Strike Vector review

Strike Vector 1

Publisher/developer: Ragequit Corporation Format: PC Release: Out now

Four-man French indie Ragequit bills its debut multiplayer twitch shooter as a “brutal” aerial combat game, and it isn’t messing around. In the early hours of this modern spin on Quake’s legacy, it feels like we spend more time between lives than we do in the air. Our Vector spawns at screen-blurring speed on direct collision courses with walls, dashing us cruelly to bits before we can get our bearings. We get vaporised by distant pixel-sized enemies cloaked in the cloying fog that permeates every map. We pump rounds into a mark only to have a stray piece of shrapnel score the kill – no points for trying here.

With just nine slides and a free-flight mode to prepare you, Strike Vector’s learning curve isn’t steep so much as abyssal. You can sink 15 minutes into a match and learn nothing of worth. What little you are taught is via slaps on the wrist: the first time you loose off a swarm missile that promptly seeks out a teammate is a painful lesson in Strike Vector’s disdain for those who fail to grasp its inscrutable systems. It’s an attractive game, the bold colour palettes expertly chosen, but it’s austere. And many won’t just ricochet off its towering walls – they’ll plummet headlong into them and detonate.

But around the four-hour mark, after rebinding our bugged W key and gaining our forward boost, a gestalt shift occurred. Gone was the sense of flying a videogame camera instead of a craft; we’d learned to stop fighting the handling and love its disregard for physics. Gone too was the momentary but deadly confusion between the flight and hover controls, which use the same keys for very different actions.

Strike Vector should never have to worry over complaints of being too accessible. The placement of some boost rings is so awkward that most of the path beyond is wall, with only superior reflexes able to avoid a crash.

That sense of overcoming insurmountable odds is potent and high-level play is giddying, full of dazzling shootouts and whippet turns. You have mastered a broken machine and can begin to imprint your style on it. Teeth-grinding frustration gives way to teeth-clenching manoeuvres, and the warm glow of showing off a hard-earned skillset. And it’s here that you’ll appreciate the unlock system, which reserves only cosmetic upgrades for progression.

Toughing out a few obtuse design wrinkles can be rewarding, then, but much here is simply broken. Lag is the biggest problem, since tiny margins for error render even small delays and positional corrections fatal, but servers are underpopulated, and connection drops and server-sorting bugs hampered the launch weeks. There’s a great twitch game beneath this hostile exterior, but Ragequit can’t afford to test players’ endurance on so many levels if its niche shooter is to thrive.