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+
67 Comments
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Posted by XplusY

Wow, really hoping for more from this.

Posted by noizy

Hearing Jeff on the podcast and during the Quick Look I had a feeling it was a 3, at best a 4, saying it was a "good game" with a slight hesitation.

Posted by Enigma_2099

How different is it from the PS release?

Posted by SomeJerk

Seems like the original had more skill requirement in it due to its nature as an arcade game, intended to crunch credits just hard enough to keep a player interested and scrambling for coins. If the old approach of "we're developing for arcade, every credit is sacred" could be taken and used in development for a title like this I'd love to see the result. The combat is satisfying but indeed I never felt much difficulty doing it, and that maybe it would eventually get old.

Edited by Igniz12

Like playing SOTN with dual Crissagrams.

Posted by AnotherSomebody

@xplusy: I would still give it a look. If you're looking for a nostalgia trip to past Strider games then it may disappoint you, but if you like Metroid/Vania style games you will probably enjoy it.

Posted by Hailinel

"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."

The closest Jeff will ever come to writing "Metroidvania" without convulsing.

Edited by mlarrabee

@jeff "Unless maybe the audio team know how drab the dialogue was and tried to buried under a few layers of sound..."

I'd comment on the review itself but I have no memories of or interest in Strider.

Posted by MormonWarrior

How was Strider 2 on the PlayStation? I remember hearing good things about that back in the day...

Posted by Karkarov

@igniz12 said:

Like playing SOTN with dual Crissagrams.

Nice. Except it has to be harder than that.... doesn't it? ..... .... ;_;

Edited by cannonballBAM

@igniz12 said:

Like playing SOTN with dual Crissagrams.

Have you ever used the shield rod/alucard shield combo?

Edited by Solh0und

I'm having a blast with it but he is right about the challenge of the game. Play it on hard if you want any feedback from enemies.

Edited by LarryDavis

I like it so far, but it really is incredibly easy. I just want more 'Troid-likes, dammit.

Edited by TheCheese33

I have a feeling that the full game will be significantly more challenging for me than it is for Jeff. Tried the demo and died 5-10 times. Still, it's sad to hear that they don't do a great job at keeping it fresh for the full runtime.

Posted by Mandrewgora

I feel ya, I got dat PS4 tho, I got to play something besides fake Defender.

Edited by Deathpooky

Too bad, hoped this was better. Hearing that the metroidvania aspects are lacking and the combat is super simple kind of takes everything I would want out of a game like this. Building a proper Super Metroid / SOTN inspired game must be difficult considering that tons have tried recently and only Shadow Complex has come close to properly using the formula.

Posted by emnii

I'm a bit disappointed that this isn't a Shadow Complex situation, but I'm still very interested in the game nonetheless.

Posted by Kbohls

Pretty fair review. I think I will pick this one up soon, as I haven't played one of these games in awhile.

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

I'm definitely going to get this. It still looks neat and I could go for a straightforward game right about now.

Edit: I just beat the game today and have to say it's well worth picking up. I do agree with Jeff for the most part, although I felt pretty positive about the game throughout.

Posted by artsandrules

The sound mix is terrible in the Xbox 360 version as well. In a stereo setup, music plays almost completely out of right speaker. Sound effects hit both, but are extremely muted. It's bad enough that I'm not even sure I want to play in case there's a patch in a week. The game itself seems fun, though.

Posted by Raven10

@thecheese33: Yea after the quicklook I downloaded the demo expecting to blow through it but just charging at enemies slashing got me killed pretty consistently. I actually found it a bit challenging.

Also I downloaded the PS3 version as I don't have a PS4 and it ran much less smoothly than the PS4 version as shown in the quick look. I was a bit disappointed about that. I doesn't look like the type of game that should have issues maintaining 30 fps. For anyone who is debating between versions I would NOT go with the PS3 version. I haven't tried the 360 version but after seeing how smooth the PS4 version was I would highly recommend getting this game on a next gen console or PC.

Posted by Astrophyle

Is there no jungle level? Where are the cavewomen and dinosaurs?? Where are my classic CAPCOM tschurrtlee sounds and the awesome arcade soundtrack?

