Reviewed by Thomas
For the longest time I’ve wanted to fly. A few years ago I got to pursue that dream and learnt to pilot helicopters. My fascination with aviation began as far back to the 90’s while dogfighting the Red Baron or piloting an X-wing versus an Imperial Tie fighter. Countless flight hours were logged in the Pacific theater trying to attain status of Ace. I was excited for the opportunity to jump into the cockpit once again and take flight in Sky Gamblers – Afterburner. Since there are a few Sky Gambler titles out there, I’ll refer to this game as Afterburner throughout the review.
Highway to the Danger Zone
Sky Gamblers – Afterburner starts with a routine exercise by targeting drones. The mission starts as an easy shooting gallery for our veteran combat pilots. Once the unmanned aircraft fire back, the squadron quickly realizes there’s a greater threat at play. The odds quickly stack against them as they work to uncover the source of all this chaos.
As I played through Afterburner, I felt myself caring less and less about the characters and the underlying plot. The story seemed hastily tossed together to showcase a variety of locations and aircraft. All of which is fine because I don’t search for a profound thought provoking narrative in airplane simulators. In that sense, even a dull story worked well if it gave me an excuse to barrel-roll out of machine gun fire and loop-the-loop behind my assailant to blow them out of the skies.
Time to Buzz the Tower
The actual gameplay and combat was mediocre at best in Afterburner. Multiple modes of difficulty and varied control schemes did little to bolster any sense of adventure in the air. Don’t get me wrong, the game works on a technical level and performs how you would expect for a low cost aerial combat sim. Increasing thrusters to the point of leaving a sonic boom in your wake and diving toward helpless ships had satisfactory moments. An easy tracking system for dog fights with the old school machine gun and simplified tracking for your missiles made up the core of combat. Basic commands to your squadron helps you control the battlefield and allows you cover while chasing down your prey. Using a shower of flares to deflect inbound missiles and aerial maneuvers are implemented to keep your craft free from holes. Managing speed can give you the edge in combat and put you at risk of stalling. All of these things are expected in a high stakes aerial combat simulator, and they’re all present and accounted for. With everything packaged together, the campaign felt more like a chore and less like a thrill ride at mach 3. The excitement, more often than not was bogged down by predictable AI and limited story scenarios. Sky Gamblers – Afterburner also boasts an engaging online multiplayer mode. I was curious to see how capture the flag would play out while dog fighting other live Aces. Unfortunately, I attempted multiplayer numerous times and could never find another player to duke it out with.
The Need for Speed
The music was passing in Afterburner. Most of the sound effects were spot on. Breaking the sound barrier left a satisfying CRACK trailing behind your agile aircraft. The sound of the missiles launching and connecting with their targets was always pleasing. Use of the machine gun sounds were perplexing. Firing the main cannon was fine, but on hitting your target it echoed with a chintzy plink plink sound. The effect served as a signal that you were hitting your opponent but didn’t fit in with the other sounds.
As far as the graphics are concerned in Afterburner I thought they were decent. I was surprised at the level of detail in each of the cities. In addition, there’s a large assortment of aircraft which you control or fight. You’ll be piloting a jet fighter of some type during the campaign against an army of naval ships, helicopters and other planes and drones. The only time I ran into any issues with the graphics is when I got too close to them. Buzzing the ground reveals the true lack of detail. Some buildings and towers must have been conjured by the pilots mind because you could fly through them, bringing no harm to your airplane.
Your Ego is Writing Checks
Pointing out graphical issues with obstacles is one thing when avoiding contact with them should be the primary goal anyway. Unfortunately that’s not where the problems end. I had several corrupted save files. The game loads everything under a specific gamer profile instead of save slots. This complicated things when the game didn’t track my progress correctly and resulted in replaying the same levels several times. In addition to that, one of the main aspects of the game is unlocking aircraft with the ability to freely design the paint schemes and adorn them with badges. The paint and badges are open to you at the onset of play. To unlock more aircraft, you have to earn money and experience in the campaign. There was a bug that never let me progress beyond level one. Every time I finished a match, it gave me the same amount of experience I got the previous time I played. No matter how often I replayed a scenario, it wouldn’t pay me or allow me to level up. I was never able to afford other aircraft to experiment with. On that same note, Afterburner would show that I completed 3 out of 15 of the main story missions and then would reset it to one or two after every level. At least the next level was unlocked so I could finish playing the game, but such a simple tracking method should be easy to execute. A few other times the game would freeze or lag in the single player mode. This was only problematic when I was dive bombing an enemy sub and inadvertently kamikaze.
Sky Gamblers – Afterburner is a lackluster entry in the dog fighting simulation genre. The combat is occasionally fun. If you want a casual low stakes experience, or are new to air combat simulators this would be a decent stepping stone. If a fast paced, adrenaline fueled fighter is more your speed, you’ll want to avoid Afterburner. It’s offerings are mild and is plagued with too many issues to get your full value.
- Cockpit View
- Intuitive Controls
- Mediocre Combat
- Feels Incomplete
- Dull Storyline