Strike Vector Review

Jet-set future.

by

Strike Vector is a terrible name. It's an ugly, meaningless pairing of words, vaguely aggressive and speciously technical. What does it tell about the experience in this multiplayer sci-fi dogfighter? Presumably, things will be struck. Usually walls, as it turns out. Other things will be set into motion and given a direction. Usually you, and usually into walls.

That's part of the Strike Vector equation,and for the first few hours, the unwieldiness of the interface and controls seems well in step with the asperity of the game's title. You furrow your brow at the shoddy tutorial, and at the misspellings in the menus. In your first matches, you hurtle from your spawn headlong into nearby obstacles like Wile E. Coyote shot from an Acme cannon. As you're puzzling over what the Kebs column next to your increasingly negative kill-to-death ratio might mean, a dubious name like Strike Vector is emblematic.

Dogfighting combat is turned on its head by the ability to hover.

Perhaps 1995's WipEout could have served as a precedent for a title with embedded significance. The old sci-fi racing stalwart used to run advertisements featuring two vacuous youths with nosebleeds. Below a stylized Designers Republic logo that oozed counterculture cred read the caption "A dangerous game." They used to say that the capitalized "E" stood for the drug ecstasy. Strike Vector has something of that uniquely '90s sensibility, perhaps owing to the members of WipEout's now-defunct Studio Liverpool within its ranks. It's got the same disaffinity for limitations on speed and gravity and the same aficionado appeal. It bears the same muddy industrial patina of the WipEout prototype from the movie Hackers. The old teenage angst even bubbles to the surface here and there; the new development team's name, Ragequit, sits in the spot reserved for the "Leave Match" button in more...let's say, "businesslike" shooters.

Strike Vector has no qualms about taking its speedy vector ships and forcing them into cramped quarters.

WYSIWYG: it's refreshing to not have equipment locked behind an experience system.

Strike Vector's old-school sensibilities run deeper than a bit of branding. Though it's a dogfighting game fought between futuristic jets, it's structured in a manner that should be instantly familiar to Quake veterans. Absent are the unlocks and the tiered bonuses so endemic to the modern shooter scene. Eight weapons greet you when you first visit the game's armory, and the count remains eight a few hundred games later. The only unlocks earned through play are cosmetic. The arena shooter comparisons gain further credibility when your jet's Macross-esque hover mode is toggled, and the game becomes a first-person shooter (or a third-person shooter) in a purer sense. Hovering can make you an easier target, but it also inverts the traditional pursuer-chaser dynamic of flight games. Find a bogey on your six, and the options avail themselves. Hit the brakes and have him fly right by? Or maybe dive into a nearby structure and wait in ambush around a corner? It's a fitting evolution--the trench warfare that preceded the rise of the modern FPS gives way to the trench run from Star Wars.

Strike Vector has no qualms about taking its speedy vector ships and forcing them into cramped quarters. Open air cedes space to massive works of industrial architecture: slums, fortresses, and foundries that tend to come crashing into view when you're in the throes of desperate evasive maneuvers. It's a relatively small sampling of maps, but there's good variety to be had in their aesthetics and layouts, and each is tuned to pitch-perfect gameplay possibility.

Considering the "tutorial" is what new players see first, this ain't a great way to lead off.

I'm enamored of these stages, more layered and detailed than any flight game fan has a right to expect. They feel like rare artifacts that survived the journey from concept art to execution, chock-full of little protrusions and crannies that make escape both viable and precarious in turn. I find myself getting caught up in my eagerness to explore their depths, taking in the neon signage and the bright paint jobs, becoming inattentive to teammates and enemies as I loaf about. The finer details are hard to appreciate in the heat of combat, you see--the flips and loops that combat necessitates make these environments disorienting, even if it's in the best possible way. It's a savvy combination of form and function, a design that shifts from artwork to obstacle to pathway with nary a seam in between.

There's no leading crosshair, and it's difficult to tell what effect--if any--your shots are having when you score that elusive hit marker.

Strike Vector's combat is a delightfully grungy spectacle in its own right. It's most reminiscent of Warhawk's aerial combat, all floating power-ups and high contrast. There's a metal-on-metal crunchiness to the sight of ships coming apart under fire. A splatter of oil and flaming detritus makes for gratification that's often tantalizingly delayed, the reward for a dogged chase or a crafty bit of strafing during a head-to-head shootout between hovering vectors. In a rather mischievous touch, if you're shot down, you're granted a few seconds to direct your flaming ship into an enemy for a spiteful kill. It's all eminently .gif-able.

The vectors are also worth a look when they're not exploding. They're bulky mechs, more Transformer than Gundam. The whole of their backsides are given to engines, an overkill of thrusters that do a wonderful job of conveying...well, conveyance. Their forms can be nominally customized, though Armored Core fans should look elsewhere for their gearhead fix; Strike Vector's garage feels incomplete. That's the other side of the coin, the roughness that oxidizes Strike Vector's machined finish. There are little impurities, like the aforementioned menu misspellings, or the odd game crash, and there are larger oversights that give the impression of a game put under live loads before it had time to harden. There's no real tutorial to speak of, for example, just a few vague slides to click through and a solo flight mode to learn the ropes. I'd recommend spending a fair bit of time with the latter.

Perhaps the ability to suspend flight necessitated these finely detailed environments.

