Quick Look: Strider

Jeff and Vinny were worried about how this re-imagining might turn out, but they seem to take it all in stride...r.

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Strider Review

3
  • XONE
  • PS4

This retelling of the original Strider arcade game has a lot of cool moments, but a lack of meaningful challenges holds it back.

After years of rumors and little slices of information about games that were canceled before they were even announced, Capcom has finally put together a brand new Strider. 2014's Strider sees Hiryu after Grandmaster Meio in a reboot of the arcade game's basic plot, setting, and many of its major encounters. It's thin on story, long on mashing the attack button, and a mostly satisfying endeavor that left me wishing that it had more of a plot or that more of the game required actual expertise and skill, rather than being able to mash your way through 90 percent of the game's combat.

There's no preamble to Strider. Launch the game and you'll quickly find yourself hang-gliding into Kazakh City and receiving one simple objective: "Assassinate Grandmaster Meio." As you make your way around the city and into a handful of different areas, you'll get other sub-objectives to help you proceed, but finding Meio and putting his lights out is your goal. Along the way you'll get occasional (and annoying unstoppable, even on retries) dialogue from bosses, but other than telling you that your journey is about to end in defeat, most of the bosses don't have anything meaningful to say. It's just as well, as most of the voice work is average, at best.

While the setting and many of the boss encounters are inspired directly by the arcade version of the game, the action is a bit more like the more-thoughtful NES release or, if you want to be modern about it, it's a Shadow Complex-like action-adventure where you earn abilities that help you enter previously inaccessible areas of the world. This gates access to later portions of the game and also gives you a reason to backtrack around the game to find doors that you weren't able to open the last time around. You'll get most of your major gear upgrades from boss encounters, and most of these are taken directly from the original game and given a few twists to bring them up a bit closer to modern standards. If nothing else, it's a pleasure to be able to fight a giant mechanical ape one more time, even if you can just run up next to it and mash the attack buttons to win.

Most of the gear is very straightforward, though a set of plasma types for your standard sword attack let you deal explosive, ice, magnetic, or standard damage. Your standard attacks can also reflect bullets back at turrets and other armed enemies, once you've found the appropriate upgrade. Traversal doesn't change too much over the course of the game, though gaining the ability to double jump is certainly nice. It gives you an extra bit of maneuverability that freshens up the combat a bit, giving you a better way to dodge bullets. Of course, on normal difficulty you needn't bother. Running right at most enemies and bosses and swinging your sword as quickly as possible is typically the only strategy you need, and the game doesn't start throwing trickier boss encounters at you until the final third. Even the final boss is felled by some fairly remedial tactics. Keeping that in mind, you might want to bump it up to hard... but this seems to just tweak the damage numbers a bit and doesn't really make the game any more exciting.

At times, Strider looks great, but it would benefit from some more environmental variety. Aside from some early bits on the rooftops and some airship shenanigans, most of the game is set in a series of fairly plain-looking facilities. Without many big landmarks to help you navigate, it's a good thing the game has an effective map, complete with color-coded doorways to help you figure out what it takes to open each door--handy when you're backtracking for additional items. The audio, other than the occasionally lame voice acting, is good, but on my 5.1 setup the PS4 version had a really rotten sound mix, with music primarily pumping out of the rear speakers and things like the "shing" of your sword slash, dialogue, and other combat-related audio quietly coming out of the center channel. For the record, this setup has been fine for plenty of other PS4 games, but I would have to make some major adjustments to individual channel volume to make this game sound anything close to correct. Unless maybe the audio team know how drab the dialogue was and tried to buried under a few layers of sound...

The game spits out a trophy for finishing the game in under three hours, but after doing a bit of hunting around to collect around 75 percent of the total items and running up against the game's tougher bosses, my time was a little closer to five hours. Some of the items you'll find along the way include concept art and some unlockable challenges. Beacon Run is a checkpoint race against the clock that gives you a preset loadout of items for each challenge, to keep things fair. Survival mode is a combat challenge that sends you up against waves of bad guys and, again, keeps time for you. Those times are posted to online leaderboards along with your completion time for the campaign. I didn't find either of the two extra modes to be all that exciting, but it's nice that there's something other than the main chunk of action to play.

I went in feeling really great about Strider. It opens abruptly and gets right down to business. The control feels good and the combat starts out in a pretty satisfying way. But, over time, those positives wear off. The game doesn't do enough with its additional items, areas, and action to make it feel like a steady challenge and the variety in the action is a little lacking. It's still a good time if you're the type of person who wants anything that resembles Metroid, modern-day Castlevania, or anything in-between. With more variety to its combat and some more time spent smoothing out its rough edges, Strider could have been a significantly better game.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Edited by skrutop

This type of game is my jam, so I'll pick it up.

Posted by Chrystolis

I wasn't sure on the game when I first started playing, but after playing a couple more hours last night, it's growing on me. While running straight at enemies works in most cases, it's way more fun to try and take enemies out while taking minimal damage. It's not like I stop to plan things out, moreso I just flip around through the air trying to weave around bullets as I move in on enemies, as opposed to just dashing directly at them.

It's not an amazing game, but it's fun enough to play.

Edited by WMoyer83

Guacamelee>Strider

Posted by Jack_Lafayette

wolfendooms

Probably should have saved that for your speedmetal revival band.

Posted by G2Anime

It's funny to me how this review is the opposite of most of the other reviews out there.

All I know is the game is worth trying for yourself instead of going for someone else's opinion.

With that said, it's a $15 game and you get more than you pay for.

Edited by shelfcompact

This is the first game I've passed on because the sound was so terrible in surround. I'll try again with headphones.

