Strike Vector EX burst onto the scene on PC in 2014, and was met with a decent critical reception. It featured a unique control scheme that can see players flying around in a Vector jet/mech-like combat machine one second, and then hovering and playing like a first-person shooter in the next instant. It all came together in frenetic fashion. But can such a different control scheme work on consoles? Let’s find out in our Strike Vector EX PS4 review.
Developer Ragequit Corporation used the Unreal Engine 4 for Strike Vector EX. This was a great choice – it almost ensures a solid frame rate, and that is something we are happy to report is the case here. When you’re zooming along at several hundred miles per hour, the last thing you need is a choppy game or odd graphical artifacts cluttering up your display. Maps are huge, and varied. You’ll be shooting up gigantic freighters, swooping down into molten metal-laden factories, and taking to the skies in both the campaign and multiplayer. This is a wonderful game to watch, because the action is so frantic and yet so buttery smooth, it makes you look like a professional pilot…until you slam into a building.
Controls in Strike Vector EX have a definite learning curve. The game’s campaign starts you playing in the third-person, hover mode of the Vector, your own personal aircraft/mech-like machine. In this mode, the game plays like a first/third-person shooter, but with verticality as you can raise and lower your Vector with R1 and L1, respectively. Hold down L2, however, and you will find yourself suddenly moving extremely quickly, as your Vector has transformed into essentially a fighter jet. This is where things get tricky. If you prefer your flight simulators to have inverted pitch, then these controls stick around when you slow the action down and re-enter hover mode. It feels like an oversight to not have separate options for pitch controls, but is a minor grievance against otherwise tight controls. In both modes, R2 fires your main weapon, which you select before starting your mission, X launches your power-up such as a Tesla electric field or healing nano-machines, and square combined with the analog stick will initiate a barrel roll left or right, which can help with avoiding incoming homing missiles.
There is a campaign in Strike Vector EX, but it mostly serves as training for the multiplayer. Sadly, the story is almost unbearably dull. Dialog is presented via little pop-up versions of the character speaking, though the game is thankfully fully voiced. Dialog is not particularly creative, and is at times rather cringe-worthy. Characters switch sides for no good reasons, or at least reasons that aren’t completely explained, and most are one-note people whom you really don’t care about. There are the occasional races to compete in, but really the game could have benefited from focusing less on its story and more on creating more of the impressive levels that populate the campaign; you’ll be done with the 15 story levels within only a few hours, with the only incentive to go back being a leaderboard of quickest clear times.
Enough about single-player, though. Multiplayer features six different game modes, including classics such as team deathmatch (named “Squad Battle”) and Capture the Flag. Bounty Hunter is a race to collect the most money, and Demolition sees players deciding between hitting hard on offense or staying back on defense as you attempt to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure while defending your own. There’s a steady sense of player progression, and you can unlock things such as profile backgrounds and decals for your Vector, to show off your prowess. You earn in-game currency called Kebs, and you can spend these on various appearance items – all weapons and Vector abilities are available in multiplayer from the outset, which means that only skill separates players.
If you’ll forgive the pun, Strike Vector EX strikes me as a game you might just come back to, in order to scratch that arcade itch many of us get from time to time. The controls might make your warm-up period a little longer than some other games, but soaring high above gigantic structures, laying stalker mines to kill an unsuspecting enemy, and earning just one more unlock before calling it a night makes for a good time. Splitscreen would’ve made perfect sense here, but alas, the golden age of couch multiplayer has long since passed in the 21st century.
If you’ve been pining for an arcade flight combat game that will test your skills, Strike Vector EX is going to sit right with you. Controls are tight, though they do have a decent learning curve and a new way of thinking about an aerial combat game. Maps are wide open and yet provide for intense, close combat. While the campaign feels like a write-off, the multiplayer boasts six fairly varied modes to choose from, and there are decent unlocks for your player profile as well as your aircraft. Not a bad use of $14.99 USD (launch price).
Strike Vector EX review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.