Delta Strike: First Assault is a 3D shoot-em-up made by Cerberus for the Playstation Vita. In the game, you complete missions and earn experience that will level you up and give you more skills. You also gain money that you can spend to get new planes or upgrade you gear. Missions are made up of shooting enemies, dodging obstacles, and doing a “bombing” quick time event at the end of the stage.
Missions take place in linear on-rails areas. There are plenty of games that do this kind of thing quite well, like Star Fox or Sin & Punishment. However, Delta Strike makes a series of mistakes here that prevents it from being enjoyable. The most glaring issue is that your plane obstructs a huge portion of your view. It’s not just anywhere, either, but dead center in the screen, which is where you are also shooting. So, you are forced to do a ton of guess-work to both see into the distance and also to figure out where you are actually shooting. This essentially ruins the experience.
It isn’t the only problem, however. For one, the levels are straightforward and linear, but dying feels too easy. It’s a “3 hits to kill” approach. Failing to do the quick time event at the end of the stage will also straight-up result in a game over. Also, in addition to not being able to see where you are shooting, the game also does not render very far into the distance. This hinders your view even more. Finally, there are no real control options for the game. This is quite frustrating for anyone not used to the style of controls that they chose to use by default (inverted). Ultimately, these things all add up and make the experience unfortunately hard to play.
However, the progression and upgrade systems are surprisingly nice. You are able to upgrade both your planes and your weapons. You gain skill points that allow you to get new moves to do in battle. You gain levels that increase your rank with the military. You gain money that allows you to buy new planes and weapons. It all works well. The only downside being, sometimes it feels as though you aren’t quite getting enough money. It’s almost as if the game is trying to force you to grind, and that’s not a very fun feeling for an arcade shooter like this. It’s not enough of a problem that it hurts the progression much, but it could have been balanced a bit better.
The game’s graphics do what they are meant to, but they don’t really stand out. Levels tend to be generic run-down cities or generic deserts, with nothing notable within them. The models are also low-poly with textures and colors that feel generic. The aforementioned draw distance, which causes very noticeable pop-in, makes everything feel incoherent, too. These elements all come together to make the game feel very budget, and it’s not very fun to look at.
The music is equally generic. It seems to be: “action military theme 101” with nothing particularly interesting to hear. However, the sound effects are even less good off. They range from generic to downright annoying. One of the worst is a sound that you will hear the very often: the shooting sounds. It’s loud, high-pitched, and grating to listen to repeat over and over again. I quickly muted the volume, because it was uncomfortable to listen to.
The game does also have a narrative, albeit a very simple one. You are one Leroy J. Walker, a second lieutenant in the Air Force academy. General Duncan Steel is your superior commanding officer. He’s the one you’ll report to after every mission, and that’s how the story unfolds. It’s very straight forward and very minor, because the game play definitely meant to be the main focus.
Overall, unless the you are really into arcade style shooters and specifically need one for the Vita, I’d recommend skipping this one. There are enough issues with the game play that just make much too hard to enjoy. While the progression is good, what you are doing to progress isn’t. The graphics, story and sound are interesting, and even frustrating on their own at times, too. Fans of these games may find something to enjoy, but only if they are able to get past the problems with the extremely limited field of view. In my opinion, they should look elsewhere.
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