Star-Raiders---XBLA-Review Star Raiders - XBLA Review

   17/05/2011 at 21:17       Chris OToole       2 COMMENTS. - Score 2/5
 - Star Raiders, Atari, Retro Classics, Space

Star Raiders follows in the cosmic footsteps of another recent Atari resurrection, the generally under-rated (but not by this site) Yar's revenge. Can Star Raiders prove itself to be just as successful, or will it lose itself in the asteroid field of piss-poor game reboots?

Story wise it's you and your fleet up against the evil Zylon threat, except your fleet consists of just the one skilled fighter-pilot and several hundred massive sitting ducks that you have to protect when the bad guys come-a-calling with their alien death rays.

Things appear to start off promisingly with a decent enough voice-over and some nicely painted space images perfectly setting the scene, but then almost as quickly as they impress, they soon let you down again as they devolve into badly painted pictures of the game's pilots. Yep, two minutes in and you're already on the slippery slope to mediocrity.

I have a 50” television - I'm not boasting, honest - I'm also pushing on a bit. And as a result, my eyesight isn't what it once was. And so it came as quite a disappointment that the aforementioned cut-scenes and voice-over were all-too-quickly replaced with teeny, tiny microscopic lines of text. It's as though the art department went over budget before it'd had time to paint the whole of the story. I honestly had to hang off the edge of my seat in order to read the text. And while granted, it's hardly Shakespearean with writing along the lines of 'blah, blah go here, bad guys!', I'd still have liked not to have had to whip out my telescope in order to read it. And no that's not a euphemism.

One neat feature Star Raiders does bring to the table, however, is its multiple ship configurations. With a deft tap of a button you can switch between three modes: Dogfighting which has little shield power, but is nimble and has a very useful lock-on missile. Turret mode which leaves you vulnerable thanks to its lack of pace and agility, but has super shields and very powerful weapons. And finally, a half way house mode, which you tend to only accidentally select whilst trying to switch between the other two. All of the weapons are upgradeable using magic sparkles collected from enemy craft and asteroids and you can even upgrade your co-pilot who can provide bonuses to your attacking power and shields, amongst other things.

The controls are responsive and tight and the graphics are as pretty as star fields can be, but that's really as much as I can come up with by way of positive things to say about Star Raiders.

The map at the bottom of the screen is also nigh on unreadable, with tiny coloured blobs zipping about everywhere giving you little clue as to what's going on. It's also too small and cluttered to be of any use in the heat of battle. Well I say heat of battle, it'd be more accurate to describe it as the 'tedium of triangle hunting'.

I'm sorry to say that the space combat in Star Raiders is terrible. In fact I'd even go so far as to say if you had any affinity for the original game then you may as well just take off your rose tinted glasses and bury them in the garden. Gameplay consists of flailing about looking for the Zylon fighters. When you eventually find one it's highlighted by a red triangle, at which point you press the homing missile button. And then you repeat until you've ground your thumb down to a bloody stump. Sure, sometimes you have to shoot bits off a cruiser ship, maybe even using one of the other ship modes for a change, but it always comes back to the triangles.

There's not even much of a challenge in terms of difficulty - when you die you simply quickly respawn with no punitive action. In fact it's even preferable to do this on occasion because it refills your ammo gauges.

It's a real pity, then, that the game left the studio in this state, as I think the audience is there for a good space shooter. You only have to look for the masses constantly clamouring for another Elite, but this isn't it. In fact this isn't even another 1979 Star Raiders. At least I could read the text in that one.

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