SkyDrift Xbox 360 review
Publisher – Namco Bandai – Developer – Digital Reality – Genre – Racing – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – 7+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
Combining elements of racing and shooting, does this downloadable title from Namco Bandai contain enough action?
There are three different types of races played over the six locations, with the courses played in reverse to provide extra longevity. In a Power Race, the power-ups are available allowing the player to attack and defend. Speed Races have the added bonus of speed rings that the player’s plane flies through to gain a burst of speed. Finally, the Survivor race eliminates the plane in last place after a given period of time.
There are seven stages in all, with the player having to finish in the first three over a set number of events to unlock the next stage. The seventh stage is the Final Challenge, combining the three types of race in a single event. As events are won, extra planes and skins are unlocked. Invisible walls and arrows guide the planes back onto the narrow “track” should they stray too far, and colliding with ground objects will see the plane explode and then respawn.
Out on the course, there are up to eight planes at once in either the Campaign or Multiplayer mode. The computer-controlled adversaries prove tough, swapping places and attacking with vigour. This is where the power-ups come in – the aggressive missiles and cannon, the shockwave that can knock planes (or missiles) out of the sky, the defensive mines and shields and the repair icon to keep your plane running. Picking up more than one of the same power-up will boost its effectiveness, and two different power-ups can be carried at once. There is also the option to burn a power-up for extra boost.
Boost is essential to maintaining position. More can be earned by performing stunts, hugging the landscape, killing enemies or flying in their slipstream. Flying fast enough will even generate a sonic boom. To enable the plane to fly around tight corners or through narrow gaps, it can be tipped on a knife-edge (turning ninety degrees) with the right analogue stick. Careful timing can also execute a roll manoeuvre. The left analogue stick is the main control, and can be inverted for those who prefer conventional or pilot-style controls.
Badges and medals are available as well as the usual 200 Gamerpoints for making certain Achievements. These range from simply winning an online match to unlocking all the stages. Medals will pop up during races for overtaking, using power-ups and killing opponents, with Badges awarded for larger totals. These do provide an added incentive for continuing to play.
Graphically the game is good without being outstanding. The six different courses have a nice variety of terrain, coupled with effects including water and lava. There are moments when the backgrounds change, such as a landslide or an exploding geyser, but they lack the grandeur of, for example, Split Second: Velocity that did something similar. The different plane models all move smoothly. Sound is limited but above average, with some short background music and straightforward FX.
The online mode proves to be competent, with no lag and a simple lobby system. At the time of writing there were only limited numbers of players online, but racing up to seven others should be interesting. It is a shame that there is no local multiplayer and only the three different types of race. Perhaps the biggest omission is a large open arena for a deathmatch style mode.
All in all SkyDrift is an adequate download experience. The menu includes an option for Download Content, so it is to be hoped that additional courses, planes and modes will expand the game to provide more variety. As it stands it is fun but limited.