|System: X360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Backbone Ent.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jul. 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The multiplier concept reinforces Joint Strike's arcade roots: this is a game all about high scores. You can pick up medals during flight to net points and every level has rankings based on time completion and play style that - you guessed it - reward you with more points. Persistent online leaderboards bring the high score mentality home as well.
Besides an obsession with high scores, Joint Strike has one other thing in common with its predecessors: its difficulty. This is one hard game, but it's never unfair. Like most top-down shooters, the main gamer characteristic being tested is your reflexes. However, reflexes alone aren't enough - they need to be combined with a memorization of enemy and boss patterns.
The majority of players - even on easy - won't beat the game on their first or second try. To help curb the steep difficulty there are four levels of play to choose from, ranging from easy (Penguin) to very hard (Wing King). Starting a game on Penguin will give you nine lives, while embarking on a Wing King mission will test your skill by giving you just a single life. Oh, and lives are important for beginners because the game has no continues. Die and it's back to the beginning.
Whether players are already veterans of the game or having trouble on their own, online co-op play is a welcome feature. You can have a buddy play the entire game with you. When tested for review, the online play was excellent. There was no lag and it was a painless process joining a custom or quick game. Besides flying with a fellow pilot, co-op allows you to team up with joint strike attacks. You can string a lightning net between your two planes, instantly frying passerby aircraft.
What Joint Strike lacks in graphical fidelity (it's not a bad looking game by any means - it just never wows) it makes up for in slick presentation. At the beginning of each level a filmstrip spins back-and-forth and sepia tones drench everything in gray and brown. Once the level kicks in gear, the dreary color palate is washed away; it's a simple effect, but it looks great. Simplicity extends over to the audio as well. The score won't have you humming along, but it sits fine in the background.
Backbone Entertainment has updated a decades old classic, bringing it into a new millennium. The core gameplay - established by the first game - is still here and shines. Joint Strike's short length is bolstered by its difficulty, but it's hard to see gamers coming back for repeated solo player; co-op is the most impressive feature of this update. At such a low price, it's a great value for those looking for an arcade fix.
CCC Freelance Writer