Super fast paced arcade shooter with insane graphics and non-stop heart pounding action.
The enemy country “Z” has exploited its arsenal of nuclear weapons and announced its threat on world power. Beginning with attacks on a weaker neighboring country, “Z” plans an aggressive nuclear attack on larger forces in approximately 48 hours. After failed peace negotiations the United Nations has commanded the secret G.H.O.S.T. squadron to stop enemy plans by land, air and sea.
After Burner Climax is a speedy, mind-blowing arcade shoot ’em up in which you play as a strike fighter pilot fighting against an enemy army. As the name implies this is a successor to Sega’s smash-hit franchise After Burner from 1987, but it is not a direct sequel to any game. As far as the home console version is concerned, it should be said that it is based on After Burner Climax that was originally released in the arcades back in 2006.
The goal of the game is simple: you are to destroy as much as possible of the enemy’s attack force and this is carried out through air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.
Without a doubt the biggest and most central aspect of After Burner Climax is its sheer wow factor. The game shows off excellent graphics in heart stopping, seizure inducing speeds and it’s so very eye-catching and beautiful that it’s sure to raise eyebrows.
If you have played any After Burner game before you’ll instantly recognize the set up – the camera is set from behind and your aircraft blazes through the sky at blinding speeds while you’re bombarded with incoming missiles and swarmed by enemy aircraft.
You have two weapons at your disposal – heat seeking missiles and a vulcan gatling gun. The missiles have dead-on precision once you’ve acquired and locked them on targets and the gatling gun is effective at close range. Locking on targets is merely a matter of gracing enemy entities with the onscreen crosshair and you may lock multiple targets at a time.
Other than blasting enemies to bits and pieces you must stay out of harms way yourself – you can feint enemy missiles by either doing barrel rolls or managing your speed and certain stages will also have you dodge terrain as you blaze through valleys filled with enemy gun turrets.
After Burner Climax features three different playable aircraft. There’s a F/A-18E Super Hornet, a F-15E Strike Eagle and a F-14D Super Tomcat. You can select four different paint jobs for each aircraft, but other than that they play the same.
One of the more prominent features new to the series are the so-called Critical Commands. Every now and then you’re given a specific mission objective – often an elusive target that you must take out within a time limit. Completing these Critical Commands will yield extra rewards such as bonus points, higher ranking and potentially even a better ending to the game.
Also new to the game series are the Climax- and Armor gauges. The Armor gauge is basically just a standard health bar. It shows your current status, or rather, how much punishment you can take before the plane crashes. With that said, you can’t withstand a whole lot – a well placed missile or two is typically all it takes for you to go down.
The Climax gauge is located at the bottom left of the screen and it increases as you boost your speed or destroy hostile targets. When it is filled to its maximum level, it will start shining with a rainbow color and you’ll hear a sound effect – at this time you’re ready to trigger the Climax mode. Climax mode does two things: it slows down time allowing you to better avoid incoming attacks and it increases your crosshair size, allowing you to line up multiple targets with ease. When Climax mode ends (either by having the gauge run out, or canceling it manually) all targets locked during the effect will trigger one missile from your aircraft automatically. Obviously this is very powerful and effective when you’re in a pinch and since the Climax gauge happily fills itself up as you play, it becomes a matter of optimizing its usefulness to your advantage.
As mentioned above some of the stages are set in valley type environments, meaning that you must avoid mountain walls as well as incoming fire. There’s also enemies of varying size, some of which require multiple hits before they go down. These targets are marked with special indicators, so that it’s easy to keep track of when you need to fire a few extra missiles.
The game has 21 stages in total. There’s branching stages at three points over the course of the game and a few of the stages are classified as secret missions. So in order to see it all you’ll have to play it through a few times. The game is not long per se – one play-through is around 15 minutes at most, but there’s multiple reasons to play it through again and again.
There are two different main game modes; Arcade and Score Attack. There’s also a Training mode in which you can start the game from any previously played stage and play from there. This is useful if you want to memorize certain aspects of the game and thus be better prepared for them when you’re going for the high score.
Arcade mode lets you play on five difficulty levels and with limited number of credits. Arcade mode does have a local scoreboard keeping track of your high score attempts. Further more, it can be modified with so-called EX Options. These are basically extra game options, or cheats rather, that adjust certain game mechanics, such as how many credits you’re given, turning visual effects on or off, and how long your combo time frame is – the longer it is, the easier it is to perform combos i.e. racking up the score. EX Options must be unlocked however and this is done through accomplishing certain achievements in the Arcade mode. There are 35 EX Options to unlock all in all.
