PS2 REVIEW: REBEL RAIDERS: OPERATION NIGHTHAWK

There's a lot to like about Rebel Raiders: Operation Nighthawk despite its budget stigma, but its longevity is ultimately in question. by Cole Smith

April 20, 2006 - Rebel Raiders: Operation Nighthawk is arcade-simple, flight combat game that's loaded with action and is fun to play. But it also is repetitious and has "budget game" written all over it. It won't leave a lasting impression on you but if you're just looking to zone-out and shoot some stuff then you can't go wrong. With no multi-player modes and a general lack of replay value Rebel Raiders: ON is definitely relegated to rental status. However, if you can find this game at even more of a bargain, you might end up owning it for the price of two new release rental fees.

You can blast through the game in an afternoon. The missions are relatively easy with just enough challenge to keep your interest piqued. As an arcade game this is perfect, but if you're looking for more depth then you better look elsewhere.

In the future, a rebellious organization is intent on overthrowing the oppressive regime that controls the planet. To accomplish this, an elite squadron of fighter pilots will take to the air in a variety of technologically advance aircraft to undermine the government's military might. It's a story we've all heard before and probably will again. The cutscenes do little to expand on the plot, not that there is much of a plot in the first place. There are communications between the commander and your wingman but the majority of it is mission-based which doesn't make the emotionless tone of the voiceacting and the stoic dialog seem out of place.

The missions revolve around fighting wave after wave of enemy jet fighters, bombing installations, avoiding projectiles from stationary ground turrets and attacking large destroyers. The controls make this a lot of fun. The planes are very responsive and the weapons systems are well designed and fairly accurate. Thankfully the game is not on rails so you do have the freedom to fly anywhere you want. Not that the levels are so huge and beautiful that you want to explore them but if you've missed a target you can always go back and try it again.

With a lock-on system you can target your objective and fire missiles at it. They do a lot of damage. You can fire up to eight missiles before you have to reload more into the firing bay. This only takes a couple of seconds at the most. Machine guns are at the ready and while ammo is unlimited, you will have to reload after 100 shots. Occasionally the reloading can cause you to take a lot of hits if the sky is filled with enemy aircraft. You have a shield with a life meter which will deplete with every hit. Once you reach zero, it's all over.

Not only will you have to dodge enemy aircraft but you'll also have to strafe projectiles from ground-based turrets. Fortunately the three crafts are very easy to control, with most maneuvers such as flip-overs and hard banks requiring only one button command. In addition to dodging enemy planes, missiles and gunfire, you will also have to contend with geographical obstacles such as mountains and valleys. Not only can you explore the entire level by flying anywhere that you want but you aren't restricted by altitude either. You can fly low and get in close for more accuracy. This is when geography will have to be taken into consideration.

Regardless of which command you use the plane remains in the air unless you intentionally, or accidentally, crash it. Sometimes it's even difficult to intentionally crash your plane. It seems the futuristic shield will protect the plane from skimming the surface of a ship or even the summit of a mountain. At times the plane can get even get stuck between peaks if the wing gets caught up. In other words, if you're afraid of sim games, you won't be afraid of this one. As long as you're paying attention you can keep your craft in the air indefinitely - or at least until the enemy shoots it down.

Considering how responsive the control system is, it's too bad that dogfights weren't more engaging. It would be great to have some one-on-one with the AI or even against another player. As it stands, the enemy planes have volume on their side. Unfortunately there are no stand out enemy boss pilots to confront that could give you a run for your money and add a little extra dimension to the gameplay.

You can expect the budget graphics to be commensurate with the rest of this budget title. The environments don't look great from any perspective. The mountains resemble mountains from a distance, but as you get closer they start to become a blurry mess. The crafts do look very good but the enemy crafts all look the same. Even the ships and turrets are too similar looking. Oddly, the planes don't cast a shadow on the ground which is a cause for concern when flying at low altitudes. The music is also repetitive. There are three basic tracks. One is the light ambient music, then there is the discordant warning music that foreshadows impending danger and finally there is the cheesy, guitar-based, Top Gun-inspired battle tune that is more embarrassing than inspiring. I wouldn't want someone to walk in on me while that tune is playing, as they may take me for a moron. Okay, a bigger moron…

Once you complete the 16 missions which will only take five to ten minutes to complete you can go back for the challenges which are basically time trials of the exact same missions. That's not real replay value, but for less than twenty bucks that's what you get. I've even seen the game advertised for less than $15. That's still too much for this game and that's why I recommend renting it. By the time you get halfway through the game you're going to be as comfortable with the control system as you're ever going to be so who cares if you can do it all just a little bit quicker?

Features:

  • Play an arcade-style, air combat game, set in a futuristic universe.
  • Pilot a wide variety of aircraft and earn points for a chance to fly top-secret planes equipped with devastating weapons
  • Take part in one of the most gigantic air conflicts in history.
  • Take the lead of an elite squadron and become the ace who will save the world.
  • Pursue your enemies among flying fortresses and force the evil United World Nation back to its mother base.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Rebel Raiders: Operation Nighthawk (PS2)
3.5
Graphics
Typical generic-looking budget game graphics. The airplane models do look good however.
4.4
Control
Not only are the controls simple to learn, they are very responsive and make the game a treat to play.
2.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Limited in every way. The music, sound effects and voiceacting aren't terrible but the lack of variation would drive me crazy if this game were any longer.
2.0
Play Value
Short and sweet. When you complete all 16 missions, call it day, forever.
2.9
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2
Dev: Kando
Pub: XS Games
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best