Review: JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters

Review: JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters

Plenty of flight games have popped up over the years, but we really have yet to see a true, dyed in the wool flight sim on a console that accurately portrays the intricacies of real-world flight. So what happens when one of the oldest and most notable names in flight simulation takes a stab at recreating the experience using a controller? The result is JASF: Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters.

J.A.S.F Jane's Advanced Strike Fighter

The Jane’s name is most synonymous with 90’s flight sim games and was in fact responsible for my early love of air combat. I can trace my first experiences with flight back to a small office tucked away at my grandparents’ house wasting the weekends away attempting to master the art of taking off without crashing and landing without dying. At that age the overwhelming keyboard controllers and concept of flight did nothing but fuel my desire to succeed and thus, Jane’s was responsible for my desire to become a fighter pilot. Seeing as how I am typing this right now, we all know how well that turned out.

It’s no mystery that I love planes and that Ace Combat, although it remains largely arcade based and short on believeability, still stands as one of my favorite flight games available on consoles. I’ve conquered the skies of Blazing Angels and plowed through the campaign of IL-2 Sturmovich, but never have I been able to recreate those feelings of wonder and awe that I experienced as a little shaver so many years ago. Then I saw JASF. Could it be that the rightful heir to the throne is stepping up to take back the title?

For a brief moment I thought I may have found what I was looking for… and then I started playing.

Let me clarify by saying that JASF is not a bad game by any means; it just falls victim to the shortcomings of a controller based flight game. 16 buttons and two analogue sticks really don’t leave much room for mapping the massive amount of controls available within an aircraft cockpit. What’s left is a game that hardly stands out amongst the competition, appealing only to the most diehard flight sim fans.

J.A.S.F Jane's Advanced Strike Fighter

Story Line Happens to Other People

JASF tells the story of Azbaristan, a country recuperating from nearly a decade of Civil War, and the two sides that emerged from years of tense combat. The Northern People’s Republic and its leading party, The Northern People’s Party (I’m not making this stuff up), are left wanting more than the massive amounts of land they conquered. They are after the oil rich lands of the south, controller by the Southern Azbaristan Democratic Front. You assume the role of American squadron leader Razor in an attempt to reunify the country and bring peace to everyone.

Coming hot off the tail of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and its superb COD-style storytelling, I knew that I was going to be in for a bit of a disappointment in the story department, but when it came to the initial introduction of the plot I was left wanting nothing more to do with it. Rarely does a game’s story fail to capture my attention on even the most basic level, but JASF’s presentation made it next to impossible to even want to become interested. Upon pressing start at the main menu you are met with a gigantic block of text to read. No cutscene, no warm up, just text. Despite being a reading teacher I was annoyed at having to actually read a novel before getting into the cockpit… and then the voice acting kicked in and proceeded to read the book to me. I begged it to spare me the agony and just let me read it.

When it was over I figured I had made it over the hump and could just enjoy the game for what it was: a flight simulator. How wrong I was. Upon rolling out onto the runway I was met with the AWACS controller who briefed me on my mission at hand. Apparently pre-mission briefings are a thing of the past and were cut in favor of the ‘surprise, you might die today because here’s what you’re doing’ technique of telling the pilot moments before takeoff.

Every facet of the story is largely uninteresting and it’s certainly not helped by such poor voice acting, but storyline happens to other people. This is a flight game after all, right?

J.A.S.F Jane's Advanced Strike Fighter

Showing Some Clout

This is actually where JASF succeeds, quite surprisingly. The moment I heard the voice acting I knew things were looking bleak, but that all changed the second I took to the skies. Hoping against hope, I began my normal series of maneuvers with a new flight game to see how well the controls and aircraft respond and was met with a bit of enjoyment.

The planes handle quite well and actually feel like they have some weight to them. Although you are able to execute unrealistic dives and insane high-G turns without fear of red outs and black outs, the overall experience is quite enjoyable. My only complaint is that the camera feels the need to float from right to left behind the jet regardless of whether or not you are flying in a straight line. This makes it rather difficult to accurately line yourself up for a bombing run or get a proper lead on that row of bombers five thousand feet below. Also, the lack of an in-cockpit view, other than the straight up HUD view, is a bit of a letdown. I was hoping to immerse myself in the cockpit of the plane and log some seat hours, but between the nose cone HUD view and the available chase cam, I stuck to the floating chase cam.

30 different aircraft are yours to pilot and become available as you progress through the story. US, European, Russian, and Chinese jets ranging from the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II to the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the 5th Generation PAK-FA are intricately modeled and given unique specifications according to their real-world counterparts. Each serving a unique purpose, but only a handful are actually useful.

You are free to take these jets across the massive 65,000 square kilometers of Azbaristan filled with mountains, cities, deserts, and other various terrains. This is perhaps the most unique feature of the game in that a lot of console based flight games drop you directly into the action. JASF opts for the more realistic approach and actually makes you fly to your objectives, sometimes hundreds of kilometers. At times it can be a tad boring to keep your afterburners lit just in an attempt to get to the objective quicker, while other times you are occupied with destroying ground forces along the way. For me, the one downside was the inability to fly home and land after the mission was done. If we’re going for realism here, we may as well go all the way and relish for a few moments in a job well done. Also, landing is generally far more treacherous than besting an entire fleet of nuclear bombers.

J.A.S.F Jane's Advanced Strike Fighter

How you actually go about accomplishing your missions varies largely on the type of enemies you encounter along the way, but each plane is categorized as either a multirole, fighter, or air superiority, or ground attack. Therefore, you must look at the mission at hand and choose the proper plane for the job. That’s not to say that you can’t just plow through with whatever, but each plane is restricted to the certain weapons it can carry, further removing any sort of customization. I generally flew one plane through the first half until I unlocked a better one and then flew that to the end and was met with little resistance.

Overall, the missions aren’t very hard as you are given an absurd amount of health and the checkpoints are quite liberal along the way. Dying rarely impacts the time it takes you to complete a mission, most of which tend to clock in at about 15 minutes.

Perhaps you are one who prefers a human co-pilot as opposed to the standard computer based ones. Well, JASF does offer up the ability for 4 players to team up online to take on the campaign and, if everyone is at the same point in the story, they can unlock special planes and new missions.

Aside from co-op campaign missions, JASF also features several different multiplayer modes including standard dogfighting, team dogfighting, base assault, and rabbit. I struggled to connect to a good majority of the matches and when I finally did, I found they were sparsely populated a good deal of time, leaving me to fly around vast expanses of sky all by myself. Either way, the missions that did pan out were quite enjoyable and left me wishing the lobbies had been full.

If you’re looking for a massive, engaging plotline where fighter pilots take the center stage you best look elsewhere because the storyline is paper thin and almost laughable at moments. Don’t let that discourage you from what is actually a surprisingly decent flight game complete with accurate jets, massive terrains, elaborate missions, and a decent length to the campaign then you may just want to take this game for a test run.

Score: 6/10

Comments are closed.