wonder how much more contradictory you can get. (And for those that aren’t in the know, "repudiate" is a word that probably isn’t going to be used by anyone instructing you to "pwn" something.)

With your overarching goal of destroying the stolen jets, you’ll travel to random locales and suddenly be tasked with objectives that seem downright irrelevant. The player, the craziest and best pilot around, is selected to eliminate the secret aircraft so that they don’t fall into enemy hands — so why are you being bothered with menial bonus tasks? And beyond that, if you work for some secret government group who presumably funded these Dreamland jets, why do you have to come up with the money to buy new aircraft and upgrades? So much of the game’s backstory directly contradicts the run-of-the-mill goals you complete throughout the game.

Gameplay consists of a very simple formula that works a lot like Star Fox on SNES. You’re constrained to a linear path where you’ll encounter both air and ground units, and eventually you’ll reach your final objective — one of the stolen jets that you have to destroy, for instance — while certain targets along the way can be destroyed to fulfill your bonus objectives. It’s all very straightforward gameplay. Paint a target by passing your cursor over it, and your weapons will automatically seek out one of the highlighted targets. The only real challenge here is to stay alive, as destroying enemies is a very, very simple (and ultimately mundane) process.

Enemy jets usually come in waves, Galaga style. Taking out a certain number from each group yields a bonus in the form of a crate which parachutes down to the ground below. Fly through any part of it and you’re rewarded with ammunition, armor, etc. I mentioned the identity crisis earlier, but regardless of which path the game was intended to go down — serious or otherwise — there really shouldn’t be parachuting crates that magically appear after destroying enemy jets. I mean, come on.

It’s a shame that the game plays so much like Star Fox, because unlike the period when Star Fox was released, it’s now expected of games — especially ones that are ideally free-form, like a flight game — to allow you some freedom in where you go. Instead, you’re thrust upon the same exact path, regardless of your pilot selection or difficulty. The game can almost be thought of as a circuit race in that, at a certain point, you land and your plane is rearmed (triggering an unskippable cutscene that’s exactly the same every time). Once you’re back in the air, you’re going down the same strip of land again until your objectives are complete or you hit the point where you land and rearm.

Even more frustrating than the circuit race nature of the levels is the way in which enemies act. Each time you encounter a group that is approaching from the side or from behind you, without fail they’ll be going the exact same speed as you. It then takes some fancy, unrealistic usage of your jet’s afterburner to put yourself in a position to shoot them down.

As I said earlier, it seems silly that destroyed jets yield parachuting crates, but it’s something which can be adjusted to. Even the look-exactly-alike jet explosions eventually burrow their way into the background (much like the game’s music), becoming less and less of an annoyance as you witness it more and more. The most distracting visual element in the game is the cookie-cutter way in which ground targets (sea vessels, satellites, buildings) explode. After being struck with a sufficient amount of damage, a small explosion takes place and the target instantly becomes an exact replica of each destroyed carrier/satellite/building before it. It might sound like a minor issue, but when the environment’s already are lacking in variety, it’s even more distracting to see such a major change — a functional location turning into a smoldering ruin — take place in the blink of an eye.

Draw distance becomes an issue as you’ll encounter pop-up on levels with actual geometry. In the arctic, large caves and arches made of ice will suddenly appear on screen, as will mountains on other levels. Luckily, it isn’t enough of a problem where cheap deaths come as a result of an obstacle appearing that wasn’t there a second before; you’ll have enough time to adjust accordingly.

The game isn’t especially good looking; with textures and assets that are so prevalent, it would seem reasonable for them to be higher quality. Explosions are stale looking, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a jet or a building being destroying — explosions are all the same flat cloud of dull colors. Issues with repetition and facsimiles aside, the different jets you control do look very similar to their real-life counterparts. The game’s HUD provides a lot of information without being overly intrusive, and the game’s cinematics are nicely done with a comic book style.

For a game called "After Burner," it’s odd that you don’t really experience the true sense of speed that should go hand-in-hand with flying supersonic aircraft. It also hurts that you’re restricted to a linear path, with a press of the triangle button being all that’s required to avoid the game’s only real challenge. After Burner is fun for the first mission, but once you realize that the next 23 are the same excruciating thing, you’ll want to place this game on the back burner. Pwned.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.