Indie Spotlight: Strike Vector

Indie Spotlight: Strike Vector

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The title Strike Vector, for me at least, conjures up the image of people in Day-Glo jumpsuits as they blow each other up in ridiculous spaceships, while an 80’s rock soundtrack punctuates the madness. That first image is not actually far off from what Strike Vector, this aerial online FPS created by French indie studio Ragequit Corporation, is actually like.

The gameplay is very reminiscent of old FPS’s like Quake or Unreal Tournament, mixed with aerial combat games like Blazing Angels; as you blast around giant maps in spaceships, weaving and boosting through structures; while avoiding all sorts of laser fire, rocketry and mines that will blow you to smithereens.

The sheer speed of the game, combined with the crazy dogfights seems like a mashup between Star Fox 64 and F-Zero GX, with ships doing high speed turns and rolls to avoid billboards and other enemy ships, as you try to land that swarm of homing missiles on that oncoming craft.

The ships, or ‘Vectors’, which you control in the game have two forms: Jet Form and Harrier Form. The difference is how drastically it affects how your craft handles. Jet Form, as you expect, lets you fly about at high speeds with the ability to boost and roll whilst firing your two weapons with a low degree of accuracy. Harrier Form slows your ship right down, allowing you to make much more precise shots and movementsl but at the cost of making you an easier target.

One tactic that I found useful while playing, is to boost in front of someone, switch into Harrier Form and spray the targets with gatling gunfire before they crash into you.

The Vectors have some customisation options, allowing you to change your emblem as well cosmetic ship parts along with the ability to change weapon loadouts every time you die, giving you the chance to swap out a shotgun for a homing launcher or a set of mines for a tesla coil to kill that guy who keeps getting on your tail.

The game comes with 8 large-scale arenas, ranging from flying cities to abandoned space stations which have an insane variety of pathways, shortcuts and hiding spots to fly through and ambush. At some points during my play sessions, I felt like I was in a dogfight from a show like Cowboy Bebop, dodging enemy fire whilst making ridiculous high speed manoeuvres.

You can tell a lot of thought has gone into the map design, with there being a real focus on verticality and openness, which emphasises the frantic nature of combat as enemy Vectors could come from any angle.

In each map, there are also weapon crates to pick up, power-ups to heal you or speed up item cool-downs, which can help turn the tide of a tense chase or a Harrier standoff. The game modes currently available are your standard free=for-all, team deathmatch and domination variants. It also features a mode called Bounty Hunter, which is akin to modes like Regicide in the Halo series. While these would normally feel tiring in standard shooters, the game’s emphasis on speed breathes new life into these humdrum game modes.

The visuals are fantastic, with the game running at a smooth 60 fps and Vectors looking crisp and polished at such high speed and the arenas all adhering to the game’s gritty cyberpunk style. The soundtrack punctuates the action well, mixing slide guitar and hard rock riffs to create a unique soundtrack to fly to.

While the gameplay is refreshing and the presentation is pretty top-notch, the game still needs some serious patching and balancing to get it just right. Some weapon combos seemed ridiculously powerful, with the double Swarm Launchers with the Blast and Damage mods being able to take you down to about 10 health after one full salvo. Some items, conversely, seemed useless, with people hardly ever picking the EMP or Shield options as they seem to have no real effect in battle, sticking mainly to the Mine Launcher, which can almost guarantee a kill on an enemy pursuing you.

As well, I noticed some severe connection issues while playing online, with people randomly disconnecting from sessions or menus glitching out during games, along with spelling errors and unclear text in certain tutorials and menus.

Furthermore, just as a general warning, Strike Vector is not an easy game. The controls take some getting used to, and combined with the speed, the ability to change forms as well as some OP weapon combos and mad map designs, you will get your arse handed to you on many occasions.

The levelling system in the game is also really odd, with kills being negated if you crash by accident or assists seemingly not counting to your overall score. Luckily, you only unlock cosmetic items and concept art via levelling, so new players do not have to spend ages grinding up in a seriously hard game to get all the weapons.

While some issues are forgivable — especially with it being made by a small studio — the server problems, glitches and lack of additional modes are not acceptable in a full retail release. Ragequit has promised that all future DLC is free, but it is not good practice to simply cut bits which should really be in the final product — like some unique game modes — in order to ship it early.

Nevertheless, Strike Vector is definitely worth a look as a unique indie title that is tough, but satisfying to play, and has the potential to develop into a solid online shooter. You better don your flight suit.

Strike Vector is now available on Steam for £18.99

 

Sam Foxall

 

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