Posted by sterbucks

What difficulty level was this review at?

I am planning to start at the hardest difficulty. Also I only played this on the nes and thought that version was awesome.

Posted by Jerykk

You can't complain about lack of difficulty when you play on Normal. Normal isn't designed for hardcore gamers. It's designed for casual gamers (while Easy is designed for non-gamers). This has been the case for every mainstream western game made over the past 10 years. It's so irritating when people take the path of least resistance (i.e. any difficulty that isn't the highest) and then complain when games are too easy. It's equally irritating when they dismiss health and damage scaling as inconsequential. That couldn't be further from the truth. Tougher and more lethal enemies force you to play better. You have to have a deeper understanding of the game's mechanics and play more tactically in order to maximize your damage output while minimizing damage taken. If the enemies in Dark Souls had very little health and did negligible damage, you could just mash your way to victory and completely overlook the depth of the game's combat system. Dark Soul's designers were smart in removing difficulty settings entirely and having the game be hard by default, forcing players to have a deeper understanding of the systems in order to succeed.

Playing Strider on Hard makes a big difference in how you approach combat. You can't just mash your way to victory like you can on Normal. Timing, maneuvering, target prioritization and choosing the optimal attacks play a much more important role in your success because enemies pose a much greater threat. Granted, once you get a bunch of health upgrades and the Explosive Cypher, the game becomes easier but up until that point, the game provides a decent challenge on Hard.

Posted by PollySMPS

Just finished it myself. Nothing about it really stood out to me at all other than the last 20-30 minutes of the game being some of the most frustrating, annoying things I've played in gaming for a while. The final boss is bag of cocks annoying.

Posted by stevenhearn

I played the game Yesterday, it was really hilarious even though I haven't played the original one for it but this one it seems a very exciting game.

Posted by Machocruz

The original was somewhat visionary, a fever dream. Very strange. The music was otherworldly at times. The levels were comprised of set pieces stacked end to end, music changing with each set piece, which was rather unique. I often refer to the original Strider, especially the Genesis version that had a couple extra tracks, as a "rock opera." Plus you had things like Russian human centipede and weird animation and sound effects.

This new one looks competent, but bland in comparison.

Edited by DriftSPace

This is definitely the best Strider game to-date.

I agree that this game could have been a little more thoughtful, and wish the combat had been a little more strategic. It was a lot of fun though, and definitely worth $15.

(Let's remember that too, people: this was released as a $15 game; we have all certainly played full-price titles much worse than this.)

Finding and acquiring all the pickups was no easy feat, with several sections definitely requiring "actual expertise and skill." I also did my first play-through on "Hard" mode, going for the "Speed Demon" trophy (completion in under 4 hours), and must say that some parts of the game were fairly difficult to rush through under those circumstances. (I finished @ 3:11:24.) I definitely had an increased appreciation for the availability of options acquired thorough finding power-ups during my subsequent "Normal" play-through, and did feel encouraged to deal with certain enemies more strategically; dealing with those spider mechs and napalm troopers definitely requires some degree of strategy, especially when there's more than one of each.

(Try dealing with "The Ascent" without kunai and plasma catapult upgrades, at half the available health & energy upgraded, and on "Hard" mode...)

@jerykk said:

You can't complain about lack of difficulty when you play on Normal.

Playing Strider on Hard makes a big difference in how you approach combat. You can't just mash your way to victory like you can on Normal. Timing, maneuvering, target prioritization and choosing the optimal attacks play a much more important role in your success because enemies pose a much greater threat.

Exactly. If I ignored one of those rapid-fire plasma rifle troopers from later in the game too long during "Hard" mode: Hiryu was toast in a few seconds.

Posted by TheNoseBear

@jerykk said:

You can't complain about lack of difficulty when you play on Normal. Normal isn't designed for hardcore gamers. It's designed for casual gamers (while Easy is designed for non-gamers). This has been the case for every mainstream western game made over the past 10 years. It's so irritating when people take the path of least resistance (i.e. any difficulty that isn't the highest) and then complain when games are too easy. It's equally irritating when they dismiss health and damage scaling as inconsequential. That couldn't be further from the truth. Tougher and more lethal enemies force you to play better. You have to have a deeper understanding of the game's mechanics and play more tactically in order to maximize your damage output while minimizing damage taken. If the enemies in Dark Souls had very little health and did negligible damage, you could just mash your way to victory and completely overlook the depth of the game's combat system. Dark Soul's designers were smart in removing difficulty settings entirely and having the game be hard by default, forcing players to have a deeper understanding of the systems in order to succeed.

Playing Strider on Hard makes a big difference in how you approach combat. You can't just mash your way to victory like you can on Normal. Timing, maneuvering, target prioritization and choosing the optimal attacks play a much more important role in your success because enemies pose a much greater threat. Granted, once you get a bunch of health upgrades and the Explosive Cypher, the game becomes easier but up until that point, the game provides a decent challenge on Hard.

As has been discussed by the crew many times, game reviewers generally review games on default, normal settings, as that's the way the majority of people play them. Jeff wasn't complaining, he was critiquing based on his experience, which is the point of a review. The normal difficultly not feeling like enough of a challenge for what is usually expected from a game's default setting is a valid point worth mentioning. Not all gamers are looking for the same experience as you, or care about being viewed as "Casual" or "Hardcore." Most play on normal, some on easy or hard. I've been playing games for 30 years and I usually play on normal because I want a fun, entertaining, challenging experience that is not overly frustrating. For Strider, I'll be playing on hard based on Jeff's great review.