M.A.C.H. ReviewCain Dornan
M.A.C.H. is essentially the love child of Top Gun and The Fast & The Furious, pitting players in the controls of high-powered military grade jets as you throw them around tight, weaving courses picking up and using weapons against your opponents in a very Mario Kart fashion. Its essentially a straightforward, arcade flight racer that successfully combines racing and combat together to form an exciting, pick-up-and-play experience that is perfectly suited for a portable platform. With that said, there are a handful of problems that prevent it from being a guaranteed good purchase, namely the disappointingly small number of different level on offer.
The background for M.A.C.H., in which there is very little reference to, let alone a need for, throughout the course of the game, tells the story of the world governments ditching pilot-controlled fighter jets in exchange for unmanned aircraft in an attempt to save lives. With the old military aircrafts now out of commission, bored millionaires quickly snap them up and form their own underground racing championship, where jobless ex-pilots offer their skills to compete in high-stakes, lucrative competitions where you compete to earn fame, glory and fortune.
In reality, youll never really care for this background story, as you dont need a reason to fling around a multi-million dollar jet through twisting valleys at well over 200mph.
Theres two different game types on offer; race and dogfight. Self-explanatory, the race events see you controlling jets through tightly-knit levels as you race to the finishing line against seven opponents while picking up an assortment of weapons, including cluster bombs and missiles, which aid you in eliminating those pesky opponents.
The dogfighting mode is essentially a deathmatch-styled event, where youre pitted in an arena against a group of foes. The aim here is to make full use of available weapon pick-ups and evasive maneuvers to shoot down as many opponents as possibly while you evade their attacks.
Both modes, while lacking any sort of creativity or originality, are plenty of fun to play and prove to be perfectly suited for portable gaming. The forgiving game difficulty allows almost anyone to quickly pick-up-and-play the game, with each event lasting only a few minutes perfect for filling in some brief spare time.
The game serves up three core single player modes, in addition to a fairly straightforward and unexciting multiplayer mode that includes support for up to eight players over ad hoc play, including a waterd-downed game sharing function. As well as the Arcade mode, which allows you to select an event, track and airplane and then compete, theres also the Career mode which, as it says, sees you progressing through the ranks and difficulty as a pilot, unlocking new planes and earning money to purchase upgrades for your unlocked planes. Theres also the Challenge mode, which pits you against challenges that vary from simply winning a dogfight through to collecting coins spread throughout a level to keep the time countdown from running out, or capturing and holding a dogtag in a dogfight-style match where the player who holds it for the longest wins.
While there isnt too much variation between the challenge events, theres an interesting and enjoyable selection that are plenty of fun to play through and add some extra lifespan to the game.
The key problem with M.A.C.H. is that it severely lacks stages. Theres only five on offer, excluding variants such as reverse during races or the dogfighting levels, which result in a very repetitive experience. While each map has been designed beautifully, with plenty of variation between each map, youll quickly tire of competing in the same stages time and time again. Its disappointing, as it severely limits the lifespan on offer. If plenty more stages were on offer, the lifespan of M.A.C.H. would have been greatly increased. Given the very forgiving difficulty, its quite easy to play through and complete the game within a few short hours.
The levels are beautifully designed, and the aircraft offer some solid detail. Although the aircraft arent based on real models, the developers have managed to create some well-designed, realistic looking planes.
Given the abundance of racers on the PSP, M.A.C.H. doesnt quite manage to stand out from the crowd to warrant itself as a definite purchase. Yes, you are flying planes and not driving cars, but in the end it feels far too familiar to too many other racers currently available on the system. Its a solid, enjoyable game perfectly suited to portable gaming. However, given such a small collection of tracks and far too familiar gameplay, it doesnt quite arrive with the recommendation that it could have had.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.