A great follow-up to the popular dogfighting action game.

The sequel to Z2Live’s rather popular arcade-style aerial combat game is here, and it’s chock full of more dogfighting goodness. Things in MetalStorm: Aces are a little different this time around, mostly thanks to a much larger campaign, but there are still plenty of planes to fly (and shoot down). And so long as nobody’s looking for a rich and meticulous flight simulation, there’s all sorts of fun to be had.

The emphasis in MetalStorm: Aces, at least from a story standpoint, is on the Aces. Naturally. They’ve trained an elite squadron of fighter pilots, honed their students’ skills to almost match their own, and then decided to be the bad guys. Why? Because I don’t think it’s possible for any character to look that evil without actually being evil. Seriously; I was confused at first because this guy who I just knew wasn’t a good guy was teaching me how to fly. Things made so much more sense once the “Seen it coming from a mile away” twist happens right after the tutorial.

MetalStorm: Aces

But that’s enough story talk. Actually flying the planes is handled through a combination of fairly common tilt controls, virtual button taps, and screen swipes. It’s all fairly straightforward in terms of shooting and accelerating and all that, but there’s an upgrade system that deepens the combat a bit with stats for tweaking and new ammo for constructing. Between the Campaign, Survival, and Versus modes, there will be plenty of chances for players to test their piloting skills.

From what I can tell, the original game was quite the looker, but MetalStorm: Aces is no slouch either. The planes are nicely detailed, the environments look good, and the explosions are pretty. More importantly, it’s fun to play. The aircrafts all handle well, although they can handle even better through upgrades. And those upgrades, man. Each of the many, many planes can be improved in many, many ways. Handling, targeting, shields, firepower, etc; it can all be tweaked within a certain range for each craft, and can all enable new perks (which can then also be upgraded themselves). Even the starter planes can remain formidable for quite some time with enough TLC in the hanger.

MetalStorm: Aces

One of the more significant improvements in MetalStorm: Aces over the original – at least from what I can tell as I didn’t play much of the first one – is the Campaign. It’s much bigger this time around (60 missions in total) and each of the 15 different scenarios culminates in a tough one-on-seven or so boss fight with one of the aces. Those guys are no joke. Of course, there’s also the option of trying to hold out as long as possible against endless waves of enemies in Survival, or dogfighting with friends and total strangers in Versus. I’m not a huge fan of versus-style online play, so I didn’t spend much time with it, but what I have played has run very smoothly. However, I’m more thankful for having such a large single player mode to eat up all my time.

Since MetalStorm: Aces is free, it’s no surprise to find a few time-based freemium elements in it. I’m grateful that they’re limited to the upgrade and ammo construction system (no arbitrary energy bars here!), but it can sometimes be a drag to have to wait for a while for more machine gun ammo. It’s still entirely possible to go out on missions while work is being done in the hanger, of course, but the improvements or extra ammo won’t kick in until the work is done. It’s a minor stumbling block, really, but it’s there. I also think it’s a shame that an internet connection is required just to play solo, but I can’t really fault one game for it when so many others do the same thing. I just think it stinks in general.

MetalStorm: Aces

MetalStorm: Aces is a great follow-up to a popular dogfighting action game. It looks pretty, the controls are nice and responsive, and there are a fair number of options for most gaming tastes. I could do without the need for a constant online connection, and having to wait for upgrades and special ammo can be a drag at times, but none of that detracts from the fun.