If you’re itching to make like Maverick in Top Gun, MetalStorm: Online has you covered. This is a freemium air combat game that gives you plenty of content to play without paying a dime. The gameplay might be a little too limited for some high flyers, but we can’t complain too much when we’re enjoying such a polished air fighter for free.
Basically, what MetalStorm gives you is a selection of customizable combat planes and an online arena for dogfights. You’ll pick a plane, slap on a canon, load it with missiles, and then start fighting. The game has two modes: Versus and Survival. Versus lets you play one-on-one online matches over Game Center against either a friend or a random opponent. Survival mode sends waves of computer-controlled enemies at you, and you can fight them alone or with an online co-op partner.
Pew pew pew pew.
We found Versus to be the more exciting mode, simply because you’re facing off against a real person. Basically, you and your opponent fly around in a large, open environment and try to shoot each other down, using a machine gun and missiles. Each match lasts a minute and a half and, based on your performance, you’re awarded experience points and in-game currency. Survival mode is similar, except that you go up against multiple AI-controlled enemies at a time, and you keep going until you die.
The controls are typical for the genre: you use tilt to control the direction of your plane and swipes to perform evasive rolls and 180s. You can also brake or accelerate, but doing this or any of the other maneuvers uses energy that slowly regenerates over time. We found the controls very intuitive, although to get the game to feel right we had to turn the sensitivity all the way up.
The real dynamics in MetalStorm come from customizing your gear. The game uses two different currencies, both of which you can earn just by playing. To buy the highest-end planes, however, you’d either have to grind for weeks or open your wallet for around $10 per plane, which seems crazily high. If you’re not made of money, you’ll find plenty of things to buy for reasonable prices, including planes, cannons, and missiles, all with varying specs. There’s also a tech upgrade system that looks like a skill tree in an RPG, and it gives you a wide variety of performance and spec boosts.
Locked on and ready to fire.
Another excellent feature is that you can play the game anywhere you have a 3G signal, so you don’t have to be connected to Wi-Fi to play online. It also supports voice chat, which is great when you’re dogfighting with friends.
But the biggest problem with MetalStorm: Online is its lack of variety. Whether you choose Versus or Survival mode, all you’re really doing is flying above (beautiful) mountainous terrain, fighting other planes. It would be nice if they’d add some other modes, like a story-based campaign, obstacle courses, or multiplayer matches with more than just two people in them. As is, it didn’t take long for us to get a little bored of circling and shooting at other planes.
Still, considering the high production values and the fact that you can play the game as much as you want without paying a cent, MetalStorm: Online is well worth a download. We’ll see you in the skies.