What else is missing? A tactile sense, really--a feeling of connection between player and game that bypasses all the little mechanical and electrical intermediaries. There are a lot of barriers: the dubious ability of mouse and keyboard to simulate acrobatic flight, for one. The inputs have never struck me as an ideal control system for aircraft simulation, but Strike Vector's half-baked controller support makes them the only practical option. The crosshairs used for targeting also initiate turns--they need to be moved to the edges of the screen to do so--meaning that during pursuit, you're stuck juggling your ability to attack or steer. If you manage to draw a bead on your enemy, you might find it tough to gauge your weapon's efficacy. There's no leading crosshair, and it's difficult to tell what effect--if any--your shots are having when you score that elusive hit marker. Absent the ability to tell whether you're using the weapons properly, fitting your vector becomes a matter of sticking to the one or two that have proven remotely viable.

Then again, I might be willing to take to the skies without any weapons fastened to my unwieldy ship, to jet around Strike Vector's impressive environments and let the chips fall where they may. There's a substantive quality to the game's core combat and visuals, even if the rest remains somewhat clumsy. Each time you quit the game, an exit splash screen reminds you that future content is free, and the first such drop is promised for February 28. I'll fill the time until then learning how to stop crashing into the very pretty walls.

The Good
Intricately crafted stages that heighten both visuals and strategic offerings.
Innovative combination of traditional dogfighting and arena shooter game structures
Dizzying, frenetic combat.
The Bad
Without a tutorial, you're a little less Maverick, a little more Goose.
Rough interface and deficient gamepad options
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Nick Capozzoli is a self-avowed technophile, and interested in any media with jets, robots, or any combination thereof. For the purposes of this review he played a week's worth of Strike Vector's multiplayer.

Discussion

24 comments
hitomo
hitomo

looks like hawken with jets

mariocerame
mariocerame

Dear Nick,

1) I'm confused by your opener.  "Strike Vector" is an evocative name for a game with dogfighting. It suggests, roughly, "angle of attack"--what you're ostensibly jockeying for when dogfighting.

2) More importantly, your review--like others you've written--reads like you're writing a novel, not a technical document.  By paragraph 4, I am dizzy. I don't grok the organization.  By the end, I don't know whether I want to buy this game or not.  

Previously, you've said, "sorry that's how I write reviews."  My honest feedback is that I struggle to appreciate what you write because of organization and how heavy and crowded the style comes off to me. Sorry.

quakke
quakke

Indies like Strike Vector are the real games and the future. You don't got any chances AAA industry..

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Nick Capozzoli is a self-avowed technophile, and interested in any media with jets, robots, or any combination thereof" Then what do you think of Divinity: Dragon Commander? It has jets attached to dragons.

lindallison
lindallison

Put a few hours into this, - very fun but I have absolutely no idea what's going on half the time.  I'm good at not crashing into walls, but seem to be a bullet/plasma/swarmmissile/rocket/seekermine/kamikaze magnet.

keithgeoff
keithgeoff

Quake 3 lovers, you should try this awesome game urgently.

Incredible feelings and a great shooter. GG ragequit Corp. :o

bluefox755
bluefox755

You can be my wingman anytime Maverick.

Samparksh
Samparksh

I guess I'll wait it out....

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

Hey, I like the name! Strike Vector....  Such a unique name!


It's better then lazy, crappy, one word names like Uncharted, Resistance, Dark etc. We need more games that takes chances with names, as well as gameplay.

Lord_luke
Lord_luke

a tip for them new pilots. Handle your strike vector as if it was Mario running on ice. Once you over come that hurtle, you will be pulling off acrobatic maneuvers in no time at all.

holtrocks
holtrocks

" Rough interface and deficient gamepad options" It is literally impossible to play this game with a gamepad and be effective the the slightest bit. The gameplay once you get it down is incredibly rewarding and fun.

nick_capozzoli
nick_capozzoli

@mariocerame  We'll have to agree to disagree on the title. I had the same take as you on what it's grasping at, but I don't personally think that it makes it very evocative or poetic. I kinda like the ring of "Angle of Attack", though, now that you mention it ; )


To the other point: I gather that you're not keen on my style, but I think you'd be hard pressed to convince me that reviews should be a "technical document" by any stretch of the words. I've always viewed what I do as criticism; I try to paint a picture of a game--the interesting features, the feelings it evokes, and, yes, all the glitches and graphics and nitty-gritty details as they're deemed relevant. 


Games are an art to me, first and foremost, and art needs coverage that goes beyond the kind of stiff prose you'd find on a technical data sheet. Heck, personally I find reviews that read like feature lists to be woefully inadequate for trying to make purchasing decisions. Features are agnostic. I could drone on about how Strike Vector's matches are 12 versus 12, and that there are X number of maps, and Z number of weapons, and come to some basic conclusions from that, but it wouldn't really tell you anything about the game worth knowing.


My experience has been that my reviews have been well-received, but I am genuinely sorry to hear that they're not your thing. I tend towards a style that's a little more like the film criticism scene, so perhaps you could read them more in that spirit? I dunno. I can't say that you're going to enjoy my stuff any more going forward, but I am thankful for the feedback all the same.


Who knows, maybe one day I'll ascend to another plane of writing that gets 'em to click for you too.


Thanks,


-Nick

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@kitmeep  He's a smart man is Nick Capozzoli.  I'm an English teacher and I needed to reach for Google twice.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Uncharted : Drake's fortune, Among thieves, Drake's deception. Resistance : fall of man. Don't blame the title for your inability to read past the big words. However I don't see anything wrong with strike vector, it seems appropriate and fitting for this game.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@holtrocks  I've had fun so far, although I'm really really bad in these early hours. 

Strike Vector More Info

First Release on Jan 28, 2014
  • PC
Strike Vector is an intense, multiplayer third/first person air combat game.
7
Average User RatingOut of 1 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Strike Vector Team
Published by:
Ragequit Corporation
Genres:
Action