Expressway To The Danger Zone
LOW Escaping the burning factory.
WTF The story could use a touch-up.
It’s been a long time since I played a quality dogfighter, whether it be about airplanes or spaceships. In fact, I’m struggling to think of the last one that I enjoyed, but whatever it was, I’m happy to say that the dry spell has been broken by developer Ragequit Corporation. Strike Vector EX delivers strong air combat with a focus on multiplayer action… and a few twists.
The first is that instead of military jets, the developers offer an array of mean-looking science fiction spacecraft called Vectors. Almost everything about them is customizable including weapons, support systems, body components, and more. There aren’t a ton of options, but players can certainly mix-and-match until they get something they click with.
Another pleasant surprise is that they’re not just standard ships — the Vectors can partially transform, going from a standard jet fighter into a hover configuration, and I absolutely love the visual design. They look high tech, yet they’re also crude and hulking at the same time – bristling with guns and sharp edges, but with an air of grace.
The two movement modes of these beautiful birds combine to deliver a high degree of maneuverability, and it’s needed since the player is free to fly in any direction at all. This mobility reminds me a bit of 1995’s Descent in a way, but trades tunnels for wide-open skies.
Speaking of mobility, one might correctly guess that targets able to stop on a dime and zoom off at any angle would be difficult to hit. In acknowledgment, the devs smartly add a few things to give prospective aces a chance to earn their wings.
Of course, lock-on missiles are one of several weapon options. While they don’t pack the punch that others do, they’re much, much easier to use than a standard gatling or wing-mounted shotgun. There’s also a Tesla projector which causes area-of-effect damage. When activated, the player only needs to fly close to an enemy to take them down. Like the missiles, the Tesla isn’t the most effective in terms of raw power, but it reduces frustration in the right circumstances.
Since Strike Vector EX is a largely a multiplayer game, the usual modes are on offer — deathmatch, king of the hill, and four more – and they play out exactly as one would expect, but it feels fantastic to fly around at ridiculous speeds and the content is rock solid.
Despite its clear multi focus, I was happy to see that the developers included a singleplayer campaign. Although it’s barely more than a few quick sketches of a script and at no point did I feel invested in the proceedings, I did appreciate that they took the time to create something for those who don’t want to play with others, or for people (like me) who aren’t satisfied until credits roll. It’s not a great campaign mode, but I’m glad that it’s here.
In terms of criticisms, I don’t have many. I think the biggest thing is that it took quite a while to come to grips with the controls, and even after a few hours, it never felt as natural as it should. The problem is when the Vector changes from jet mode to hover mode.
Flying around using standard reverse controls (up is down, down is up) works fine, but when I started to hover, my brain wanted that axis to be flipped. Maybe it’s just me, but I found myself constantly stumbling whenever I transformed, and there’s no option to have the controls switch when the ship changes. As a result, I found myself trying to stay in jet mode as much as possible, but that meant I wasn’t taking full advantage of the craft’s abilities. An option to solve this specific issue would be great.
The only other criticism isn’t really a criticism, but more of an observation. Although Strike Vector EX isn’t that old (it only released at the end of August) my guess is that the online community is it isn’t going to stick around for long.
There’s a lot of competition in the multiplayer space right now, and although it does stand out by being a flight game with little competition, there’s not much beyond some unlocks to keep players coming back after the initial thrill grows cold. When I tried the multi myself, I never found a full match (it can accommodate up to 12 at a time) and the most I ever saw was six. I’m guessing that players who don’t get in soon will have a tough time finding others to play with, and since the singleplayer is basically a courtesy, the extended life of this title isn’t looking good.
I hate to end this review on a down note because I really like what Strike Vector EX does — the ships look great, it feels good to fly around in the world (when not hovering, anyway) and dogfighting games aren’t as common as they used to be. The developers are onto something good here, and I hope Ragequit continues on this track — maybe a sequel with a bigger focus on the campaign next time?
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Ragequit Corporation. It is currently available on PS4, XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 2 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Language. Honestly, I can’t recall any instance of language the warning is referring to. The game’s all about shooting enemy craft, but nothing’s graphic or bloody at all. It’s super safe and the M feels like overkill to me.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue is subtitled, but players with hearing impairments may find it to be a rough ride. When flying around, the easiest way to know when to dodge incoming missiles is to listen for a beep. There is a visual cue to signal the missiles, but it’s easy to overlook it with so much happening on screen. I noticed that I died a lot more often with the sound off, so keep a sharp eye out for the on-screen cues.
Remappable Controls: The controls are not remappable except for the ability to reverse camera/control axes on the sticks.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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