I’m about to say some very mean things about Ace of Spades, so first a little disclaimer: I absolutely love the original freeware Ace of Spades and play it to this day. Any ire I hold toward the updated version is due to my disappointment that it didn’t live up to the quality of its forebear.
Let’s start of with the good stuff first so this whole review is a little bit less of a downer. Ace of Spades looks great! Jagex did a really excellent job of updating the visual aspects of the game, and making the whole thing look and feel slick and polished. Everything from the environment to the mini-map are aesthetically pleasing, and all things considered, AoS is probably the best looking voxel game I’ve played.
The controls have also been smoothed out, and movement seems a lot less jerky then it did in the original version of the game. Shooting is quirky but consistent, and the short-range flight mechanics (used for the game’s rocketeers) feel very natural.
ENOUGH GOOD STUFF THOUGH, NOW FOR THE BAD THINGS.
Ace of Spades suffers from lag more than any other game that I have played in my life. Just to be clear: I do not mean that AoS has the MOST lag out of any game I’ve played. I mean that even the most minute amount of lag can and will destroy the entire game experience. As soon as a server’s ping hits triple digits, bullets become wildly inaccurate and blocks seem to phase in and out of existence. It’s like the game has a spaz-attack whenever a server gets the least bit busy.
My biggest gripe about the game, however, is the lack of emphasis put on building structures and trenches. This was once the core mechanic of the game! But few of the maps are conducive to constructive efforts, and the shortened round structure and non-persistent game worlds make building anything larger than a wall completely impractical. What is the point of creating a sniping tower (a standby in the original AoS) when it will disappear in ten minutes?
In the original AoS, if you didn’t build a few bunkers or a trench to protect yourself you would have a bullet in your head within seconds. In the new AoS, people chide you for wasting time when you start building anything. The game has given players so many options for avoiding or destroying physical obstacles (jetpacks, mining drills, rocket launchers), that they have become useless. Building has become trivial in a game that used to revolve around it!
Asides from destroying the game’s core mechanics, AoS’s new classes bring little else to the table. Commandos are bland but effective storm troopers. Marksmen suffer from a frustratingly small clip size and are stymied by the game’s lag problems. Engineers are underused due to their reliance on the now-moot construction mechanics.
The only real standout is the Rocketeer, which introduces an engaging flight mechanic the game. Levels seem to be designed to be exploited by this aerial assailant, and it is interesting to see enemy units entrenched in areas that would generally be considered out-of-reach. You know, before they lodge a bullet in your brain.
The more I talk about this game the more I feel that it was rushed to release. It has a lot of potential, but a few small game design decisions soil the overall experience. After giving the new Ace of Spades about 5-6 hours of my life, I ended up switching back to the original version and I haven’t looked back since. I heartily recommend that you all do the same. Its free, original – and except for the odd hacker – an absolute delight to play.