Star Raiders review

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Star Raiders review

You don’t have to be a sci-fi fanatic to dream about escaping this crowded rock, but it took considerable imagination to appreciate the spare visuals of early space-jockey simulators. The new reimagining of 1979’s Star Raiders doesn’t demand quite the same dedication to fashioning your own headspace, but it does manage to make interstellar warfare seem pretty mundane.

That’s not to say some interesting ideas aren’t on display. For one thing, your ship smoothly transforms between three distinct configurations at your command. You’ll spend most of your time as a dogfighter, flitting between tension-free shootouts with clueless Zylon greenhorns. But you can also fold yourself into a mech-like assault form that’s perfect for crippling cruisers and frigates, or contract yourself into a compact turret to destroy mammoth basestars from within.

You’d think this flexibility would lend Star Raiders substantial gameplay variety and a sense of tactical freedom. Not so: you can partake of only so many identical “get out there and kill everything” scenarios before wanting to fling yourself out of the nearest airlock.

You’ll find a few exceptions, like battles near huge elevators that stretch from a nearby planet’s surface, and we enjoyed being able to return to recently conquered space to farm ore clusters for upgrade currency, or just to cruise around a bit. But not one enemy offers even a token challenge, upgrades feel almost entirely unnecessary, and rare deaths result only in immediate respawns.

Aging starfighters might be grateful to have a new galaxy to save, but mostly they’ll be left pining for the lost glory days of Wing Commander IV and Privateer 2.

On Xbox Live Arcade

+ Three-formed ship; a few quirky retrieval and spelunking missions; large ships blow up nice.

- Only the final minutes offer any challenge; unexciting and inessential upgrades.

- Bare-bones interface is filled with small, unreadable text.

? Why do recharge stations refill weapons before shields?

5.5

 
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