A few months back I reviewed
Born Ready Games’ Strike Suit Zero. The game had some pretty stunning production values layered on top of a solid arcade space combat framework, and I’ve been eagerly waiting to see what Born Ready does next with the property. It turns out I didn’t have to wait long as they’ve just released Strike Suit Infinity, a standalone expansion pack that takes the arcade aspects of the original game and puts them front and center.
Strike Suit Infinity presents itself as an in-depth training program for the earth defense military from the first game. This setup is really all you need to dispense with the rest of the story and plotting and dive right into the action. The game is divided into 18 rounds spanning several of the breathtaking stellar vistas from the first game, but each level works pretty much the same, just with increasing difficulty.
Each round has three timed waves, where your main objective is to wipe out all opposition, be they enemy fighters, capital ships, freighters or even inconvenient wreckage. You get a bonus multiplier for finishing a wave within the time limit, but if time runs out, the next wave will begin and drop all of its enemies on top of the ones you’re still mopping up from the first wave. Enemy cargo shuttles will drop in and eventually escape, but it’s in your best interest to take them out quickly because destroying the shuttles nets you upgrades.
While the original game allowed you to take your time and be methodical within reason, Infinity is all about speed; you shouldn’t be concerned with saving missiles or ammo, just with staying alive and killing all enemy ships as quickly as possible. To that end, the eponymous Strike Suit is available from the start, and indeed is your default fighter until you unlock better ones. Its mecha-transforming flux mode also returns, and it’s a way of life in Infinity.
Since Infinity is based on alacrity instead of pure endurance, it’s actually a good idea to shift into flux mode and let huge barrages of missiles off the chain; in fact, sometimes it’s the only way to survive. Infinity is a difficult game, and it gets that way much sooner than the first game. Expect to barely make it out of the first couple rounds; that is of course before you can buy upgrades.
Your score totals and multipliers net you credits, which you can spend on new squadmates and performance buffs for them. This turns into sort of a virtuous cycle, as each squadmate still surviving at the end of the round gives you another score bonus. You’ll want to upgrade your team quickly, as they’re pretty stupid to begin with and get shredded in short order, leaving you facing the relentless rebel hordes alone. Naturally, credits and upgrades aren’t the only incentive to try for high scores—a big part of Infinity is the leaderboard system. As far as leaderboards go Infinity has a strong setup, although I hope the developers will incorporate more of the scorekeeping into real-time gameplay in future updates. In any case I expect Born Ready will be hosting regular competitions over the next few months at least.
My main issue with Infinity is the same one I had with the original Strike Suit Zero—it’s not as transparent as it should be, especially with the modest amount of complexity in the controls and gameplay. It isn’t as complicated as Freelancer
, but if you’ve played the first game you’ll still need a quick refresher, and if you haven’t, well, space-gods help you. The tutorial gives you a decent overview of the controls, but the game never answers the more granular questions I was asking.
For instance, the game never tells you specifically how you upgrade your squadmates—it could be an AI bump, increase in accuracy or just better weapons, or even all three, but I was never exactly sure; it would’ve been nice to see some concrete stats. The first few levels also come very hard and fast, and I was absolutely dusted on the first bonus level. Infinity seems to assume you were really good at the first game and wanted more of a challenge; in that respect, I suppose I can’t complain because that’s exactly how expansion packs were back in the day before nickel-and-dime DLC.
And to be honest, that is probably what Born Ready intended. Infinity isn’t a smaller chunk of Strike Suit Zero, intended to entice new players to buy the original game. It’s a gauntlet, an advanced class in interstellar dogfighting served up smoking like a plasma cannon for all the aces who conquered the first game and now have dozens of little X’s painted on their mechas. At a normal price of $6.99, it’s difficult to complain that it’s too hard or obtuse; it’s really more of a lavish standalone DLC pack, an enhanced horde mode that Born Ready didn’t have time to put into the original game. It actually reminds me a little of Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
Because Infinity uses a lot of the original game’s assets, you can expect the same dazzling production values. The backdrops are still positively awe-inspiring, especially when bursting with explosions and streaked with missile-spam plasma trails. Because Infinity is so much more hectic than the first game, however, it’s harder to take a moment to drink in the scenery. Rest assured, though, the heady, exotic electro-synth fusion of Japanese and Indian music styles still permeates the cosmic battlefields.
I feel sort of weird saying this but I can’t really recommend Strike Suit Infinity unless you’ve played the first game, that is unless you really enjoy punitively hard space combat arcade games. Infinity is a sharp, burning digestif, a cap on Strike Suit Zero that offers a purer, harder experience to keep fans of the first game satisfied until some substantial story DLC or a full-blown sequel arrives. It’s competitively priced and tuned to give experienced players a challenge, so I whole-heartedly recommend it to expert fans of the original game looking to test their mettle.