Posted by D_W

If you want a good metroidvania game than you should check out Valdis Story. It actually does everything fairly well, but no one seemed to cover it.

Posted by AV_Gamer

I love authentic Strider games and I believe I'll have a blast with this version. However, if it is too easy, then I'll have to bump up the difficulty.

Thanks for your honest opinion, Jeff.

Posted by rcath

I really wanted something to buy too.

Posted by infantpipoc

Well, it's slightly Metroidvania, got some exploration and backtracking, but not as beefy as something like Shadow Complex or Dust: An Elysian Tail.

Posted by CornBREDX

I enjoy Jeff's verbal gymnastics to avoid saying "metroidvania" =P haha

I'll probably check the game out on the cheap. I mean, it's not hard to play the original and I'm not big on remakes.

Posted by BawlZINmotion

I was hoping for more, but really, is anyone that surprised? Especially since it's from Capcom, which has been everywhere but on the ball for a long time. There have been really good spots, Resident Evil 5 and Bionic Commando Rearmed. I was hoping Strider to repeat what the latter in the previous sentence managed a couple years ago. I guess not, and that's a shame. :S

Posted by Fram

We should all start calling them Stridercomplex games instead of Metroidvania games. Just because.

Posted by Tajasaurus

I like this game a lot. It's the definition of a three star game in the most positive way possible.

@fram said:

We should all start calling them Stridercomplex games instead of Metroidvania games. Just because.

We should also probably start referring to first person shooters as wolfendooms just to keep things consistent

Posted by EsDeib

I'm really enjoying this game. I think I would have given it 4, but I generally agree with the review. I'm playing on hard and it requires some skill and actually learning the boss patterns, at least so far. Good stuff. It's at least a good idea to give the demo a try. Also, it's good to have a cool fast action game to play on the PS4.

Posted by Strife777

That game definitely has a hint of greatness. It just lacks that extra push. The push that moves you from ok/good to fantastic.

I might've given the game 4 stars, but I'd say 3 is definitely fair.

I'm enjoying my time with it, but I'm disappointed thinking what could've been.

Posted by Tychoid

Lifehack

Metroidvania

Underdog

4 star review

Just some terms that Jeff Gerstmann hates.

Edited by Three0neFive

Why is "lack of meaningful challenge" a point against this game but not, say, every other AAA movi-- sorry, cinematic experience?

Posted by Humanity

I like this game a lot. It's the definition of a three star game in the most positive way possible.

@fram said:

We should all start calling them Stridercomplex games instead of Metroidvania games. Just because.

We should also probably start referring to first person shooters as wolfendooms just to keep things consistent

You mean BlakeStoneWolfens?

Posted by Fram

@humanity said:

@tajasaurus said:

I like this game a lot. It's the definition of a three star game in the most positive way possible.

@fram said:

We should all start calling them Stridercomplex games instead of Metroidvania games. Just because.

We should also probably start referring to first person shooters as wolfendooms just to keep things consistent

You mean BlakeStoneWolfens?

I was thinking more along the lines of Battleduties.

Posted by AMyggen

Why is "lack of meaningful challenge" a point against this game but not, say, every other AAA movi-- sorry, cinematic experience?

I guess because people come to those games for different things. Strider is all about the gameplay, so when it lacks a real challenge it's a bigger negative than when a game that's only trying to be a "cinematic experience" lacks a bigger challenge.

Posted by GunstarRed

Strider is about running through rooms as fast as possible killing everything in one or two hits and then getting to a boss and mashing the attack button as hard as possible while you jump and dodge a bit. If you got stuck in every room trying to fight challenging enemies it wouldn't feel like Strider.

Even the NES game is about mashing the attack button, all of the difficulty in that game comes from bad controls and obscure objectives. Jeff seems to want something that isn't Strider from the Strider game. Shadow Complex was just as easy as this game.

The game does have a serious lack of personality though and can look really bare at times, kinda like that Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. It does make the length of the older games way more understandable as it can be pretty exhausting having to fight through a barrage of enemies and bullets when you just want to go check out a previously missed door.

