First Impression: Aggressor (Early Access Launch)
In the past few weeks, media of a shiny low poly flight shooter has been particularly eye-catching. 'Aggressor' advertises itself as a Cold War-era focused title that prioritizes air combat and has a proposed aircraft list of unusual composition. Its eyebrow-raising preview screenshots show several unusual aircraft like the XF-107A, YB-35, E-152M, and the Ye-8, for example.
Before Aggressor entered early access on July 28th, 2021, Flashpoint Studios, its developer, had released Interceptor II on April 14th, 2018, and a Flight Physics Demo on August 28th, 2020. Each of these releases acting as testbeds for the eventual development of Aggressor. The demo for Aggressor was posted on December 22nd, 2020, on Itch.io, though as of the time of this writing, though the demo no longer represents the current build of the game. After roughly ten months of development, the early access release of the game is now available.
That being said, it's important to stress that this is a title at the beginning of its early access phase. Much more needs to be done before it is presented in the form that its developer intends it to be in.
Aggressor has launched with two of its three-game modes available in varying degrees. The campaign consists of straightforward missions with easy-to-understand objectives. Split between tutorial, USAF, and USSR, completing these missions gathers more in-game currency for players to purchase more aircraft and weapons. New missions and previously completed missions can be played with any purchased aircraft. While some aircraft do seem unobtainable because of their high cost, this is primarily because of the lack of missions that would yield high credit payouts. Aircraft unlock prices are scaled for full single-player campaigns of dozens of missions. With only six missions currently available for the campaign, even unlocking mid-tier aircraft would be a considerable grind at this time. The same can be said for optional weaponry that is purchased in the hangar.
Instant Dogfight mode is the strongest foot forward for Aggressor at this time. The player can set all dimensions of the battle they're about to play. There are seven locations, nine weather presets, time of day settings, altitude spawn height selection, an infinite ammunition option, and side of choice (Blue team or Red team). For the CPU units, the entire aircraft roster thus far is available in this mode, whereas the player is limited to aircraft they have purchased in their inventory. Up to 100 aircraft per team can be spawned, which can result in swirling World War II-style dogfights where avoiding collisions is just as much of a priority as evading incoming enemy fire. Though aerial battles of this scale are more than enough to borderline overload Aggressor and slow the speed of gameplay down to nearly a crawl, even more, moderate-sized engagements of 60 vs. 60 are still as enticing. Furthermore, some of the aircraft matchups possible do allow for some highly unusual engagements. I'm unsure if I'll ever be able to gun down a Mikoyan Ye-8 with a P-51 Mustang while being supported by F-11 Tiger wingmen in any other title at this point.
Honestly, at this time, Instant Dogfight seems to represent the overall focus of Aggressor as a whole: multiple short combat engagements that are easy to play back-to-back. Rather than rely on world-building or a complex setting to tie combat segments together, Aggressor is placing the aircraft at its forefront with only a thin slice of information about the objective given to kick off the action. Assuming this does not change later in early access, it could become a title that is known for its quick access to the action. Furthermore, seeing so many location and weather presets backed by time of day changes also demonstrates potential settings for future campaign missions. Dogfights in low visibility conditions were particularly nail biting.
This aircraft roster for the beginning of its early access is rather enticing for its inclusion of so many early and mid-Cold War aircraft. Of course, having their exact names and aircraft manufacturers is an entirely different licensing beast that's often better avoided, so here is a near complete list of actual aircraft names with their in-game names in parenthesis:
F-86E Sabre (Scimitar)
F-86H Sabre (Stream)
F-100 Super Sabre (Superstream)
F-5E Tiger (Tigris)
A4 Skyhawk (Stinger)
F-9 Cougar (Blueray)
F-11 Tiger (Bolt)
F5D Skylancer (Lancer)
MiG-29 Fulcrum (Draco)
F3H Demon (Greyhound)
Sukhoi P-1 (Virtuoso)
F-104 Starfighter (Skyrocket)
F-20 Tigershark (Tigershark)
Mikoyan Ye-8 (Hydra)
F-102 Delta Dagger (Dagger)
Mikoyan E-152M (Flame)
F-16 Viper (Viper)
Grumman X-29 (Cutlass)
Fictional USSR Eurofighter (Taifun)
Keep in mind that this is an arcade flight simulator. While it has a few advanced elements like aircraft damage affecting the flight model, missing aircraft components changing flight characteristics, and realistic amounts of ammunition when infinite ammo is not enabled, the focus is still easy to access action. There are noticeable performance differences between each airframe but do not expect the flight models to be 1:1 to their real-world counterparts. What is especially enjoyable about combat in Aggressor is how frequently air combat relies on energy management and how often turn rates are a deciding factor. This is something that shows up more often in full-fidelity flight simulators or flight sim lites, rather than arcade titles like this one.
Aggressor definitely has a way to go to stabilize its current gameplay or add a few key features. There is a learning curve in figuring out how to control aircraft with its default control scheme that is somewhat disorienting at first. Further development of control schemes for keyboard-mouse, gamepads, and flight sticks is needed. A few additions to the user interface would help with situational awareness. Some type of reticle to give a general idea for how far to lead a target would help with ammo preservation in a majority of jet aircraft which do not have high amounts of internal gun ammunition. More clarification on purchasing equipment and loading them onto aircraft would be helpful.
Fortunately, the developer behind this game is actively accepting feedback and at work with changes and additions. The benefit of an early access release is further developing the game alongside the players giving their input for changes. Be sure to let Flashpoint Studios know what you think of Aggressor so far,