A clear example of a game with some of the right elements, but the few it lacks are critical!

User Rating: 5.5 | Star Raiders PS3
For the most part Star Raiders is technically sound but totally misses the mark when it comes to enjoyable gameplay and storytelling.

You spend 100% of the game dogfighting enemy ships, which would be ok if this was done on a larger scale. Your ship can morph into 2 other modes: one that resembles a mech and the other, a stationary turrent. As a mech, your ship moves slower but is ideal for taking out larger ships that have multiple weak points (energy cores). In turrent mode, your ship remains still and has lower shields but causes the most damage out of all 3 modes. Of course, regular flight mode is the most balanced and outside of taking down large ships or perhaps trophy hunting, its the best mode to stay in for taking out enemies. This is really the only level of gameplay variety that the game offers. Each of the 10 levels has 3 parts (A, B, & C) but only one (A) is required to complete in order to move on to the next level while the other 2 are always optional. Every level has the one of the same requirements in order to clear it:

1. Destroy X amount of enemies
2. Find XYZ item
3. Take out all the generators or cores from the extremely large space station

While the lack of variety does weaken the gameplay, not as much as the lack of substance does. All the weapons feel and behave the same. Star Raiders does let you earn in game currency (which is another issue in itself that I will get to) to buy upgrades for your ship but none of them really seemed that much significantly different than the other. The sheer amount of currency that it takes to buy upgrades is ridiculous enough but then the result ends up being very unrewarding. Besides primary and secondary weaponary, you can also purchase droids that supposedly assist you in battle (think R2-D2). However, they ended up being just a huge annoyance once equipped. They constantly alert you to things that you're more than likely already aware of and are overall pretty useless. Now for the currency...oh boy...the currency. Besides what you are rewarded at the end of every mission and per enemy destroyed, there are also items that resemble either glowing golden or blue rocks. You earn currency for destroying these. The problem is...there are literally close to or over a hundred of these scattered across the level. Trying to collect these during the actual mission is very unwise as some are timed or will generally cause enemies to relentlessly swarm you from all directions. Fortunately, Star Raiders always gives players the option to move on or stay in their current location. Most times, you can remain in your current location free to collect more currency and free of enemies. The problem is, it can be very time consuming to collect each and every rock in the level AND some levels inexplicably continue to generate endless enemies when attempting to do this. Honestly, unless you are trophy hunting, the amount of time it takes to collect the extra currency and unimpressive upgrades don't make doing this worth your while.

Another issue is the inconsistant difficulty spikes. Everything in the game goes smoothly up until mission 4-A (level 4 story related). You come upon an astroid with a force field inside of it. While having to destroy all the generators that are powering the force field, you have to destroy or avoid incoming enemy ships. Once this is done, guess what? You have to go inside of said astroid's maze like interior to find a tiny micochip!!!! If you have the patience to keep playing after this then its pretty much smooth sailing until the final level. Instead of an over the top final boss waiting for you (bosses is something else this game lacks), a similar level 4-A situation awaits. You have to destroy the cores powering a force field that is blocking a hole leading to an underground generator. After traveling & shooting your way through these underground tunnels and destorying this generator, you are rewarded with 3 minutes to leave the same way you came in. Oh and wait it gets better...if you die ANYWHERE before getting out then you'll start all the way back to the broken generator with no time added. And just when you thought it got bad enough, if you run out of time then you completely fail the mission and have to restart from the very beginning of the level!!!! Talk about a huge ball of WTF?!

The plot is very basic "take to space to stop the evil alien race of Zylons from preparing an attack against Earth"...simple enough and not a problem. The storytelling however is a different "story" altogether. All story related cutscenes are presented in a cartoony pop-up book like fashion. This isn't the first time I've seen this and I'm not really critizing this alone as it actually reminded me a lot of Tornado Outbreak. However, the total relevence it had to anything that happened during the game is questionable. You're introduced to many characters that have absolutely no role in the story besides the mention of their name and a face. Besides your commanding officer, none of them assist you in battle, have to be rescued or anything. I honestly would have just preferred getting my mission objectives, maybe a final cutscene and that's it. The storytelling adds zero value to the game overall.

Besides the cookie cutter cut scenes, the visuals are well rendered. Especially the enviornments. The music wasn't anything special and the sound effects sound very retro...which I kinda understood why since this is a remake of a 1979 game but I just don't know how well it fit in with the modern day visuals. Controls were solid but very poorly explained. You know something is wrong when I didn't find out that the ship had thrusters until playing the very last level of the game!

My Breakdown:

What's Good:

- In game visuals, especially environments are very well rendered
- Solid and simple controls
- Overall simplistic gameplay
- Offers 3 different combat modes, each with distinct sets of strengths and weakness

What's Not-So-Good:

- Despite its simplistic basis, the more advance controls are poorly explained
- Collecting extra currency
- Little effort seemed to be invested into cutscenes
- I for one would have liked to see what an actual Zylon looks like
- No boss battles!

What's Bad:

- Levels 4-A and 10-A! A total pain in the @ss!
- The overall storytelling. Pointless
- ^ Meaningless characters
- The lack of variety in mission objectives.

In all, Star Raiders ends up being 30 missions of doing the same tedious tasks over and over again instead of being a fun game. The potential is there but never realized and some times that is worst than an unapologetically bad game.