Review: Star Raiders (Xbox 360)

Star Raiders
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Incinerator Studios
Genre: Space Sim
Released: 11/05/11

Star Raiders is the name of one of the classics of videogame history. For fans of Space Simulation games like Freespace or Tie Fighter, Star Raiders is the original. It was developed in 1979 by Doug Neubauer for Atari. The name has been dormant for a while, but now Atari have brought it back as an Xbox Live Arcade and PSN downloadable title.

Story:

You begin the game as a cadet about to graduate into fleet service as a pilot when the dreaded Zylons decide to break the peace and attack without warning. Press ganged into fighting a war you quickly make a name for yourself. Do you have what it takes to save the galaxy?

Audio:

This being a downloadable game, the developers have gone out of their way to make the game as small as possible. As a result, there is very little voice acting, a select few sound effects and not a terribly large amount of music either. What is there is competent, but it’s not going to win Audio of the Year awards either.

Graphics:

It would be easy to be snarky and say the graphics haven’t improved terribly since 1979, but that would be wrong. Obviously the game looks better than its ancestor, but when compared to the current generation, or even to games 10 years older than it, like X-Wing Alliance or Freespace, it just doesn’t really compare that well. The best thing I can say about the game is that it looks like a great college project.



Gameplay/Controls:

The big selling point of the game is the three separate flight modes offered in game. Similar to the fighters in Robotech, your vehicle can transform depending on the needs of the mission at the time. These modes are fighter, attack and turret. Each mode has distinctive weapons options, and I found that while one mode might be the advertised best choice, that doesn’t always make it so, Number One. I spent the majority of the early game almost completely ignoring the turret option, only to find later on that the turret mode is probably the best choice for attacking star ships, crazy as that sounds.

Each flight mode has its own control scheme also, and it can take a little bit of getting used to when flying one mode one way and then switching everything up to fight a different way. I did get over this, however, because as crazy as it sounds, this problem affected the fighter jocks in Robotech too. And yes, that really did cross my mind while trying to justify it while playing.

Your ship is upgradeable, with different weapons for each of the different flight modes. This is excellent in theory, but the majority of the weapons are useless. Explanation is required, so I will provide it. Enemy starships have turrets which raise and lower constantly. These are the only vulnerable points on the ship. To destroy one, you have to systematically destroy each turret. You presumably would upgrade your attack mode weapons because you have to attack a starship, but because those starships can only be destroyed bit by bit, turret by turret, all of the weapons that are fired at the hull, of which there are more than a few, are useless. The turret mode on your ship offers the only way to immobilize an enemy ship, so even that is cumbersome at best.

Replayability:

There is one single solitary campaign in the game, and there is no mulitplayer functionality included. So once you’re finished that is basically it. In order to go back and play the missions again you must start a new game. Not a huge amount of replayability here.

Balance:

The missions range in difficulty. Most of them are really easy, but latter levels can get frustratingly hard. It’s OK though, because you have infinite lives. So when you are told to attack that Starship over there? No worries, you can batter it with your lasers until you die, respawn and do it again infinitely until the job is done. Not the most intuitive method of attacking an enemy, I’ll admit, but it’s a great way of learning what works and what doesn’t.

Originality:

The enemy, the Zylons, attack in ships called Base Stars. The enemy in Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons, attacked in ships called Base Stars. I understand how that was over looked in 1979, when really, who cared about some videogame, but today I’m kind of shocked Atari is going with it again. It’s not completely the same, true, but there’s enough there for a lawyer to go “hmm”, that’s all I’m saying.

Addictiveness:

Not a whole lot, if I’m honest. It’s nice to see a new Space sim, considering I’m addicted to them, especially one which delivers on the the premise of transforming ships and star combat, but the longer I played the game, the more I knew I was only finishing it for you people.

Appeal Factor:

The game appeals only if you go in for the whole nostalgia factor. If you played the original you might find it neat to be playing as a Star Raider again, but really, if you’re that old, you’re probably more interested in your mortgage and have better things to be spending your money on. Today’s generation of gamers would be better off playing something else. Even Dark Star One: Dark Alliance scratched the itch better than this one.




Miscellaneous:

The game keeps track of how long it takes you to complete each of the missions, and I discovered after completion that there is an online scoreboard for every person who has played the game.

The Scores:
Story: Bad
Audio: Poor
Graphics: Poor
Gameplay/Controls: Bad
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Bad
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Final Score: VERY BAD

Short Attention Span Summary:
Xbox Live Arcade was probably the correct place to release this, but it’s a shame that a game so steeped in history had to have its name dredged up again just so Atari could name this something. I’m dying for new games in this genre, but if this is the best they can do, perhaps the genre should stay dead.

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