Friday, September 2, 2016

Strike Vector EX (PS4)

RageQuit Corporation's "Strike Vector EX" is not your traditional aerial dogfight simulator by any means. It brings with it an immersive arcade-like atmosphere with a plethora of arcade style gameplay elements included. It also includes a vaguely explained story locked behind a fairly lengthy campaign along with a healthy multiplayer experience that mirrors offerings from games like Call of Duty, or HALO. It's definitely unique in it's delivery, and quite engaging once you get to know how the game is meant to handle outside of the default settings.

If I were to compare the story portion of the game to anything I'd have to say it was a mixture of the climactic saga of StarCraft, and the federation goings on of the recently released StarTrek movies. The latter of which were based around the younger cadets, and their rise to becoming their older selves in the science fiction lore therein. By that I mean the game is futuristic, and that it seems to have different inhabitants, or factions in factory-like bases floating above a desolate planet. Each fighting for various causes ranging from domination to pirating, and even a seemingly futile fight for freedom. The main character himself mirrors the young and defiant pilot Captain Kirk in the way that he conducts business for both freedom fighters, and corporate entities alike. It is as Marv, this young Vector pilot of circumstance that you'll be taking on missions from those you follow within the mission based campaign. Outside of said campaign setting you'll be free to fully customize, and pilot your own Vectors in dogfight friendly environments set aside for competitive, and objective combat. All of which is ranked, and will earn you Kebs (credits) for unlocking all the other bits and bobs that the game has in place for you to unlock.

At the main menu of "Strike Vector EX" you will immediately be met by a simple yet artistic menu layout which acts as the hub for all in-game activities. There's the "Campaign" which will have you selecting points of interest on a point-to-point 3D map of floating structures above the previously mentioned barren planet as well as a hefty "Multiplayer", and practice mode titled "Skirmish" which each house their own unique set of options outside of their respective main menu listings. As far as the "Campaign" goes every mission within the mode will have you targeting specific targets while engaging in tense Vector dogfights against opposing factions (Syndicate, Horde, Consortium, Pirates ...). The missions are timed for leaderboard sake, and will reward you on completion with a skull medal that ranges from the lowly steel to the prestigious platinum. The better you handle each objective the quicker you can get things done, and ultimately land yourself at the top of the global leaderboard rankings for said mission. It should be noted that all missions take place around the floating industrial structures which not only house warring faction pilots, but also power-ups (repair, cooldowns), and destructible features.

In the early "Campaign" missions, and through specific characters of interest you will learn the ropes of being a Vector pilot in some hands-on tutorial engagements. Like standard missions these missions are also leaderboard standing inclusive meaning that you can go back, and perfect your playthrough to the point that you rank at the top leaderboard placing if you so desire. When it comes to the Vectors, and their capabilities you'll find that maneuverability, aiming, and target tracking is made easy through simple control requirements, and a HUD (display) that points out everything for you. The left thumbstick of your Dualshock4 controller will move your Vector in all possible directions while the right thumbstick will act as your aiming mechanism. For viewpoints, or perspectives you can switch between third-person, and first-person POVs using the triangle button. I actually preferred the first-person point of view as it felt more natural, and made hitting distant Vectors or targets of interest easier. Along with the basics of movement and aiming your piloted Vector also has weapons, and perks that can be used to aid you in your missions, and multiplayer combat situations. These weapons include everything from projectiles/missiles to gatling guns, and precision focused single shots that explode upon impact among other things. Also among your ship's more aggressive equipment are a "Special Action" and "Specializations". The "Special Action" includes rechargeable perks assigned to "X" that can heal your Vector, drop mines, use EMP, or a special Tesla charge that can be used alongside the speed mode/boost (L2) to ram other Vectors in flight, and destroy them. Of course there's a few more options than that though. The "Specialization" options on the other hand are passive perks that build upon the Vector's abilities/capabilities. Things like added armor, or more stealth can be assigned in the Vector customization screen via the appropriate selection wheel.

Outside of the "Campaign" you'll find worthy alternatives for enjoying the game to it's fullest including a "Multiplayer" that contains several COD-like modes that are based around Team Deathmatch, Demolition, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Free-for-All, and even Kill Confirmed. The game definitely borrows from games like Call of Duty in that sense. When it comes to the TDM (Team Deatmatch) offerings "Squad" fills that space. In it two teams, including the one you are a part of will use their customized Vectors to shoot down opposing Vectors for points. There is a designated point setting, and like COD you can vote for which map you want to play on. Listed after that in order is "Capture the Flag". This mode plays a lot like that of the HALO games' multiplayer mode of the same name. You will go into enemy territory with team support, collect their flag, and take it back to your flag base to score a point. The first team to reach the designated point limit wins. For those looking to enjoy some free-for-all, "Battle" will be the mode for you. The objective in this mode is to basically be the lone wolf pilot that shoots down the most opposing Vectors. In the way of kill confirmed, Strike Vector EX's "Bounty Hunter" mode will have you collecting a required amount of Keb (in-game currency) to reach the designated score limit. The first team to do so wins. Lastly, RageQuit's answer to king of the hill (which is actually titled, "King of the Hill") will have teams racing to, and fighting for control of a central zone. Your team gets points the longer the zone is held, and the team with the most points at the end of said match wins. No matter what mode you play in your performance stats will be recorded as if ranked, and in doing so will mirror the traditional FPS standings.

As far as "Skirmish" goes it is merely a practice mode that mirrors the "Campaign" environments. By completing campaign missions you'll unlock their mirrored environment equivalent in "Skirmish". If you aim to perfect your playthrough without punishment for failing you can do so here. Just be aware that you will not earn Kebs for your efforts or a leaderboard ranking.

Now for the customization ...

Strike Vector EX harbors a simple yet deeper than usual customization menu that houses options both for the Vector's build, it's appearance, and it's weapon/perks. In the way of structural options you'll be able to unlock, and equip a few parts including the cockpit, the engine, and the primary weapon. Along with this you can access a paint menu in which there are part specific color options, pattern options, and decal options. In the way of weapons, and perks you have the choice of "Primary" (Rockets, Homing Missiles, Gatling Guns ...), "Special" (EMP, Ghost, Nnanobots ...), and "Specialization" (Heavy Armor, Stealth ...). Some options can be unlocked through campaign playthroughs while other customization options are only unlockable through your progress, and ranking in multiplayer. On top of the Vector customization you can also add a banner to your own PSN ID listing showcasing your Strike Vector EX prowess, or lack thereof.

The Verdict ...

At first I thought this game fell short of what it could have been. At the default settings aiming was overly sensitive, and maneuvering was a trial. Once I figured out you can tweak the sensitivity through the game's "Options" menu though, and set the view to first-person the game changed for me. I fell in love with it, and saw the game at it's best. My only problem if any is that the character interactions within the campaign's story felt cold, and generic. Even the story itself was a bit cliche as if it borrowed ideas from other science fiction mythologies. I did like the fact that the campaign was enriched with leaderboard rankings despite this fact. It added some decent replay value for the singleplayer experience that otherwise would not have been there. I also liked the fact that RageQuit included every popular FPS multiplayer mode an FPS fanboy could enjoy. The fact that it involves an aerial combat twist makes it all the more delightful. After spending some quality time with the game, and coming to understand it better I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it's worth your money. Just be sure to lower the sensitivity, and play the game in the first-person perspective.

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