Every so often a game quietly turns up on a console without too much fuss, humbly offers little more than a fun gaming experience and doesn't try to pretend that it's changing the world with some sort of revolutionary new gameplay feature. It then goes on to impress anyone who plays it because instead of acting 'cool' and failing miserably by having no imagination whatsoever, it's actually a solid and extremely enjoyable game.
Heatseeker is one such title. Yes, it's got some interesting flourishes and some neat little tricks up its sleeve but the game doesn't revolve around them. It's not attempting to shake the gaming world.You're not going to see a million television adverts promoting it. You're not going to be reading about some D-list celebrity turning up at a press event to tell everyone how much they 'love' playing it. This is simply a case of 'here's our game, we hope you enjoy it'. And we do.
For those of you who haven't read much about the game yet, we described it in last month's preview as Top Gun meets Burnout, and that description remains as good as any. Heatseeker focuses primarily on action and leaves the soppy story bits to a minimum.
For what it's worth, there is a plot of sorts. However, since the subject matter could potentially be a bit politically delicate, all the countries and organisations in the game have been made up (though it's pretty obvious which countries they're based on).
You take on the role of Mike 'Downtown' Hudson, a rookie pilot who's recently started flying for the International Council (the Heatseeker world's equivalent of the United Nations). Diplomatic tension has been rising recently thanks to the secretive and dictator-led nation of South Kor... um, the 'Oligarchy Of Kamcha', whose evil General Bae Jung-Tae refuses to
allow the IC to inspect its arms programmes in case it finds weapons of mass destruction.
This hostility leads to Kamcha kicking off a war by sending out their forces to prevent the IC from meddling. Occasionally co-operating with naughty Bae Jung-Tae is Admiral Golovich (coughRUSSIANcough), who sends out some of his own nation's aircraft in order to help the Kamchans resist enemy attacks. Basically, it's a serious, puppetless version of that bit in Team America where they're flying about and blowing up Korean planes.
King Of The Wing
Ultimately, however, the plot isn't really that important and is essentially a colourful, elaborate way of saying 'shoot loads of stuff', which is no bad thing in our book. Sure, at times the developer's tried to disguise it a bit by making you fly a reconnaissance mission and scope out the situation, but said scoping usually results in you coming across a load of enemy planes and ships, at which point the mission objective once again becomes to 'shoot loads of stuff'. Needless to say, we're happy to report that 'shooting loads of stuff' is immensely satisfying, partly due to the excellent control systems that have been implemented throughout the game.
There are two main control methods to choose from, and each has its own benefits. The default system involves using the Wii Remote's pointer to aim where you want your aircraft to turn while you use the Nunchuk's analogue stick to control your speed.
Strange as it sounds, think of it as a first-person shooter, with the Remote making you turn more sharply the further you point to
the edge of the screen. This makes it easy to soar upwards into the sky (by pointing
toward the top of the screen) then dive down and accurately shoot at enemy ships and tanks on the sea or land below, before swooping back up again. It all feels so smooth that we're convinced the game disc must be made of caramel, but we bit it and it wasn't. It was kind of plasticky.