Every retro-head like me really looks forward to reboots of classic old games, particularly when they come from one of the Gods of video gaming, Atari.
The minute you load this game, if you know anything about the classic history of videogames, you think “oh cool, Is it Colony Wars? Or could it be Elite? Or should it dare to be X-Wing?”
Sadly, frankly, it’s not a patch on any of the above; it’s merely a long lost distant cousin of the old Atari 8-bit game. State of the art it was then, but is the reboot just a bit of a state?
The standard premise of each level is to destroy a few waves of incoming fighters, the original ‘Zygons’ seemed to have survived the first game. This enables you to move on through the galaxy to, well, destroy another wave of enemy fighters. Occasionally you will be asked to protect a fleet of Allied shipping. This basically means you have to, yup you guessed it, destroy more enemy fighters.
Sadly this means the game has the same amount of depth as a Katie Price thought process.
Your craft can fight in 3 states, all in a 3rd person view. Each option has its own fine attributes. You can be an all-round bad ass, speed and agility in your favour. Or you hide in the corner and defend yourself punching out the invaders from a far, like a bloody coward. Getting used to the dual-stick tri-axis pitch and yaw might take a while, but if you are familiar with any kind of flight sim then it’s cool. However, the complete lack of ‘which way is up?’ relativity, that you have in space, will leave you generally spinning around in circles until you get used to the controls.
Killing the bad guys will give you the usual gifts that you can spend in the usual upgrade shops. Niether of the weapons I came across seemed capable of blasting you out of a paper bag let alone enabling you to cross stella distances attacking a bunch of mean old frustrated Zygon dudes.
After a few minutes of nauseating spinning you will kill a sufficient amount of bad guys, presumably in paper bag spaceships, to move on. One of the strangest things about the game is that when you occasionally succumb to the glorious Zygon firepower, and snuff it, you respawn a few seconds later fully armed! You can also re-arm yourself by flying close to one of your numerous satellites. This takes away any kind of difficulty to the game, thus making it even more monotonous.
Graphically the game is pretty good for 800 points, but no more. You fly around a perfectly nice universe with shiney ships and different colour bad guy triangles. Sadly the story telling requires you to have some seriously good eyesight. For some reason the mission and upgrade screen fonts are ridiculously proportioned that you can barely read what it is trying to tell you, so it becomes irrelevant as you tap through it all and upgrade to a weapon that just seems to have a higher pitched in-game whizzy sound, without actually being much of an improvement over the previous weapon.
The only thing really going for Star Raiders is that it is a rare occurrence in the faded space combat genre. This means that those people who love this sort of game will be cueing up in droves to download it, only to realise they are still backing the wrong horse in the current stables.
If Lucas Arts are listening then please note that this is the best (only?) space combat simulator out there (please, nobody mention DarkStar One) If you re-release a new X-Wing sim with a glimmer of throwback to the old days, then you will clean up. There is a huge gap between Star Raiders and what can actually be done, what is actually required and desperately needed , to inject life in to a very fine and underrated genre.
I hate to have a go at one of my childhood hero’s, but I’m sorry Atari; this was a good choice that was badly executed *sad face*.
Pros – Okay graphics for the price. Throwing the lifeline to a deserted genre.
Cons – Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. Could have been so much better. Poor controls and rubbish gameplay.