Heatseeker isn't a good game, but it can at times be fun in spite of its many shortcomings.
- Shooting down hundreds of planes is mindless fun
- decent ad hoc multiplayer
- horrible voice acting from console versions nowhere to be found.
- Little mission variety
- graphics are ugly
- getting mission objectives by reading captions while piloting a jet is hardly ideal.
Heatseeker is an arcade-style flying game from IR Gurus, the same developer behind 2005's Heroes of the Pacific. Unlike Heroes, Heatseeker takes place in modern times and places you in the cockpit of some of today's most well-known fighter jets. It's not a very deep game; it's kind of ugly, and the story is flat out stupid. But Heatseeker can be fun in small doses--especially if you don't mind taking down wave after wave of enemies, level after level.
The campaign in Heatseeker spans 30 missions that take place in locations ranging from the Caribbean to Antarctica. The first few missions have you protect an island base and teach you the basic controls. From there, things escalate and it's up to you to avert an international crisis. Before each mission, there's a short briefing that details the mission's scenario and your objectives. The pre-mission briefings were painful on the PlayStation 2 and Wii because of the terrible voice acting; on the PSP, they're shorter and have no narration, so they're less painful but still pointless.
The good news is you don't need much of a story for what you're going to do in Heatseeker, which is blow stuff up. Your choice in planes is limited at first, but you'll eventually get to fly a number of real planes including: F/A-18 Hornet, F-15, F-16, MIG-31, SR-71 Blackbird, F-22 Raptor, and many more. Each plane has unique ratings for speed, agility, and defense, as well as air-to-air and air-to-ground ability. However, it's difficult to detect differences from plane to plane unless the ratings are vastly different. The controls are easy to learn, but unlike other versions of the game, they don't work very well. It's difficult to target specific objects with bombs, and it's tough to maneuver your jet with any level of precision. Your heads-up display is well designed, and as long as the game's obnoxious captions aren't obscuring a large, important part of your screen as they're prone to do, it's easy to find any information you need at a moment's notice.
As mentioned earlier, you'll spend nearly all of your time in Heatseeker blowing things up. You'll use your unlimited ammo to shoot down hundreds of enemy planes, drop bombs on unsuspecting jeeps, unleash torpedoes on ships, as well as take out antiaircraft guns, tanks, and more. You'll also be charged with protecting planes and ships, but to do so, you just blow up more bad guys. Once in a while, you'll need to scan vessels to find out if they're up to no good, and if they are--you guessed it--you blow them up. One nice thing about the missions in the PSP version is that they're shorter than they are on consoles. This is nice because you can finish a mission if you've only got a few minutes to spare and because the missions in console versions were sometimes too long.
Even though the missions are shorter now, Heatseeker's biggest problem is that its gameplay is still repetitive. It's also not particularly original either. The game's not terribly difficult on the default setting, and there are plenty of checkpoints. But sometimes you have to repeat an entire level because something you're protecting has no health left when you start at the last checkpoint. Even then, except for when enemy planes repeatedly avoid your missiles by releasing flares, you'll rarely find yourself too frustrated. One thing the PSP version has that other versions lack is multiplayer. Up to four people with their own copies of the game can take part in five different game modes, ranging from a normal dogfight to a team-based mode where you must defend your base while attacking your opponent's base.
Other than some decent-looking clouds and a generally solid frame rate, there isn't much to look at in Heatseeker. The levels are large, but they're mostly empty, and what is there is ugly. Buildings are little more than blocks, while the ground is an unsightly, poorly textured mess. The ugly graphics are particularly problematic when flying over water, which almost completely lacks detail. Because it's always a big, blue blob, it's difficult to tell how close you are to taking a bath, and you'll find yourself often plunging into the water. The planes look OK, but other than your craft, you won't get much of a chance to look at them. Explosions aren't bad, but the "impact cam" that shows them off via a quick movie-style replay after a hit gets annoying quickly because you're often in a different orientation when you get back to flying. There's also no in-cockpit view, which may be disappointing if you're looking for a more realistic view of the action. But to be honest, you'll probably find many other things to be disappointed about first.
Heatseeker sounds about as good as it looks. The amateurish voice acting from the console versions is gone and has been replaced by captions that pop up at the bottom of the screen. If you thought it would be easy to read captions while flying a plane at 800mph, well, you're wrong. The cheesy guitar rock that plays in the background during each mission would have been perfect...if this were 1985.
With subpar graphics, poor controls, and some unoriginal gameplay, Heatseeker has a lot of things going against it. But in spite of all these issues, shooting wave after wave of generic enemies can be fun in short spurts. If you're looking for some mindless fun, the game might be worth the $30 price tag, but be advised: There are better flying games out there for the PSP.