Score Attack on the other hand is played with set parameters and with unlimited credits. The goal is simply to rake in as much score as possible and this is accomplished through staying alive, completing Critical Commands and nailing massive combos. Your best score is recorded to the PlayStation Network scoreboards, so it’s hardcore and competitive on a wide scale. You can analyze your score in some detail as the game keeps track of the points you scored individually for each of the stages on your best total score.
Both Score Attack and Arcade keeps track of specific accomplishments with medals. These are basically just badges of honor and they are displayed along with your score and thus amounts to a grade. There are 30 different medals that you can collect, but for some reason they are not displayed on the online scoreboard. You can, however, see which medals you have collected in a special medal collection screen.
On top of all this, there are twelve PlayStation Network trophies that you can collect. Strangely enough, you can get these trophies easily by tweaking the game rules to absurdity with the EX Options, so there’s no real merit in them. The real challenge lies in the Score Attack and online scoreboards.
After Burner Climax is a hard game for sure. Some enemy attack waves are practically impossible to survive by normal means and there are moments when you’re literally attacked from every angle. You’ll die a lot. Sometimes you won’t even have the chance to see what hit you. Heat seeking missiles can be on your tail at the same time as enemy planes are rushing above and below you.
There are even occasions when you’ll fly in formation with allied strike fighters where friendly fire is possible, meaning that you must be in total control of what you’re doing. Needless to say, this game is an adrenaline rush from start until the very end.
The controls are customizable through the options screen. You can set up your buttons in any way that you want, as well as reversing X- and Y-axis movement independently.
Flying around and targeting enemies can be quite wobbly if you’re making too big motions with the thumbstick. Making barrel rolls unintentionally is also easier than ever before in an After Burner game, so the gameplay is a bit tricky before you get used to its sensitivity. After a game or two however, your only problem will be to stay calm enough to target enemies while facing this insane barrage of enemy missiles and gatling fire.
Visually this game packs a serious punch. It’s hard to describe what makes it so great but it really causes a pleasant shock of goodness. There’s very realistic looking landscapes swooshing below you in Mach 2,5 speed at a steady 60 frames per second – that kind of speaks for itself. The game is also very colorful and each stage has a distinct look. All stages are linked together with sections of clouds, so even the brief loading times are cleverly masked and baked into the game.
Some of the environments that you’ll fight over include skyscrapers at night, northern lights, icy oceans, hot deserts, open seas and violent volcanic eruptions. Nature’s multiplicity and beauty is well represented in this game.
There are also some neat graphical effects in place that work extremely well in creating various illusions. For example when flying at top speed the camera will start shaking and the edges of the screen will blur when using the Climax mode. There’s even a neat blackout effect occurring sometimes when you take damage – it’s all very believable, so it certainly drags you into its chaos.
The only graphical weaknesses that are worth noting is that some of the explosions look very out of place and there are some minor frame rate drops occurring when the screen is filled with missiles, aircraft, smoke trails, explosions and graphical effects. Other than that, every second of the game is purely mind-blowing.
As for the sound and music, this game delivers some solid fan service. You’re treated with two separate soundtracks selectable before the game begins; the very original songs from After Burner II in all its 1987 goodness and a whole set of new tracks for After Burner Climax. By now, the After Burner music is classic according to many gamers and both these soundtracks caters to fans equally – the new music for After Burner Climax mixes hectic techno beats with fast electric guitars and it has many references to the old songs. It stands as a remake of sorts, building upon the original songs that fans already know and love. It’s also cool to see that a soundtrack from 1987 can fit so perfectly with a game from 2010. On the whole, it could not have been any better.
Other than rocking music, the sound scape is filled with gun fire, roaring missiles and soaring enemy aircraft. To further add to the intense atmosphere, you’ll hear your copilot comment on your flying as well as radio communications with head quarters issuing orders and reporting status updates. It builds the immersion quite painstakingly and is a memorable experience for sure.
After Burner Climax does what it promises and does it with a bang like never before. This is a super intense arcade shooter that nails most if not all of the things. It is sure to give the player multiple adrenaline rushes in all its well-meaning.
This is a game that you’ll love picking up again and again but it is best played in short bursts, because its novelty wears off quickly. The online scoreboard is a sweet addition to the game but there’s no denying that this game is mainly for the kicks and not meant to withstand prolonged gaming sessions. However, it easily outshines all the previous After Burner games, so if you’re into shoot ’em ups, you’ll love this.