The trophy is also for four hours.

Edited by MeierTheRed

Skipping it.

Posted by HS_Alpha_Wolf

Why is "lack of meaningful challenge" a point against this game but not, say, every other AAA movi-- sorry, cinematic experience?

Because gameplay and challenge are the only things the game has. There is no narrative reason to make your way through the game, and I personally was hoping for a game that pushes back hard. Something like TLOU had a great story that was well presented and worth viewing even if you didn't love the combat mechanics.

Posted by aspaceinvader

Its been pretty fun so far. I think the review is about spot on from Jeff, I can only compare this to the arcade original which I pumped a ton of cash into when it was in the arcades, never played the home console versions, It is more shadow complex in style but it does have the strider feel to it. button mashing for kills; racing through rooms.

The only difference in the game from the original arcade version is that the game is like one massive level(shadow complex, castlevania, metroid), broken up into different sections, unlike the arcade where each stage was a different area of the strider world. This is not a bad thing, if this was the first ever strider game then we would be saying that it is a rip off of those games.

I do agree with GunstarReds Quote "Jeff seems to want something that isn't Strider from the Strider game.", The original strider was just a button mashing hack' n 'slasher and what you get here in this version is more of the same but with some bells and whistles added, I don't know what Jeff really wanted from the game, I know he enjoyed it as he said.

If the developers had just reskinned the original game( i.e. like bionic commando) with new coat of modern paint the exact same game with no improvements then we would have moaned about it or not, but what we have here is a new game and to be honest a fun one at that.

I hope that Double helix games gets to do a ghost n goblins/ghouls and ghosts remake.

Posted by soupbones

@astrophyle: Yeah - if it's one thing I hold against the remake is it lost the location variety of the original games. Strider was always about being a little bizarre, but this remake plays it a bit too safe.

Moon Diver (created by Koichi Yotsui, of the original Strider fame) got this aspect right - it had a lot of weirdness to it. (though it got a lot of other things wrong).

Still really enjoying it. Absolutely worth the asking price - and it's still a great game on it's own.

Posted by Kieran_Smith5

This review is bang on. I finished the game last night, and by the end it was a chore to complete.

Edited by Counterclockwork87

Really fun game.

Posted by Goldanas

I have a feeling that the full game will be significantly more challenging for me than it is for Jeff. Tried the demo and died 5-10 times. Still, it's sad to hear that they don't do a great job at keeping it fresh for the full runtime.

@raven10 said:

Yea after the quicklook I downloaded the demo expecting to blow through it but just charging at enemies slashing got me killed pretty consistently. I actually found it a bit challenging.

The first area is difficult without a few more moves. When you get the slide, that's when the game begins to lose more of its challenge as you learn to appropriately jump and slide around and up to enemies to mash on the sword button, now more effectively dodging the bullets with your greater degree of control and range.

They do give you some neat moves, but they've balanced the game in such a way that the first few bullets don't hurt as much; it's only when a bunch hit you in a row does the damage start to scale up. As such, there's never any real reason to start using your power abilities beyond the throwing stars, as swording dudes and dodging is tremendously more effective and quicker, since everything else leaves you mostly standing still to become a bullet sponge. You can sword at any speed , in any place, and in any direction.

Sword is OP.

Posted by oldenglishC

@d_w said:

If you want a good metroidvania game than you should check out Valdis Story. It actually does everything fairly well, but no one seemed to cover it.

I felt the need to bump this a little bit. Valdis Story is pretty good.

Guacamelee is another great Metroid clone.

Edited by AstroCow

@kieran_smith5:

Is there no jungle level? Where are the cavewomen and dinosaurs?? Where are my classic CAPCOM tschurrtlee sounds and the awesome arcade soundtrack?

I'm half-way through Strider. If the Amazon women and dinosaurs are not in this reboot I may as well call it quits now. :(

Posted by Benmo316

Having only played the demo my only gripe during that time was I couldn't use the d-pad to move around. In a game like Strider I really dislike using the joystick to move around.

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