JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters
Developer: Trickstar Games
Publisher: Evolved Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One, 2-4 online co-op,2-16 multiplayer
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With Jane’s name proudly inserted in the game title (they’re a highly-respected company who are experts in weapons, defence, information, intelligence etc) I was expecting something special from this game; maybe the first ‘proper’ combat flight sim on the Xbox 360. But boy oh boy was I disappointed. JASF is an arcade flights sim/shooter, and offers little pretence at any sort of realism, you don’t get a virtual cockpit and never even have to land a plane after a mission!

The campaign, set in the fictional country of Azbaristan and any ideas that this is a combat flight simulator soon go out the window when you find that immediately after take-off you can go vertical with any plane at minimum throttle and there’s not even a hint of a stall. This might be attractive to some, but personally I like my planes to feel like they’re flying rather than I’m simply driving a vehicle around the sky, so this was an immediate turn off. It really is a worry when the planes in a first person shooter like Battlefield 3 or an open world game like Saints Row 3 have a more realistic flight model than a game with Jane’s famous name in the title. On the good side, this makes JASF immediately playable and ideal fodder for anyone new to the combat flight genre.

One thing that does come with the Jane’s licence is a decent selection of real planes (30 in all, including your usual suspects like the F22, Su-47 Berkut, Eurofighter Typhoon, F16, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-4 Phantom. MiG-29 Fulcrum, A10 Thunderbolt, F-111 Aaardvark, PAK-FA, MiG-21 Fishbed), although almost like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport the lineup is heavily bolstered by planes with different paint jobs.

JASF is playable via two views, full-screen (no cockpit/controls in view, like you were riding on the nose of the plane) with overlaid HUD instruments, and a arcade-like chase cam. From the chase cam the planes look good, well modelled with all control surfaces moving as they should and a nice graphical touch in the form of the misting that appears on a leading edge when a plane pulls a high-G manoeuvre. The skies look great, there’s a decently high flight ceiling (about 14000m) and fluffy clouds look just right. But when planes explode they do so in the same way every time, an explosion of tiny pixels that looks like it came from the PlayStation era or even earlier. Even mighty battleships and carriers go poof! and vanish rather than slowly sinking or showing signs of damage, smoking, burning etc. The scenery also, like most flight sims, looks okay from a certain altitude, but up close it’s a low-detail blurry mess, and things like Lego trees and roads with nothing but straight-edged curves don’t help immerse you in the player in Azbaristan either. The missions don’t feature a replay facility like some of the competition either, which is a bit disappointing.

The campaign missions seem to pan out the same way time and time again; shoot some planes (remove the air cover), shoot/bomb some AA installations or vehicles, shoot/bomb some buildings. Later on things get harder as you can’t entirely remove the Azbaristani air cover from the area as they seem to spawn constantly, but this is never a problem if you team up with other pilots online. It is, of course, difficult to imagine what else they could have incorporated into missions with this apparently limited a game engine, but landing and rearming is never an issue because ammo is unlimited (although weapons do have a reload cycle), damage doesn’t repair (you just have a damage limit gauge, which once reached means ba-boom!) and refuelling isn’t required so these occurrences can’t be added as exciting mission elements. Even the introduction of aircraft with thrust vectoring later on doesn’t really change the gameplay in any significant way.

I also must say that I experienced more than the occasional glitch when playing through JASF’s campaign, one when a cut scene was supposed to appear at the mid-point of a mission and instead just left my plane flying around and around in circles with no control available to me, which meant I had to reset the Xbox, load up and start the mission all over; and another where all the ground textures failed to get drawn leaving the surrounding landscape all black (and there isn’t much in the way of scenery to speak of anyway). Both these anomalies appeared more than once but eventually the cut-scene kicked in as it should so maybe it was just a “bad load” or something.

The campaign is also playable online as a 2-4 player co-op mode, so if you get stuck hopefully there’s help available, and I say ‘hopefully’ because on several occasions I selected ‘Quick Match’ at which point the game scans through all the game modes and fails to find a single game so sits you in the default lobby all on your own). Whatever the online mode, unless you’re playing with a communicative friend like the solo campaign it gets old very quickly. Modes include Dogfight, Team Dogfight, Rabbit (chase down the Rabbit to become the Rabbit then evade the other pilots), Base Assault (take out the enemy base then the remaining planes) and Co-Op Mission, and finding someone to co-op with would appear to be the only way to complete some of the campaign missions. Much older games have done the multiplayer dogfight thing much better and made the genre more interesting than JASF does.

Overall JASF is a disappointing title, and feels like a patronisingly dumbed-down special version for us “simple-minded console gamers”. Why no developer has tried a proper, full-blown PC-style combat flight sim on console is still a mystery to me, but whatever the case a game in this PC-centric genre needs more substance and quality than JASF to have any chance of success in the console market.

Best Bits

- Easy to fly.
- The planes look nice.
Worst Bits

- No cockpit view.
- No replays.
- Poor scenery and weal explosion effects.
- Little variation in missions.
- Strictly for newbies or lazy pilots, the gameplay is too simplistic.

by: Mal Function

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