Aside from blasting off into space in the shuttle, life surely can't offer any greater adrenaline rush than smashing through the sound barrier with $35m of McDonnell Douglas F-15 Strike Eagle strapped to your back. We met an RAF pilot at a mate's wedding recently who had just spent three years on secondment to the US Air Force doing exactly that, and he assured us that while not quite as cool as playing on the 360, you certainly get a kick out of it. So with F-15s and myriad other modern jet fighters as one ingredient and the world's most powerful games machine as another, surely Over G is all set to recreate the thrills and spills of 21st Century aerial combat and satisfy our hunger in this, the leanest of gaming summers?
No, siree. Here we'd like to make the noise of a Sidewinder air-to-air missile rushing up to the exhaust pipe of a MiG-29 Fulchrum before exploding and showering a zillion razorblade-sized shards of metal across the landscape, but we're not sure how to write that in words so you'll have to make some whooshy/growly/explodey noises yourself. Done that? Excellent. Anyway, in case that wasn't clear enough, Over G Fighters is a bit cack. Well, a lot cack. It's not what we'd class as a proper 360 game in any department - presentation, graphics, sound and so on - and PS2's Ace Combat series is far superior, a damning indictment in its own right. Disappointing, and no prizes for guessing why Ubisoft didn't send us a copy until AFTER it was out in the shops.
But before we go 'weapons free' and loose off a volley of radar-guided abuse missiles, perhaps we should have a look at what's on offer? Oh, go on then. You're a pilot in the Energy Airforce, some kind of United Nations-style organisation dedicated to keeping the world at peace. Naturally, keeping the peace involves blowing up lots of enemy airmen and their rides, along with sticking the odd Paveway bomb on top of a tank column. The enemy are curiously anonymous but as a rule zip around land, sea and air in Russian military hardware, from Tupelov bombers and Mi-24 choppers to Kirov-class cruisers. Mission briefings are delivered by a static 2D hand-drawn air marshall type, one of four wing men can then be selected to accompany you on the sortie and then finally an aircraft and weapons loadout suitable to the mission type is chosen. The rosta of planes available covers all bases, from out-and-out air-superiority fighters such as the F-16 Hornet to ground-attack beasts like the A-10 Thunderbolt. You'll start off with only the US Navy's F-14 Tomcat and everything else is unlocked as you complete the missions, which take place in various locations around the globe.
So far, so very Ace Combat. Now we can stomach the poor pre-combat presentation, as mentioned above, on the PS2 but here we were really hoping for something a little more dramatic and engaging, such as a plot of some kind that glued the action together, perhaps the odd glossy cut-scene showing the reign of terror being conducted by the enemy forces. Not 2D characters, massively irratating wing-man chatter and the kind of arcadey music that makes you want to cut up teddy bears with a pair of garden shears. Compounding this sonic gloom is the fact that the proper action bit of the game is bent on realism, if not in accurately capturing the way a fighter jet handles then certainly in the HUD display, the technical terminology, the constant beeps and whistles of your in-plane threat receivers and the aircraft models themselves. Identity crisis? Roger that.