Despite never playing any of the original Strider games, I was excited to see how the new reboot would turn out. Coming off the success of the great Killer Instinct, it looked like Double Helix Games knew exactly how to bring back an old franchise with style. While Strider gave me a striking first impression, the more I played it, its flaws became more and more apparent. If you are a fan of the original Strider games, you might really dig this game but as someone who isn't familiar with those games, this new Strider game just feels lacking.
The word lacking is definitely a term you could use to describe Strider's story, but that's probably not what you were coming to this game for anyway. You play as Strider Hiryu, a high-tech ninja man, who is sent to assassinate Grandmaster Meio... and that's about it! It's a simple tale but it works well in that it doesn't get in the way of the game and gets right into the action.
Speaking of the action, it's fast and flashy in Strider. You will be cutting through a lot of the enemies in an instant, which is fun and satisfying at first, but after a while, the simplistic nature of the combat begins to wear thin. The majority of the combat revolves around bashing the attack button as fast as you can. Strider is certainly a game that looks more complicated watching it, compared to actually playing it.
That's not to say there isn't some depth to the combat. You can charge your attack, which is a good way of dealing with enemies with shields. There also are some different special abilities that you will unlock as you progress, most of which are even more effective ways to clear an area. You will also encounter different elemental properties throughout the game, which can be used to change how your Cypher (which is like a cool, future sword) behaves. There are both fire and ice properties -- which are self-explanatory -- and a plasma property, which causes your blade to shoot out like a projectile. Certain enemies throughout Strider are susceptible to a particular property, meaning you do have a reason to change up your game slightly. Still, despite these touches, Strider is mostly a game where you march from one side of the screen to the next, mashing the same button.
To help mix things up a bit, Strider does have plenty of boss battles. Some of these are easy enough, and being a good button masher will suffice but later encounters are much tougher and require you to remember boss patterns and figuring out when to use your special abilities is key. All of the boss battles are different enough that those will keep you engaged. They are also definitely the most challenging aspect of the entire game too. Strider may be a relatively simplistic game to play but it still takes skill and precision to get through it.
Strider may have a lot of action but there are also some exploration elements. The game has a map screen that will remind folks of games like Super Metroid and Shadow Complex. Like those games, there are areas on the map that are inaccessible at first but as you progress and gain more abilities, you will be able to unlock more sections of the map. Exploration is rewarded with permanent upgrades to things like your health and energy, making it worth your while to take a look around.
One of the main problems with Strider is the fact that all of the levels visually look the same. Whether you are exploring city streets or a military complex, the entire game has a grey, monochrome look to it that's extremely unappealing. Obviously this is a graphical issue but it bleeds into the actual gameplay as well as I didn't have any fun searching around. This along with the simple combat meant that Strider became progressively worse as the game went on.
Strider is of a decent length at around 5 hours, and I didn't even try too hard to find all of the hidden upgrades. I would imagine trying to 100% the game would take much longer. There are also some unlockable survival and beacon run levels, which are decent distractions but not much more than that.
From a technical perspective, Strider is an impressive looking game with lovely particle effects and fluid animations. The Xbox One version (the only version I played) runs perfectly too, at a smooth 60 frames per second that never lets up. But like I said earlier, the main issue with the graphics is the dull artstyle that lets down what is otherwise a great looking game.
Sound-wise, Strider is very good too with nice effects used for combat, dashing, explosions and so on. The music is of a high standard too and the only complaint I have with Strider's sound design is the horrid voice acting. It's hard to tell if the voice acting is terrible on purpose or not, but either way it's hard to listen to.
Strider at its core is a good game. It controls really well, the game looks great and it generally has a solid feel to it. However, as I kept playing, I began to grow tired of the environments Strider had me exploring and the combat, while fun at first isn't deep enough to keep me interested. If these two aspects were improved, then this might have been something special.
THREE OUT OF FIVE
(A balanced game that has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, meaning that it alternates between being good and bad in mostly equal measure.)