Republished on Wednesday 30th August 2017: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of September's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
If you feel the need, the need for speed – and by speed we mean high octane dog-fighting combat in futuristic flying mechs –then Strike Vector EX just might take your breath away. You play as a young talented rookie Vector pilot called Marv, and your mission is to take to the skies and shoot down bogies, be they computer controlled in the single player campaign or human in the wealth of multiplayer modes. And the good news is, this PlayStation 4 port is an upgrade of the PC original.
Pick from third or first-person views and strap in for some tasty air combat piloting Vectors which are high speed, heavily armed killing machines that come packing a nifty hover mode. Switching between modes allows for some great chasing, strafing, and sniping options, including being able to "hide" behind any vertical area of the large and varied arenas, popping out to lay waste to any Vectors you can draw a bead on. Oh, and for those who've dreamed of pulling off the Top Gun move of hitting the breaks and letting the enemy fly right by, Vectors are designed to do just that.
The Vectors control incredibly well, though it does require a decent learning curve to get used to the use of right stick for movement and left for "looking", while the L1 and R1 buttons control vertical thrusts and L2 is your turbo boost.
If the controls sound a bit daunting, the campaign breaks you in slowly and is very gentle on newbies lining up unchallenging swarms of baddies. What's not cool about the campaign is the mediocre plot which manages to be dull and annoying as it sees you jumping sides without any real motivation. Still, at least it has best time leaderboards which make it very tempting to replay.
And to be fair, Strike Vector EX is a total blast when you get a feel for the combat, which doesn't take long. In no time you'll be zooming around the high rise environments either in pursuit of enemies or desperately trying to evade them. To this end there are a superb range of weapons, both main offensive ones which include swarm rockets, homing missiles, Gatling guns, and long range sniper shots, as well as really useful supplemental ones such as mines, EMP, cloaking device, healing nano bots, and an electric close range charge.
It probably won't take long for you to either beat or tire of the campaign, but by then you should be able to hold your own in the real heart of the game which are the multiplayer modes. If nervous, you can start with some offline bot combat to try out the various match types and arenas. There are plenty of play styles at your disposal: build a tank Vector and dominate the central airspace, choose a fast and nimble Vector with a rockets to hit and run, or go all out stealth cloaked up and pick off foes from the fringes. How you build your Vector allows for all kinds of strategies and tactics, but the consistent element is that going into battle in Strike Vector EX is fun.
Graphically, the Vectors are the stars of the show, and they look great in action. The arenas are engaging enough to fly around in, but you won't have time to stop and simply take in the view – the action rarely lets up long enough.
There is a pleasing amount of content packed into this title, launching with 15 varied arenas that sees the action rage between low orbit platforms, opposing huge spaceships (ideal for Capture the Flag-style sorties) and cool maze-like habitats filled with narrow shoots and corridors that will test any pilot. Each arena has a good amount of open space, too, which is always tempting to hot dog through but is often an absolute kill zone. Speaking of which, this game is a friendly fire overload. There's no way to turn off the friendly fire so expect to get taken out by your team many times if not extremely careful, and it's very likely you'll inadvertently (or intentionally) take out some team mates every now and then, too – especially if you're muscling each other for a kill.
The host of game modes range from traditional deathmatches and flag capturing through to more inventive ideas such as one where all players make dashes for money power ups trying to bag the most. And then there's Demolition where you must shoot out generators for points. There is certainly plenty to keep you coming back for more – especially as the fast and furious action doesn't get tired easily.
Another plus point is the sheer range of customisation available for your Vector, not just in terms of weapons but in paint jobs, decals, and body pieces. You can tinker away to make sure your Vector is as distinct looking as your preferred loadout style. In addition, you can unlock some great artwork for your profile and there are badges you can access through levelling up. It may be a small thing, but checking out your opponents' accomplishments adds to the competitive nature of the combat.
Strike Vector EX delivers fun and frantic airborne mech combat action, and while it is only a short lived diversion in single player, it really shines in multiplayer. This one's packing a ton of customisation and an addictive core battle sensibility that will keep you engaged, and it represents a great alternative shooter to the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield.